Years ago I hosted a few afternoon teas at our old house. The budget was very tight back then, and I’ve never been much of a cook, so none of those events felt like a proper tea. At some point I figured if I couldn’t do it right, I shouldn’t do it at all.
Recently, however, I’ve felt the desire to try again. I decided it would be okay if I “outsourced” the most intimidating items on the menu and gave myself plenty of time to plan and practice the other recipes. Turns out all that planning and testing was rather fun!
Some photos from the big day:
My 10+ years of collecting teacups came in handy because each guest could pick a favorite.
This photo brings back mouth-watering memories! I do believe the scones were the pièce de résistance of the tea. (Find the recipe and discussion of cream/jam at this blog post.)
Here you see the savories and sweets. I had intended to make mini-croissant sandwiches with a curry chicken salad & mango chutney from Whole Foods (outsourcing!), but sadly they were having difficulty obtaining the chutney. Instead I bought regular chicken salad and added bits of fresh mango. (Fine, but not great.) The mini-quiches were rather good, if I do say so myself, and quite easy to make (see recipe). The cucumber sandwiches, on the other hand, were somewhat tragic. I wanted to make a truly English sort of sandwich, with thinly sliced cucumber on heavily buttered bread (based on these directions), but the flavor was rather bland and the sandwiches seemed determined to fall apart. I’m afraid the cucumber slices became a little slimy, too. Ugh! Let us speak of it no further.
For the sweet course, I made frosted gluten-free cookies, but the rest of the items were store-bought. I found the Linzer torte cookies at Homegoods (!) and they were very fresh, tasty, and gluten-free. The chocolates came from Apple Tree Chocolate, a local shop. I had very high expectations for the chocolate-orange tea biscuits from Fortnum & Mason; sadly they were just so-so. (Perhaps they lost some of their freshness during the long journey to the states?)
The tea pairings required a bit of pondering, and in the end I was quite pleased with my choices. To go along with the scones and cream/jam/lemon curd, I chose Fortnum & Mason’s Afternoon Blend “from the higher and lower regions of Ceylon” (and easy to find at Williams-Sonoma) because it stood up quite well to all that sweetness. With the savory course I paired Mariage Frères’ Pleine Lune, a more delicate tea flavored with almond and sweet spices. And for the sweet course I chose Tea Palace’s Notting Hill, “a blend of the finest single estate black teas enriched with real pieces of organic Bourbon Vanilla from Madagascar and flashes of gold Marigold petal.” The overwhelming favorite of the three teas? The Pleine Lune.
Do you have any favorite afternoon tea recipes to share? If so, please link in the comments–I’d love to add your suggestions to my “Tea Party” Pinterest page. I’m already dreaming up the menu for the next Afternoon Tea…