A highly civilized ritual established in Britain in the early 1804’s, afternoon tea was more than just a way to stave off hunger before an evening meal, it was a celebration of elegance and sophistication. Initially developed as a private event for ladies climbing the societal ladder, Queen Victoria elevated it to a more formal occasion for both men and women on a larger scale.
An afternoon tea themed catered event can be an unforgettably sophisticated way to celebrate a milestone, welcome a new member of the family, or shower the bride or mom-to-be with well wishes. With a little help from Messina’s Catering and Events, your tea themed catering event will be absolutely brilliant.
Low Tea, High Tea, or Cream Tea?
The first step is to decide on what type of tea service you want to host. The most common is known as the Afternoon Tea, also known as Low Tea. This tea service consists of light fare such as finger sandwiches, scones and sweets, and is served mid-afternoon at about 4:00pm. Historically, Afternoon Tea was mostly a ladies’ social event served on low tables. High tea, which was served on high tables, was historically served after the workday between 5 and 7 p.m. with heavier foods including meats, vegetables, baked beans and casseroles. Finally, Cream tea is tea served with scones and clotted cream.
The Different Types of Teas
All tea comes from one plant which has a scientific name of Camellia sinesis. It’s the type of teal leaves picked and the level of oxidation (or processing) that separates tea into five main types–Black, Green, Oolong, White, and Pu-erh. Each type offers its own unique flavor profile.
Tea Service is a Personal Affair
Each guest could have their own pot of choice, or tea may be served individually from a larger shared teapot on the table. The key is having a variety of teas available for your guests. Include black teas like Earl Grey, Assam, Ceylon, Darjeeling and English Breakfast. Lighter green teas can include Tropical Citrus, Gunpowder and White Green Tea. Make sure to also have caffeine free herbal varieties like Lavender, Mint, Chamomile and Ginger. Traditional accompaniments are milk, lemon, sugar cubes and sweeteners.
The Food is Quintessential
The food you choose of course depends on the what type of tea service you are offering and what time of the day. The main food focus is on the tiered stands at each table, which are a must. Each tier holds a specific set of appealing finger foods.
Finger sandwiches are displayed on the bottom tier. These are small, triangle shaped delicacies served on thin bread that is typically crust-free. Assorted sandwiches might include cucumber, curried chicken salad, boursin, smoked salmon, egg salad, and roast beef. For a more upscale fare, include watercress and buttered radish sandwiches along with mini quiche.
The second tier are where the scones are housed. Scones are like soft, dense biscuits. They can be served warm alongside Devonshire or clotted cream, homemade fruit preserves, lemon curds and herbed butter.
The top tier is where guests can satisfy their sweet tooth. An assortment of desserts like shortbreads, petit fours, mini eclairs, cream puffs, fruit tartes, canapes, macarons, sponge cake and cupcakes make for a sweet ending to a fabulous tea.
Tea Doesn’t Have to Be the Only Thing to Drink
Tea is clearly the star of the show for an afternoon tea. For those occasions where libations are in order like with a bridal or baby shower, you can offer champagne for toasting. Separate Mimosa or Bloody Mary bars can serve as popular co-stars.
The Right Tableware is Imperative
Decide on whether you want a posh, garden or country style. For table linens, opt for a crisp white cloth for the formal look, a floral pattern for garden, or lace for country. Coordinate cloth napkins. Porcelain, bone china and sliver should be part of your pots, teacups, saucers and plates. Make sure to have coordinating creamers, sugar basins and sugar tube tongs to go alongside. To keep teapots hot, have cozies for covering and strainers available for loose tea.
Set the Tone with Fresh Flowers and Paper Invitations
Set the tone by ensuring that fresh flowers are on each table. Popular today are large teapot floral centerpieces, or smaller teacup versions. Forgo the electronic route and opt for tradition with paper invitations with a wax seal to set the tone. Encourage guests to wear their favorite Victorian hats or best fascinator (think of Princess Kate, Duchess of Windsor) and crocheted gloves. Or embark on a Mad Hatter theme as guests channel Alice in Wonderland characters.
Whether a Tea for 20 or 200, We Can Help Make it the Perfect Afternoon Catered Event
At Messina’s Catering and Events, we’ve been providing full-service catering to the New Orleans community since 1961. We are family owned and love working with clients to host any type of event. Tea anyone?