Host your own afternoon tea to toast the Queen
Green-Jasmine Tea Bubbles. (Yuki Sugiura photo)
There's something quintessentially British about taking afternoon tea.
This weekend there will undoubtedly be millions of cups of tea sipped and even more pretty cakes upon delicate china nibbled amid erupting street parties as England celebrates the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, recognizing the Queen's 60 years as Monarch.
It's a no-brainer why we love afternoon tea so much -- it is a winning combination. Aromatic tea served with delicious finger sandwiches, scones with jam and cream and dainty cakes in between lunch and dinner. Tea enthusiasts are too sophisticated to worry about spoiling their appetite for supper.
And now with spring in motion, it's the perfect time to play host.
Afternoon tea connoisseur Angel Adoree wrote The Vintage Tea Party Book: A Complete Guide to Hosting Your Perfect Party (available at Chapters Indigo), after her tea party business Vintage Patisserie took London, England, by storm.
"The perfect tea party is made up of a lot of layers," says Adoree. "It excites all of the senses. It doesn't start from the moment you walk through the door, it starts from before that when the person who is hosting has their vision of how they want it to be."
Afternoon tea was invented in the early 19th century to satisfy the appetite of Anna Maria, the seventh Duchess of Bedford.
She enjoyed a little snack between lunch and dinner, so her servants brought dainty tea and cakes.
"It wasn't meant to satisfy her properly," shares Adoree. "It was meant to excite all the senses to carry her through to dinner."
And exciting all the senses should be the goal of the hostess with the mostess, Adoree says.
In planning a proper afternoon tea, thrill your guests with a handwritten invitation. Next, collect everything to serve on.
"That's so important and it doesn't have to be expensive," Adoree says. "You can go to granny's cupboard and I bet she'll have old vintage china. Or go to a yard sale or charity shops. It doesn't have to match, it adds quirkiness if nothing matches."
Choose three teas -- English Breakfast, Earl Grey and green tea are good bets.
Chilled teas are sumptuous in summer, especially with a splash of alcohol.
Create a nice table by bunching flowers together in chipped teapots or sugar bowls, then add such accessories as parasols, flags and vintage books.
To really make your guests feel special, think about them individually.
"My secret weapon is to always do something custom for every single person that comes," shares Adoree. "You can do Earl Grey truffles and imprint their initial on it, that's very elegant and you can use them as place setting. Or use milk bottles and put beautiful labels on them."
Saffron G & Tea Shots
6 Earl Grey tea bags
50g granulated sugar
200 ml gin
Juice of 1 1/2 lemons
Few pinches of saffron, to garnish (optional)
Steep tea bags in 200 ml of just-boiled water for 4 minutes, adding the sugar and stirring until dissolved. Remove the tea bags. Fill up to 500 ml with cold water and refrigerate for an hour, or longer if you have time. Remove from the refrigerator and add the gin, lemon juice and ice. Serve either in a teacup or tiny glass. For a real treat, add a pinch of saffron to each shot.
Green-Jasmine Tea Bubbles
5 green-jasmine tea bags or 5 Tbsp. loose green-jasmine tea
200 ml (7fl oz) just-boiled water
3 Tbsp sugar, to to taste
500 ml (18fl oz) cold water
Handful of raspberries and blackberries (optional)
1 bottle good champagne
Steep tea bags or loose tea in a measuring jug in the just-boiled water for 1 minute, adding the sugar and stirring until dissolved. Remove tea bags or strain to remove loose tea, then add cold water. Taste tea for strength, adding a touch more cold water if it's too strong, then put in the refrigerator to cool further for 30 minutes. (If you can't wait, add a few ice cubes to speed up cooling process.) Serve in vintage teacups. For a bit of extra colour, put a couple of berries into each cup before pouring. For the alcoholic version, simply half-fill the cup with tea, then top up with an equal measure of bubbly.