One of life’s great pleasures is sharing a meal around the table with friends and family; enjoying fine food and wine. Traditions are built from these moments, and cherished memories are created. I love to cook for others and to prepare and plan special events and occasions. It doesn’t matter what the meal is, from a simple morning or afternoon tea to lunch, a barbeque or dinner; I have always enjoyed the entire process and missed this aspect of life during the pandemic.
Cooking for others and the bountiful table has been a significant part of my life, from my early years helping my Mum with weekend barbeques and later my first attempts at dinner parties on to large family Christmas celebrations and eventually catering. In the early days of cooking, I would visit the local library for recipes on how to make cuisines from around the world and ever since; I have spent many years in the family and workplace kitchens preparing food for family, friends or clients.
One of the easiest ways to entertain guests and be involved in the event is to host a morning or afternoon tea. This can be as simple or lavish as you like; casual or more formal. To create a charming, elegant, table, consider these essentials
-clean shiny silverware, or chosen style cutlery
-an eclectic mix of fine china,
-vintage lace table clothes or chosen style
-napkins or serviettes; paper or fabric
-a fine-looking Teapot; one per type of Tea and one for hot water
-jugs for milk,
-sugar bowls and tongs,
-a plate of finely sliced lemon,
-champagne with bucket and ice,
-small plates and serving platters or three-tiered stands
-bowls for jam and cream,
-water glasses and jugs for water
-menu items; sandwiches, cakes or slices, savouries (remember they all can be purchased if time or skill is an issue)
Afternoon and Morning Tea is a way to become accustomed to entertaining because once prepared; the only thing left to do is make the Tea. Once the guests arrive, you are free to sit down together. Decide on the date, venue, theme and guest list and send out invitations and you are halfway there. Consider in or outside, on a terrace or in a garden, a loungeroom or a picnic.
TIPS FOR A PERFECT MORNING OR AFTERNOON TEA
Use good quality fresh ingredients
Make sure the Tea is piping hot
Simple and elegant, always works
Make sure the table appears inviting and abundant
Use recipes you know are going to work or source from a known vendor
Buy what you can’t make yourself and provide a selection for any expected food intolerances
Prepare as much as you can ahead of time
Have enough space on the table so that everyone can see and talk to each other
Clean shiny cups unchipped and saucers that do not have to match
Focus on eye appeal and a colourful appetising table
Champagne is a must and should be in a clear or silver ice bucket. Fresh strawberries add colour and you will need honey for herbal Tisanes.
An Afternoon Tea implies you are serving hot tea, fresh scones with jam and whipped cream, dainty sandwiches and petite cakes. Also perhaps choose a selection of canapes, macaroons, petit fours, mini éclairs, mille-feuilles, tarts, or biscuits. Use your imagination and try an assortment of sweet and savoury items or larger cakes cut into tiny slivers. All the food should be bite-sized and easy to pick up with fingers.
The most important aspect is, of course, the Tea. It is best to offer a fresh, high-quality selection of Teas like; Lady Grey or Earl Grey, Irish Breakfast or other Black tea such as Twinings Afternoon Tea, Orange Pekoe, Lapsang Souchong ( smoky aroma and flavour), Assam, Green Tea, White Tea and herbal tisanes. There are so many Teas to choose from so allow a selection of fruity or floral-herbal tisanes and various black teas.
The lists above may seem daunting but almost everything can be done ahead of time, and at the last minute the tea can be made.
Content Di Baker 2020 reposted and revised 2023
Images courtesy Di Baker or as cited