There are basically two options for an afternoon tea table. The guests may be individually served while seated at a table or several smaller tables or you may use a buffet presentation allowing guests to serve themselves. Either way, there are certain serving essentials. For each guest, you will need a teacup and saucer, dessert plate, silverware and a napkin. In addition you will need a teapots, sugar bowl & tongs, creamer, dish for lemon slices, serving tableware, tablecloth, serving trays and a centerpiece for each table. Either everything can match or be eclectic and combine different patterns in one or many colors – just don’t combine formal and casual pieces. Be creative & have fun!
For individual table service, set each place setting with the dessert plate in the center with knife (blade toward plate) and spoon to the right, fork if necessary to the left and the napkin to the left of the fork. The teacup (handle to the right) and saucer can be either placed on top of the dessert plate before service or to the right of the knife and spoon. If only a spoon is necessary for tea service, it may be placed across the back of the saucer. A water glass may be added above the dessert plate slightly to the right. Serving pieces will also be needed for tea and food accompaniments such as sugar, cream, lemon, jams & Devonshire or clotted cream. Either place a centerpiece arrangement (low enough for guests to see over it) on a small table or use a three-tired serving piece with savories on the bottom, scones in the middle and sweets on the top. On a longer table, two tiered stands may be placed on either side of a centerpiece or another alternative is to serve the savories, scones and sweets separately on individual serving trays. The tea may also be served individually or placed in pot(s) on the table.
For a buffet presentation, a long table should be used with a larger centerpiece. At one end of the table, place all the necessary pieces for serving the tea including the teapot(s), teacups and saucers and any accompaniments. Teacups and saucers with spoons across the back of the saucer may be set out individually or stacked to conserve space to the left of the tea service and the accompaniments to the right. The tea should be poured including any desired additions and then handed to guests by a specially chosen friend. The three types of food should be placed around the table after the stacked dessert plates and folded napkins for easy service with savories first then scones and finally sweets. Each should be small enough to be eaten without silverware; however a larger dessert may also be served with dessert forks nearby. Be creative and use differing heights, tiered serving pieces or simply cover boxes with cloths or napkins to create different and interesting levels to display the food. Additional fresh and hot tea may be served by someone appointed to roam among the guests.
TEA TIME TIDBITS
Two types of tea are traditionally served
at an afternoon tea - an unflavored tea
and either a flavored tea, a decaffeinated tea
or a caffeine-free herbal tea (tisane)
“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing
some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”
I Corinthians 10:31