Afternoon tea or high tea depending on where you are having it is a tradition that dates back to the 19th century when the Duchess of Bedford found herself getting quite hungry before dinner. She adopted the practice of having a series of small sandwiches, scones, and desserts to tide her over before the evening meal. Others quickly caught on to the trend and thus afternoon tea was born, with it becoming more and more elaborate depending on the household. Now it is offered at many luxury hotels as a special treat but you can easily make your own for friends and family.
Usually, there are at least three dainty finger sandwiches on the bottom tier of the three-tier cake stand. Popular ones are cucumber, smoked salmon, watercress, curried chicken, ham and brie, or anything else you would like. The important part is that they are small and easy to nibble on. You may also want to add some mini quiches such as broccoli or quiche lorraine. You must make enough that everyone at your tea can have one of each as that is the tradition, everyone gets an equal portion.
The middle tier is the one which will feature all of the small desserts. This one is largely up to your own discretion but there are some fan favorites that you may want to include. Mini chocolate eclairs are always a hit, along with tiny mousses in chocolate cups, macarons, and lemon curd or fruit tarts. You will want to have about three or four different desserts for each guest to sample. It may seem like a lot of food but remember they are just bite-size ones.
Now for the top tier and what is arguably one of the best parts of any afternoon tea: the scones. You can decide to make plain scones or ones that contain raisins or currents if you want something a bit different. In addition to the scones, there will need to be a preserve, usually strawberry and some clotted cream. No scone is complete without these two on top.
It would not be afternoon tea without a fine selection of teas for your guests to choose from, although you cannot go wrong with a classic English breakfast tea. However, if you want to do something truly special you can go for a floral tea that will bloom when hot water is poured on top of it. Chrysanthemum tea will blossom in your guests’ glass which will be beautiful along with all of your delicious goodies.