Summer Afternoon Tea Party Ideas

From table decor, to serving pieces, to what and how much to serve, these afternoon tea party ideas will have hosting your own summer tea party with ease!

A table set for afternoon tea

You are in for a treat today! Grab a cup of tea (hot or iced!) and settle in for some fun. Not only do I have loads of pictures to share, but I am also joining Rita from Panoply and 16 other bloggers as we share inspiration for summer tables.

If you ask me, wine is overrated! Give me a well brewed cup of tea and some delicious scones and clotted cream and you have my attention!

I recently picked up a book called “Afternoon Tea is the new Happy Hour” by Gail Greco, and this is a movement I could get behind!

I am excited to share with you today some practical afternoon tea party ideas that anyone can do. As with any party, I highly recommend you don’t wait for the “perfect” time to host a tea party of your own. Use what you have or borrow from friends or family! Keep it super simple or go over-the-top fancy let your mood and your budget guide you!

A table set for afternoon tea with pink peonies and a plate of tarts and pastries

What is the difference between afternoon tea and high tea?

The simple answer is that they are in fact very different. Afternoon tea is held in mid-afternoon and traditionally features 3 “courses” of what I like to call, nibbles. The first course is a selection of finger sandwiches. The second is the coveted scones with cream and jam, followed by the third course of bit sized cakes and other confections. All served with a selection of tea.

High tea is served in the late afternoon or early evening and consists of heartier fare, including hot food served with tea. In fact, I have often heard those in the UK refer to dinner as “tea”.

How to throw a fabulous tea party for adults

The best thing about hosting a tea party is that it is an affordable way to add a little elegance and luxury to your day, while gathered with your friends or family.

The Basics (essentials for hosting)

  • a tea pot or two
  • cream and sugar dishes
  • china tea cups (these are easy to find at local antique or thrift stores, but I have seen them making a comeback at stores like Homesense/Homegoods stores)
  • a tiered stand, cake plate or any platter for serving
  • tea (either a good tea bag variety or loose leaf tea)
  • sugar and milk to accompany the tea
  • finger sandwiches (keep it simple by offering as few as 3 selections)
  • scones, clotted cream and jam (my recipe for English scones is a reader favourite)
  • 3 or 4 varieties of small, bite sized cakes, squares or other treats (you will find lots of options in my recipe index or pick some up at your local bakery)

If you wish, you could start with a serving of champagne for each guest for an extra-special treat, but that is completely optional. I like to keep it simple and stick just with tea.

A floral pattern tea pot on a table set for afternoon tea

Setting the table for a tea party for adults

Start with a white or pastel table cloth. If you wish, you can add a large napkin or runner in the centre of the table in a complimentary colour.

My favourite way to set a table for tea is to use mix and matched plates, tea cups, tea pots, etc. The mix of colours and patterns create a whimsical summer table. They feel informal yet elegant at the same time.

All of the tea cups, tea pot, tea spoons, cream and sugar, and tiered stand on my summer tea party table are inherited from my mom and nana. The plates are all thrifted.

If you hosting a more formal afternoon tea, using matching china is in order. Or, if you have a beautiful set of matching china that includes tea service, by all means do use it! And use it often!! There is no point in owning such beautiful pieces if they are hidden away in cabinets!

A round table set for a tea party in a screened in summer porch.

A three tiered tray or fancy cake plate makes for the perfect centrepiece. For this table setting today, I used 3 different plate configurations. One for each course. This makes it easy to serve each course without too much fuss. I had each one ready in the kitchen waiting for their turn at the table.

A tea pot at the ready with hot water, along with cream and sugar dishes are the only other accessories you need.

If space on the table allows, and you have them, providing each guest with their own 2-cup tea pot is a nice touch, and allows them to steep the tea in the pot instead of in their cup.

A tea cup with a purple iris pattern.

A dessert plate is stacked on top of a luncheon plate with a napkin in between. The plates are flanked by two knives, one for spreading clotted cream and jam and the other for cutting into pastries, plus a fork for eating sticky desserts. A teaspoon sits on each saucer along with 2 varieties of tea.

Alternatively you can provide a box or basket with a selection of tea bags for guests to choose if space allows.

You could also include a water glass at each place setting, and a champagne flute if you are opting to start with a glass of champagne.

A clear vase filled with fresh cut pink peonies in full bloom.

Keep flowers to a minimum if space is tight. I snipped a few of the last peonies in my garden. Tea was served tea at the little round table in our summer screen porch. We often enjoy summer meals out here. It is the perfect spot to enjoy the outdoors when the weather perhaps is not the greatest. In fact, it was a full on thunderstorm the day I set and photographed this table!

The etiquette of tea

Choosing which teas to serve need not be complicated. Offer two or three varieties including a black tea such as my current favourite Lady Grey or English Breakfast, an herbal caffeine free variety that reflects the season, and perhaps a green tea or Oolong tea.

I find tea bags are the easiest option, however I do love the flavour that a loose leaf tea provides. You will just need to have tea strainers available should choose to serve loose leaf.

