Hosting a Victorian Tea
When serving tea, the following items (and their substitutes) are suggested. It is best for each table to
have everything needed for the tea. Sharing between tables causes accidents :
Sneak Peek Productions
"Sneaking a Peek into History"
- Tea (Earl Grey, Irish Breakfast, Lady Grey, Orange Pekoe, decaffeinated tea)
- Sugar (Cubes are best, but granulated is fine.)
- Sugar Substitutes (Equal, Splenda, Sweet & Low)
- Lemon (Sliced into circles, not wedges. Toss the very end pieces.)
- Milk (served in a creamer or small pitcher)
- Pastries, cookies, finger sandwiches, fruit (recipes and suggestions below)
- Tea cups and saucers (Don’t worry if you don’t have china tea cups. In Victorian times,
most people did not have a full set of matching cups, so mismatched cups are just fine. Even
mugs are OK.)
- Spoons, Forks (While not preferable, plastic will work.)
- Napkins (Cloth is the first choice but a pretty paper napkin is an adequate substitute.)
- Three-tiered serving platter (Placing the most delicate pastries at the top and heavier items,
such as sandwiches, at the bottom. If you don’t have three-tiered serving platters, just
substitute plates, even paper places with a doily or a fancy paper napkin opened on the plate
with the food on top.)
- Serving forks or spatulas (Tongs or forks work just as well.)
- Sugar tongs for the sugar cubes (or a teaspoon for the sugar bowl)
- Tea Pots (while not absolutely required, they help set the tone and add to the mood. I have
two porcelain pots I can bring to the tea. Boiling water can be placed into the pots and then
the pots carried to the tables to pour.)
- Cookies: Sugar, tea, finger, ginger, shortbread cookies are all good for tea. Chocolate covered
cookies can melt after being dunked into tea.
- Fruit: In season berries are best.
- Sandwiches such as cucumber, chicken salad, tuna salad or even a light ham sandwich are
fine. To make them extra fancy, use very thin bread. Then, using cookie cutters, cut out
shapes from the center of the bread. Discard the crusts.
- Scones and jelly or jams (don’t forget a sugar-free variety).
- Lemon curd whipping cream over pound cake or angel food cake.
(Lemon curd whipping cream is easy to make and tastes delicious. Take one container of
lemon curd (found in local grocery stores in the baking aisle) and mix it into one pint of
heavy whipping cream. Mix with electric mixer until light and creamy (several minutes). Best
if mixed just before serving. If mixed early, keep it cold.)
- Tortes, popovers, petit fours, Danish are all quite acceptable. Cake or brownies are perfectly
fine too if cut into small squares.
Setting the Table
- Afternoon tea, by definition, is a light meal. Luncheon/salad plates are the best size to use, but
don’t worry if you use larger plates or even paper plates.
- The teacup is placed to the right of the place setting.
- Turn the teacup handle OUT (pointing to the right of the cup) and the blade of the knife IN
(toward the plate).
- If you use paper napkins, try and find luncheon-sized (nine-inch square) instead of dinner-
sized (twelve-inch square) napkins. Both paper and cloth napkins are placed to the left of the
plate or on the plate folded prettily or with a napkin ring.
- If you use regularly-sized butter knives, instead of smaller spreaders, knife rests are lovely
additions and almost necessary. Your guests will find it difficult to rest the larger knives on
the smaller plates.
- Other normal place settings apply. Use only the necessary silverware. Forks on the left,
knives and spoons on the right. Water glasses sit on the right above the knife.
- Follow this link for a nice picture of a proper table setting.