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10 Tips for Hosting an Afternoon Tea Party

A British-style afternoon tea may sound like a posh affair, but it is neither difficult nor expensive to host a tea party fit for a queen, right in your own living room. Check out our top tea party ideas.

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Friends gathered for birthday celebration having fresh homemade puffs and pastry with tea by served tableShutterstock / Pressmaster

Decide on a theme

Are you thinking Queen of Hearts of Queen Elizabeth? Either way, you’ll want to ensure your decorations and dress code match. If you want to really give your party the royal treatment, encourage guests to wear dresses and fascinator hats to channel their inner Duchess of Cambridge while serving up some of the queen’s favorite dishes. Otherwise, tell friends to dress up like their favorite Alice in Wonderland character.

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tea party invitation

Send invitations 2-4 weeks in advance

In addition to specifying time, date and location, it’s a good idea to ask that guests notify you of any dietary restrictions or allergies when they send their RSVP. We like these tea-themed invites from Etsy.

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Taste of Home

Master the art of the perfect fluffy scone

No tea would be complete without English scones served with an assortment of jams, butter and whipped cream. If you want to be really authentic, find a British specialty store that sells jars of clotted cream or make your own mock Devonshire cream.

Planning in advance? You can bake your scones up to a week ahead and store them in a zip-top bag in the freezer. On the day of your party, place frozen scones on a baking sheet and reheat at 350F for 10 minutes.

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Blueberry lemon trifleTaste of Home

Authentic British desserts will really take the cake

Kick things up a notch by preparing some authentic British pastries and cakes, like this raspberry Bakewell tart, sticky toffee pudding (which isn’t a pudding in the American sense, but rather a spice cake with warm caramel sauce) or a tasty trifle.

Psst: If you take a shortcut and make these 4-ingredient British desserts, nobody will be the wiser!

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Closeup shot from hands holding a teacup and pouring teaShutterstock / borsmenta

Learn to make the perfect cup of tea

Few tea party ideas are as important as tea! The secret to preparing a spot of tea that even the snobbiest Brit will love is a quality black tea blend and very hot water. We suggest a blend that includes Ceylon and/or Assam varieties. Whether loose or bagged, you can’t go wrong with a British brand like Twinings, Yorkshire Gold or PG Tips. If you decide on loose tea, you can put it directly into the pot or use a tea infuser to keep the pot sediment free.

Find out which one the Queen drinks, here.

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Cucumber canapesTaste of Home

Complete the spread with delicate finger sandwiches

Though desserts are definitely the showstoppers of the tea, finger sandwiches play an essential role as well. Make sure to use thin slices of bread, trim the crusts and cut into triangles for more traditional teas.

For some ideas—both traditional and new—check out our best tea sandwich recipes.

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Pretty Pastel Tea Cups in Row - Afternoon Tea PartyAlison Henley/Shutterstock

Make it BYOT! (that’s bring your own teacup)

Don’t have a formal tea service? Encourage guests to bring a unique cup and saucer to use at the party, either from their own cupboard or a unique thrift store find. And if you’re scouring flea markets for your own teapot, be sure not to pass up these finds—they might be worth big bucks!

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English afternoon teas in the garden cafe: scones with clotted cream and jam, strawberries, with various sandwiches on the backgroundShutterstock / Lilly Trott

Set your buffet table

The real centerpiece will be your beautiful cakes and desserts, so decorate simply with a clean tablecloth and a small bouquet of flowers. Arrange the table with trays of your sandwiches, scones and desserts. To really elevate things, find a few tiered serving trays to display your food.

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Old vintage good looking turntable playing a track with vinyl and flowersShutterstock / iravgustin

Make a playlist to set the mood

Select music that is upbeat but suitable for background—you don’t want to drown out the conversation. You can’t go wrong with some jazz or classical music.

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Who am I. Inspired cute three friends involving in game while smiling and sipping teaShutterstock / Dmytro Zinkevych

Fun icebreaker games

If you’re worried the conversation won’t flow as freely as the tea, plan ahead with a fun party game, like “Who Am I?”

Give each guest a sticky note with a character’s name on it and affix to their forehead or hat. They must then go around to other guests asking yes or no questions until they figure out who they are. Give the characters a theme, like Alice in Wonderland characters, British royals or celebrity chefs, to narrow the field.

Amber Garrett
Amber Garrett is an entertainment and lifestyle writer with passions for cooking, baking, interior design and genius lifehacks. She loves going to the theater, volunteering and hosting tea parties.