An English High Tea event is all about refined elegance.
It takes one back to a slower time, when guests enjoyed meeting to gossip and drink tea over a whole afternoon. Usually these events would take place in the drawing room of the host’s home, or sometimes at upper-class hotels.
An English High Tea would be served in the late afternoon around 3 pm and would often go into the evening with more substantial food offerings to replace a full dinner. At more elegant events, wine and sherry were also available.
An English High Tea has a mixture of cold and hot, sweet and savory finger foods. Tea, coffee, and juices are served and often sparkling wine and/or cocktails as the afternoon progresses.
An English High Tea really starts with the invitations. To set the scene well these should be more formal on heavy card in cream envelopes. Tell guests they are cordially invited to attend an English Style High Tea at the residence of the Host from 3 pm. Let guests know if there will be a dress code of English Style Formal Tea Dresses and white gloves. You can set a fun dress code such as Downton Abby Style or Queen of England Style.
Be sure to ask your guests to RSVPs at least one week prior to the event to allow you time to arrange the catering.
Keep the old-fashioned theme by posting the invitations by mail to your guests with handwritten names and addresses. Or even better hand deliver them in person.
Setting the scene:
An English High Tea means elegance and refinement. This is not the place for over the top embellishments or decorations. Think classic vintage style for this party. White tablecloths, Starched linen napkins, matching Fine Bone China Teacups and Saucers. Silver teaspoons, silver serving tongs, fine chine teapots, plates, sugar bowls. Crystal or cut glass jam bowls. Large vases of flowers, roses and hyacinths.
Place a handwritten name card at each place setting and a small menu card. Beside each place setting place a small side plate with knife and linen napkin in silver or porcelain napkin ring. On the center of the place setting stand your vintage Fine Bone China teacup and saucer with silver spoon on the saucer. Add sugar bowls and milk creamers to the table. You will bring the teapots filled with hot tea later. If you are serving bubbly wine also set the table with champagne flutes.
Serve the food on gorgeous old fashioned plates and cakes stands. Tiered plates look perfect in this setting. When setting the food on tiered plates, remember to put savory food on the bottom and sweet things on the top plate.
Be sure to have enough dishes of jams, cream and honey for adding to the scones.
For the tea service have small dishes of sliced lemons for placing in your tea. You can make the teapots full of loose leaf tea, in which case remember to offer guests a tea strainer when pouring the tea. Alternatively, have a selection of flavored tea bags on offer for guests to choose their own tea.
Classic English High Tea Food Selections:
Savoury Selections: Selection of small sandwiches, Club sandwiches, Devilled Eggs, Sausage rolls, cheese puffs, smoked salmon pinwheels, tomato tart, cold meats, bread rolls,
Sweet Selections: Sponge Cake, Scones with jam and cream, mini custard tarts, chocolate brownies, tea cakes, iced buns, shortbread biscuits,
Tea Selections: Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Ceylon, Peppermint,
Equipment List for hosting an English High Tea Event
Per Place setting:
- Classic Bone China teacups with matching saucers
- Fine Bone China Side Plates
- Freshly ironed linen napkins
- Napkin rings in silver or ceramic
- Classic Lemonade Glasses
- Champagne Glasses or Sherry Glasses
- Dainty Silver Teaspoons
- Silver Cake Forks
- Silver butter knife
- Handwritten Place markers
- Menu Cards
For the table:
- Long white tablecloths
- Classic glass lemonade jugs
- Glass water jugs with ice and lemon slices or mint
- Cake knife
- Silver Cake slice
- Silver Sandwich tongs
- Silver Cream Spoon
- Tea Strainer
- Glass or Ceramic Cake Stands
- White Fine Bone China Sandwich plates
- Classic Fine Bone China Teapots
- Crystal Sugar bowls with silver sugar spoons
- Fine Bone China or Cut Glass Milk Jugs
- Dainty porcelain Jam Dishes
- Glass or Ceramic Cream Bowl with silver spoon
- Vases with roses and other flowers in season
- Lace doilies under the serving plates
Other optional extras:
- Mini British Flags in cupcakes
- Butler to serve the tea
- Tea themed gifts for guests
Looking for more inspiration for your next tea party event? My Vintage Tea Party Style Guide has lots of ideas, recipes, and inspiration for your next event.