While the concept afternoon tea originated in France, contrary to what most people believe, the English made taking an afternoon tea fashionable. The English usually take their afternoon tea between 4 and 5 o’clock in the afternoon, whereas Americanized versions of afternoon tea tend to be held between 3 and 4 o’clock in the afternoon. And while children may not care for tea, most enjoy the pomp and ceremony that comes with a traditional high tea experience.
Here’s how to host a kid-friendly afternoon tea:
Types of afternoon tea
Traditionally there are three different ways or types of afternoon or low tea. The term low tea originated because the food and tea was placed on low coffee tables. People rarely were sitting at a regular table covered with a table cloth, even though that is what is often pictured when thinking of a tea party.
- Cream Tea: A cream tea consists of tea, scones, jam and cream.
- Light Tea: A light tea involves tea, scones and pastries.
- Full Tea: A full tea includes tea, sandwiches, scones and sweets.
Savories or tea sandwiches are common fare at a full tea. Tea sandwiches are simple to make and usually only include a couple of ingredients. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches cut into 4 triangles would be a tasty choice for the kids. For adults a sliced cucumber and Boursin cheese sandwich on white bread is an elegant option. Mini croissants filled with chicken salad can be a good option for both kids and adults.
Scones can be purchased from a bakery and served with jam. Devonshire cream is difficult to come by in the states, but a good substitution would be mascarpone cheese mixed with powdered sugar to taste.
Any type of delicate cookie or tiny cake would be appropriate for the sweet portion of the tea. Traditionally petit fours are served, and these can usually be found at a bakery.
An afternoon tea typically is not decorated for in the usual sense. Often food is served out of silver bowls and off of silver trays, but anything can be used. Since an afternoon tea is a more formal affair, try to stay away from bright colors, instead choosing pastels as they are more traditional. Sweets can be displayed on tiered serving stands and cake stands to really highlight how decadent they are.
Kid-sized tables can be made available for the children attending the tea since balancing everything in your lap can be a more advanced skill.
- Holding a tea cup: Tea cups didn’t used to have handles when people first began drinking hot tea. Putting your index finger and middle finger at the top of the cup and your thumb directly opposite of them will help balance the cup. The pinky was then extended out at an angle to help balance the cup so as not to spill the hot tea. That’s where the tradition of holding your pinky up began.
- Using a spoon: The spoon should not be swirled around and around in the cup when stirring. It should be used in a gentle folding motion from front to back, and this should only be done a few times before the spoon is placed on the saucer.
- Serving tea: Tea should be served with milk, not cream like you would for coffee. You can also provide lemon slices to float in the tea. Traditionally lemon wedges are not squeezed into hot tea. Avoid adding both lemon and milk to tea because the lemon juice will cause the milk to curdle.
- Drinking tea: Tea is meant to be sipped slowly. Slurping tea is considered rude. Hot tea is not meant to wash down your food. Swallow the food in your mouth before you sip your tea.
Types of Tea
- White Tea: White tea is a loose leaf tea that is not typically found in a tea bag. It’s not a strong tea, but instead has a delicate flavor. White tea is very good for your health because of the antioxidants that it contains.
- Black Tea: Black tea is dark, as the name suggests, and is typically found in a tea bag. It has the highest caffeine content and is a healthier alternative to coffee. Black tea aids in circulation and regulating cholesterol. This tea is most often served during afternoon tea.
- Green Tea: Green tea is often found in leaf form and mixed with flowers or fruit to enhance its flavor. This tea is low in caffeine and is often recommended for weight loss.
- Oolong Tea: Oolong tea is very flavorful and can be quite fragrant and somewhat sweet. Children who want to try drinking hot tea may enjoy Oolong tea with some honey.
- Herbal Tea: Herbal tea is not truly a tea at all. It is made up of herbs, fruits and flower blossoms. This tea is more of an infusion of flavors, is usually caffeine-free, and contains vitamin C.
Hosting an afternoon tea can be planned in advance or thrown together with short notice. Typically afternoon teas are not large gatherings, but just something shared among a few friends. An afternoon tea might be nice to incorporate into your next play date. Enjoy your friends and a few light snacks while you catch up and your kids play together.