Six Essentials for Afternoon Tea

Six Essentials for Afternoon Tea

What’s not to love about afternoon tea? Whether it’s the beautiful table setting, the delicious finger foods, the flavorful teas, or time well-spent with friends, there’s something magical about a tea party.

It doesn’t matter if you dress up and wear your best hat or throw on a comfortable sundress and sandals, afternoon tea is an occasion to enjoy. And I’ve catered dozens of them over the years; everything from formal teas for 100 to backyard teas for 4. Regardless of how you decide to host an afternoon tea, there are a few essentials that will make your gathering feel like a special event.

Six Essentials for Afternoon Tea

Table Cloth

A solid color is usually best so it doesn’t interfere with the lovely pattern of your china. Choose a color that blends nicely with your serving pieces. If you don’t have a colored cloth, plain white is always a good choice. I often use a plain white table cloth then cover it with an overlay in a color that blends with the china I’m using to add a little extra depth to my table decor.

Place Settings

Depending on the food you’ll be serving, lay the appropriate silverware at each place setting. It may be just a fork and spoon or you may need to add a knife.

Each place setting should also include a luncheon plate, teacup, saucer, water glass, and napkin. Add a champagne flute if you’ll be serving that as well.

Lastly, a place card for each guest is a nice touch and makes your guests feel special.

Tea Cups and Pots

Of course, you’ll need tea cups and pots for each guest. If you don’t have fine china, that’s okay. Bring your table together with mismatched items for a cottage look. You can find a variety of tea cups and saucers at home goods stores as well as eBay, thrift stores, and antique stores.

Tea pots, creamers, and sugar bowls are also necessary and can be found at thrift stores or online. You can bring a little natural color to your table by wrapping your tea pots in tea-stained tea towels to keep them warm.


Flowers always bring a pop of color to the table. A small floral centerpiece or flowers at each place setting brighten the table and add a cozy touch. This teapot floral arrangement is easy to make with any flowers that blend with your tablescape.

Afternoon Tea

The Tier

A tiered cake stand is traditional for afternoon tea nibbles. The bottom plate is for an assortment of tea sandwiches with savories and canapes or scones on the middle plate. The top plate is reserved for special treats like chocolate tarts and apple pastries. If you don’t have a tiered cake stand, a variety of serving platters or individual cake stands will work just as well.


What would afternoon tea be without tea? Always use loose-leaf tea instead of tea bags. You can learn how to brew it here and how long to steep it here (you can even download a free tea steeping guide that you can print on photo paper and give to your guests). You’ll need tea strainers as well, which you can also find at thrift and antique stores. Some tea pots have strainers built-in to the spout.

Now that you have all the essentials in order, just add your favorite recipes and teas, invite a few friends, and enjoy some quality time together over an elegant afternoon tea.

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