Jon-Paul Reed, Group Food and Beverage Director at De Vere – a collection of country estates with luxury mansion houses at the heart – gives his top tips to help you recreate a memorable afternoon tea soiree at home, with a slice of hotel-inspired luxury.
Place tea centre stage
Without doubt the most important element of an afternoon tea is the tea itself. A traditional English Breakfast is a firm favourite with guests at De Vere, however you could tempt your guests with something a little more exotic like Keemun, which has a subtle smoky finish. Or for something cooler in hot weather, try brewing an iced tea using your favourite leaf and add slices of citrus fruits for a refreshing twist.
Experiment with flavours
Sandwiches and scones are the staple of a classic afternoon tea, however, you may choose to serve something a little different to cater to everyone's taste and dietary requirements.
Try experimenting with the fillings in your sandwiches and the flavours of your cakes, for example, you could serve Earl Grey-infused tea cakes, scones with lemon curd or basil macaroons.
Please the crowd
Although you may be excited to serve your latest flavoursome concoction, make sure that you keep some of those classic 'crowd pleasers' on the menu, namely; egg mayonnaise sandwiches, cucumber with cream cheese and smoked salmon sandwiches, macarons, Battenberg and éclairs.
Keep it simple
It's hard work being the host and the chef, especially if help is limited, so keep things simple to ensure a stress-free day by preparing as much as you can before your guests arrive and avoid any last-minute meltdowns.
It's true that nothing beats a warm scone with lashings of fresh strawberry jam and clotted cream, but you can bake them in advance and then warm them in the oven before serving. We'd advise, however, leaving it to the guests to decide which is spread first - jam or cream?
Provide a grown-up treat
Our Champagne Afternoon Tea package is extremely popular with guests being served a glass Lanson Champagne alongside their tea.
Prosecco, Cava or an English sparkling wine would provide a perfect alternative to complement to your afternoon tea if you're watching the pennies. And for an added twist, try serving your favourite tipple with a splash of elderflower or raspberry liqueur.
Make sure you have the right ingredients and quantities at hand - there's nothing worse than discovering that you're 500g short of flour just as you begin baking. Invest some time in researching recommended recipes in advance and making a note of ingredients to buy as you go along.
Don't forget the finishing touches
Afternoon tea isn't just about delicious sandwiches and cakes, it's about the whole dining experience from décor to vintage crockery. Rummage in the back of your cupboards and dust off your best cake stands, finest China tea set and polish your silver teapot.
Why not also head to the garden and pick some fresh flowers for a centrepiece, place tea cosies on the table, hang bunting around the room and perhaps create your own personalised menus to wow your guests?
Or just relax and let the experts do the work
If this all sounds wonderful but too much of a headache, why not put your feet up and leave it to the experts? After all, Afternoon Tea warrants a little luxury and indulgence.
De Vere's collection of country estates provides the perfect setting for everyone, whether that's in the newly refurbished Orangery overlooking 200-acres of parkland at De Vere Selsdon Estate in Croydon, or sipping tea like royalty on the terrace of the Wokefield Mansion House, facing the same spot Queen Victoria famously took her tea under the large Cypress tree in the estate grounds. And if the summer weather has you craving the outdoors, De Vere Tortworth is serving an outdoors inspired menu, with local produce and hotel-grown herbs taking centre stage.