An overhead view of an empty tea cup with a package of Twinnings Lady Grey tea on the saucer.

To brew the perfect cup of tea, water should be between 95-98 degrees for most teas, but personally I don’t think there is no need for measuring the temperature!

I grew up watching my Nana make tea for my very dapper English grandfather, and this is what I learned.

  • heat the tea pot up with boiling water and then pour it out before filling it with freshly boiled water. Allow it to cool for a minute or two, before adding tea bags
  • use a tea cozy to keep the water at the perfect temperature
  • if using loose leaf tea, 2.5 grams of tea should be used for 200 mls of water
  • brew for 2-4 minutes

When stirring the milk and/or sugar in your tea cup simply move the spoon from front to back rather than stirring it around. This prevents too much clinking and sloshing of the tea.

An overhead view of a tea cup filled with tea beside a plate of sandwiches.

Keep that Pinky Down!

You may think that holding your pinky up is the right thing to do, when holding a fancy tea cup, however the opposite is true! Simply hold the tea cup handle between. your thumb and index finger and keep your pinky down!

A china tea cup with pink roses sits on a saucer with a tea bag and silver tea spoon.

What food should be served at an afternoon tea party?

First Course – Finger Sandwiches – a selection of small sandwiches, commonly with crusts removed, are staples for tea party. Choose fillings like egg salad, tuna or salmon, cream cheese and smoked salmon. Classic cucumber sandwiches are always a hit.

You can include mini quiche as I have today, but avoid adding things like mini sausage pastries or other appetizer or hot type nibbles.

Plan on 4 little sandwiches per guest.

A tiered tray of finger sandwiches

I choose to serve tuna salad sandwiches cut into quarters with crust on, egg salad sandwiches cut into rectangles with crusts removed, and cucumber and dill cream cheese on mini croissants. As mentioned, I also added the French Lorraine mini quiches which are easy to pick up and eat with your fingers, and are just as delicious served cold.

An overhead view of mini quiches and mini croissant sandwiches on a tiered tray.
A close up of mini croissants with whipped cream cheese and cucumber for an afternoon tea party idea.

Second course – scones with clotted cream and jam of course. Scones are so simple to make. I have included a link to my scones recipe above. They take just a few minutes of prep time using simple ingredients, and bake up in about 14 minutes.

Plan on 2 to 3 scones per guest.

A close up of a plate of English scones

Clotted cream can be found at some grocery stores, or specialty stores. However if can’t find it, this simple no cook clotted cream recipe works in a pinch!

Homemade strawberry jam is my favourite, but feel free to use your own favourite.

A plate with a scone spread with cream and jam beside a cup of tea

There have been heated debates when it comes to scones, about whether the cream goes first or the jam. There is no right or wrong way! Do whatever makes you happy 🙂

A bowl of clotted cream beside a plate of scones.
An plate of English scones with a bowl of strawberry jam and a bowl of clotted cream.

Third course – bite sized cakes and pastries can be homemade or store bought. Keep it simple by offering 3-4 options. If the thought of baking that many desserts makes your head spin, why not bake one or two and purchase the rest. Or, purchase them all! We want you to have a relaxing time at your tea party too!

Plan on 2 to 3 pastries per guest.

A plate of desserts including mini eclairs, lemon bars and raspberry tarts.
A cake stand with mini pastries for an afternoon tea party

Cream puffs, eclairs, lemon squares, two bite brownies, mini fruit tarts or petit fours are all wonderful ideas for serving at afternoon tea.

A table set for afternoon tea with mini pastries on plates.

I hope I have given you some afternoon tea party ideas that have inspired you to host one yourself this summer! It is a delightful way to gather friends and family for a charming and relaxed gathering.

An overhead view of an almost empty cup of tea concludes a list of Afternoon tea party ideas.

From elegant table settings to delectable treats, there are endless possibilities for creating a memorable experience. So go ahead, dust off your finest china and bake up some scones – I think summer is the perfect time to make afternoon tea the new Happy Hour. Cheers to tea time!

Now it’s time to visit the links below for loads more ideas for entertaining and setting the perfect table this summer!

Panoply – Summer Meadow Bistro Tablescape

Hyacinths for the Soul – Summer Whimsy Tablescape

Home is Where the Boat Is – Stars and Stripes Alfresco Tablescape

Everyday Living – Say Hello To Summer With a Garden Tablescape

The Bookish Dilettante – Red, White and Blue Summertime Tablescape

My Thrift Store Addiction – Flower Fairies in the Garden Summer Tablescape

Life and Linda – A Margaritaville Party

The Cat’s Whiskerz – A Tropical Tablescape for Summer

The Little Yellow Corner Store – A Fourth of July Tablescape – A Star Performance

