How to host the perfect afternoon tea
It’s Dream Tea Week, the annual fundraising campaign from children’s charity Dreams Come True, which encourages people across the UK to grab friends, family and colleagues and do what us Brits do best – have a cup of tea – all in the name of charity!
Feeling inspired? Here are some tips from tea-tasting expert Malcolm Ferris Lay* and Dreams Come True ambassador and etiquette expert Liz Brewer on how to host the perfect afternoon tea …
Malcolm’s expert guide to making the perfect cup of tea:
- Make sure you make a cup of tea you and your guests truly like. Whether you like green tea or black tea with milk and a sugar, we all have our own taste for tea and there’s no amount of advice that will change this.
- If you are making green tea, make sure the water is not boiling as it makes the tea bitter.
- Whichever type of tea you make, don’t buy the cheap stuff. You definitely get what you pay for and tea is about treating yourself to a break.
- The joy is in lovingly making the tea and serving it. Enjoy the process.
- If you want to go the extra mile with loose tea leaves but you haven’t got a tea strainer, use a cafetiere.
- Always use fresh water for every brew.
- Always use your favourite mug or china cup. Tea really does taste best from your favourite!
Liz Brewer’s tea tips:
Afternoon tea is steeped in tradition and the Victorians in particular had all sorts of ideas and rituals about the right way to make tea. To make sure you don’t accidentally offend, etiquette expert Liz Brewer – best known from ITV’s ‘Ladette to Lady’ – has provided her guide to manners.
- Tea connoisseurs maintain that tea drunk from bone china cups tastes better and that nothing compares to the elegance and delicacy of a china teacup and saucer.
- A teacup and saucer is served with a teaspoon on the saucer.
- The tea is poured in first. There is an old tale about the milk being poured in first to prevent poor quality china from cracking. However, by the time the tea is poured it is no longer boiling so this is very unlikely.
- Sugar is offered after the tea is poured. Again you would not dream of putting the sugar in first!
- The Victorians introduced a rule about never directing the spout towards guests. However, they also had a rule about covering table and piano legs so you can probably pass on that one.
- The saucer stays on the table, unless you are standing.
- The teacup is held between the finger and thumb and replaced on the saucer between sips.
- Never point the little finger (the pinky) in the air.
- Sandwiches are eaten with the fingers.
- Cakes are generally eaten with a small fork, unless it can be eaten without dropping crumbs.
- Scones are broken, spread with cream and jam using a small knife, and eaten with the fingers.
- When taking jam, cream or butter, use the knives supplied by the dish to put your choice on the plate. Never use your own utensils to dip in.
- Leave a spoon in the teacup.
- Clang the teaspoon against the cup when stirring.
- Wipe your nose with the napkin.
- Fold your napkin when you have finished – leave it crumpled instead.
- Talk with your mouth full.
Don’t forget the cake!
Scroll down for some fantastic recipes** from Great British Bake Off’s Miranda Gore Browne to enjoy alongside your cuppa …
Raspberry and white chocolate eclairs
50g unsalted butter diced
60g strong plain flour
2 large free-range eggs (beaten)
1 teaspoon of caster sugar
225g white chocolate, melted
225ml double cream
Raspberry cream filling:
200ml double cream
50g icing sugar
To make the choux pastry:
Preheat oven to 200°C.
Put butter and water in a medium saucepan over a low heat. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon as the butter melts.
Meanwhile, sift the flour onto a piece of folded greaseproof paper.
When the butter has melted, turn up the heat and bring the mixture to the boil.
Remove from the heat and VERY quickly shoot the flour into the saucepan.
Beat the flour into the liquid with the wooden spoon or electric hand-mixer to mix all the ingredients together. Stop beating when you have a smooth dough that comes away from the sides of the saucepan. This should take only a few seconds.
Pour a little of the beaten egg into the flour mixture and beat it in well. Keep adding and beating in the egg, a little at a time, until the dough looks thick, smooth and shiny and still holds its shape well. You may not need the last two or three tablespoonfuls of egg.
Spoon the mixture into a piping bag and cut off the end to give about a 1cm hole.
Prepare baking trays with parchment – sprinkle with water and bang off excess.
Pipe logs approx. 6cm long and well-spaced as they double in size. (Leave at least 5cm between the logs of choux pastry).
Bake for 10 minutes.
Then increase the heat to 220° and bake for a further 15 minutes or until golden brown and puffed up.
Once out of oven, slit the eclairs with a knife to let out the steam and place on a wire rack to cool.
To make the cream filling:
Whip the cream and icing sugar until thick, fold in the raspberries with a spoon, gently squishing them into the cream.
Slice each eclair in half long-ways and pipe the whipped cream inside.
Put the broken chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water or melt carefully in the microwave.
Stir gently and remove from the heat once the chocolate has melted. Leave to set a little at room temperature.
Either dip the eclairs into the chocolate, letting the excess glaze drip back into the bowl or put the chocolate into a piping bag, snip off the end and drizzle over the filled eclairs.
Decorate with a few sugar flowers.
Lovely lavender biscuits
Make about 18
1 heaped tbsp lavender flowers (no stalks)
175g self-raising flour, sifted
50g caster sugar
pinch of salt
130g unsalted butter, straight from the fridge
caster sugar, for sprinkling
YOU WILL ALSO NEED
5cm heart-shaped or round cutter
Put the lavender and flour into a food processor and chop finely.
Add the sugar, salt and semolina and whizz to combine. Finely chop or coarsely grate the butter into the mixture and whizz again until a dough forms. Squash into a flat disc, wrap tightly in cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/R4 and line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper.
Place the chilled dough between two sheets of fresh cling film and roll out to a thickness of 3-4 mm. Using a 5cm cutter, stamp out hearts or circles. Place on the prepared trays, spacing them at least 3 cm apart, and sprinkle with caster sugar. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or less if the biscuits are very small. Sprinkle generously with caster sugar straight after taking them out of the oven, and leave to cool.
Visit dreamscometrue.uk.com for more information on hosting a Dream Tea.
*Dreams Come True’s Dream Tea ambassador, Malcolm Ferris Lay, is a prolific tea consultant who advises the Director General of the Indian Tea Board and Afternoon Tea venues such as The Ritz, the Corinthia and the Dorchester on how to make and deliver the best tea experience.
**These recipes are exclusive to the Dream Tea. Discover more of Miranda’s recipes in her book, Biscuit (£14.99, Ebury)