English Afternoon tea is something I love to host, any chance I get. Tea is a big part of my life and my culture. I’m Chinese-American, so trips to visit relatives in Hong Kong and China entailed dim sum every morning with my grandmother, and tea was always served, as it is with every meal. I also grew up with a dad who’d been raised in Hong Kong with English influences, so it’s no surprise I’m an Anglophile inside and out. So when a couple of old friends wanted to get together, in what other setting would I want it to take place in?
Here’s what I like to plan.
I’m working with the bare minimum of accoutrements, since most of my tea things are packed. But I’ve kept the main tea set out and incorporated pieces from Crate and Barrel’s Mercer dinner set. They’re white and look so beautifully handmade, making them easy to dress up or down.
I always set out the creamer and sugar bowl, and this time, I’ve got the vintage sugar tongs I picked up from Covent Gardens in London. I am so happy to finally be able to display them.
Linen IKEA napkins lend a rustic touch to the elegance, with hammered handled petite spoons, forks and knives. I’ve got lemon curd and clotted cream – afternoon tea must-haves, fruit preserves and Kerrygold Irish butter.
I like to offer an assortment of teas, loose leaf and bagged, since everyone’s tastes are different. So I’ve set those out for the girls to choose from.
Water for black tea, which is usually what I serve, is heated up to 212 degrees. I’ll adjust the water temperature to green or white teas, depending on what my friends want. And if they choose to only have a cup of their own brew, I’ll have the white Mercer mugs out. I take a bit of hot water to warm the pot before steeping my tea.
I like to set everything I’m serving on different levels, so they are displayed prettily and easy to reach for. While I love to make things from scratch, I’ve been quite busy lately, so a few store bought items arranged prettily can be elegant. I found lemon lavender heart-shaped shortbread to serve along-aside the homemade scones and cucumber sandwiches.
In such a pretty setting, we had a grand tea and all the cucumber sandwiches were eaten.