Pandora’s Box – Pineapple Delight

Thrifting Wonderland – Morning Tea in the Garden

Corner of Plaid and Paisley – Summer Road Trip

The Painted Apron – Summer Sea Shells

Red Cottage Chronicles – Summer Afternoon Tea Party Ideas

Dinner at Eight – Summertime Gardens for the Table

Belle Bleu Interiors – An Early Summer Tablescape in the Garden

Celebrating Everyday Life – Simple Homespun Patriotic Table Decor

Mantel and Table – A summer Pink Tablescape – Beautiful Indulgence for One

Me and My Captain – Small Backyard Space? Come Sit By Me

Pinterest Image for Afternoon Tea Party Ideas

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  1. Maureen, your afternoon tea party looks delightful as does your tempting menu! What a pleasure it would be to sip a cup of tea from one of your lovely cups, indulge in tasty treats and visit with you! Pinned! Blessings, Cecilia @ My Thrift Store Addiction

  2. Maureen what wonderful ideas for tea time. A few years ago I served an afternoon tea and asked my friends to wear a hat (which they did) and we had a wonderful time. I did offer several tea options just as you suggested and we had finger sandwiches and little finger desserts. I had such fun planning the event and I sent out party invitations in the shape of tea cups. Thanks for all your suggestions and I will certainly plan another tea party with your ideas in mind. We are in rain at the moment (Your photos turned out great considering your rainy day) and rain is expected all week long but we really need the moisture. Have a great summer.

  3. I am a big fan of Afternoon Tea so really enjoyed your post. I’m especially fond of the sandwiches in croissants and any combination of chicken salad, egg salad, and tuna salad. Scones are a real delight with clotted cream and jam and yours looked lovely. Your pretty china was the perfect complement to the tea…and what a pretty teapot! Anyone would be happy to sit at your table for a “spot” of tea.

  4. Maureen, I love your afternoon tea and the treats all look delicious. The mix and match plates, tea cups, and tea pot do give a whimsical look and are not too formal or stiff. All of your tips are wonderful and make it easy for anyone to have friends over for tea. It is so easy to buy excellent sweets and savories for teatime if you don’t have time to prepare home-made.

    I loved sharing tea with you this afternoon. As always, it is a treat to hop with you!

  5. Maureen your afternoon tea looks so delightful. You covered all the essential of hosting a tea party. Love the mix and match of dishes. The teapot is lovely. So many wonderful treats to enjoy too. The menu would be something I would love. ❤️ I would love a seat at your table and enjoy a cup of tea with those delectable desserts and wonderful conversation. Always a pleasure hopping along with you.

  6. What a lovely tea party Maureen! The table and flowers are beautiful and the tiered tray with treats looks delicious! Oh, and I’ll be sure to remember to keep my pinky down!

  7. Such a pleasure to join you for tea Maureen and your delicious assortment of sweet and savory treats! I love your suggestion of having the courses plated and ready to serve and on stand by if you have a smaller table. Your tea pot and cups are so pretty and I love your peonies. Ours finished blooming several weeks ago. As always, it’s a treat to join you at the table and hop with you again, Happy Summer!

  8. This is absolute perfection Maureen!! I love the idea of mixing and matching the cups and plates and seeing all the pretty china patterns. The teapot is lovely too.
    Your peonies are gorgeous – such a pretty shade of pink and your menu looks delicious. I think anyone would be thrilled to join you at this lovely tea party. Just delightful!

  9. Maureen, you have created such a beautiful tea setting. The treats look scrumptious, and you have given us some wonderful tips for hosting. My daughter is home from college, and I plan on surprising her with a tea party for just the two of us. It is always a treat to join you in these hops, Happy summer!

  10. Maureen, not only did I enjoy the educational value of your very thorough tea party ideas, but a few things really stood out for me. First, the mixed china pieces you used coming from your mother and nana makes this very special! Is the iris teacup your favorite? It’s beautiful! Secondly, I love that you learned the art of taking tea by watching your nana serve your English grandfather. And finally, the thunderstorm accompaniment to your afternoon tea makes this all the more inviting and welcoming! I would’ve love being there, sharing all the nibbles with you (and leaving stuffed, no doubt, unless we lingered through the afternoon and leisurely took it all in).
    Thank you so much for bringing the wisdom of serving tea in this summertime blog hop, which could easily translate across the seasons!

  11. Maureen, this is a wonderfully complete post on offering afternoon tea. Thank you for all the lovely photos and details. Yes, afternoon tea over happy hour works for me. Lovely! Happy Summer!

  12. You are a woman after my own heart, Maureen! You know how much I love anything tea, and your tea party is just perfect! Your table is so beautiful and relaxing out there on the screen porch. I think it would be even more fun to be all safe and cozy and enjoying a lovely tea, while it’s storming outside! And that makes your photos even more amazing – you really are a fabulous photographer. I love to come here just to look at the pictures! Thanks for sharing your tea table, and all the fascinating tea info too! So fun hopping with you – hope you have a lovely summer!

  13. Maureen, I love to attend and host tea parties and would be at your house in a second if I could! Your table is casually lovely! I tend toward matching china for mine, though the tea service isn’t always the same pattern as the cups, saucers and plates. All the courses look scrumptious and I’m sure taste delicious. I have to confess I’ve never had clotted cream, even when I visited the UK. I might need to hunt some down. Enjoyed hopping with you! Have a great June