What better way to celebrate your love of tea than with a high tea party? This fun event might have started out as a fine British tradition, but it’s now popular all over the world, and the possibilities are endless!
It’s the perfect way to celebrate a bridal or baby shower, retirement or birthday party. It can be as big or as small as you like – working for large groups or just an intimate catch-up.
In this guide, we’ll tell you what you need, and share some ideas and tips for throwing the ultimate high tea party.
Without further ado, fill up a teapot, choose a cupcake and let’s get down to it. Monocles on, and pinkies up!
High Tea Party Essentials
There are a few things you’ll need, whatever size gathering you’re planning. These set the scene and will help you decide what kind of high tea party you’re going to throw.
Have a go at imagining your ideal event with these in mind:
- Guests: will you need one small table or several little ones?
- Invitations: give yourself 2–4 weeks to allow for dietary restrictions
- Tablecloths: extra points for stripes, flowers or spots!
- Flowers: give that pretty, sunny feel whatever your theme
- Decorations: this isn’t a standard meal – it’s about fun
Got an idea of how you want it to look? Here are the other elements you’ll need to consider.
Apart from the tea, the cake is pretty much the next most important thing at a high tea party. If you serve no other food, there will likely be cake.
The other purpose of cake is as a centerpiece and focal point. It’s also a great anchor for whatever theme or look you choose.
For a traditional theme, how about a classic serving stand with a domed lid? This style is great for a vintage or retro theme.
It’s becoming more and more popular to serve lots of cupcakes rather than one large cake. You can maximize the theme with colored cases, and even mix up the designs. Go for a round display stand or a square cake stand one for a modern feel. Go next-level cool with this LED lights cupcake stand!
Ok, we know the tea and cake is important, but your guests need something to drink out of and eat off. Tableware can be one of the best ways to solidify your theme as they’re the background pieces to your event.
Teapots are an essential element of a high tea party, as they bring that traditional, English feel. Work out how many cups of tea one teapot can make – you might be surprised at how many you’ll need depending on the number of guests. As a guide, one teapot-full will serve 1-3 people.
Do you already have cups, plates, saucers, milk jugs? The list of what you need can be endless! It could be easiest to buy a full set, especially if this is your first high tea party.
Tea parties have become popular partly because of the trend for vintage. And colored tea sets or mixed-up patterns help achieve this look. A great idea is also to have a rummage through Goodwill. It’s fun, and you’ll find some things you never expected!
High Tea Party Extras
As we’ll see, there are infinite extras you might want to get to decorate and enhance your theme. Doilies and napkins, for example, are small touches which can make all the difference.
- Place cards. These are a really nice touch. They make your guests feel welcome and make it easier to seat everyone if you’re throwing a large party. You can write them yourself or print them in your theme.
- Cake servers. Yes, you can use your normal knife or server, but why not embellish and make your guests feel special? They also honor all the wonderful food you’re serving!
- Candleholders. Like flowers, candles add softness and enhance your theme. The sticks themselves can also serve as a centerpiece.
- Table runner. This takes your tablecloth to the next level. It’s an extra on top and can work to bring your tables together if you have a few different cloths.
Right, so you know what you’ll probably need to throw the perfect high tea party. Let’s get to the fun part – the theme!
High Tea Party Ideas
As we’ve said, the possibilities for your event are almost endless, and a high tea party can also be tailored to pretty much any occasion. It’s supposed to be a novelty, so you can really go wild!
However, it’s easy to wind up having it look like a kids party, so here are some things to think about for tea party ideas for adults:
- Budget – keep in mind how much you can spend. You can always do simple swaps like sultanas instead of cherries or egg rather than shrimp and still create a classic look.
- Occasion – you don’t want to go modern and flashy for a retirement party, or have three-foot centerpieces for a tea party for two. Or maybe you do! What would work for your occasion?
- Guests – how many people are coming and what’s feasible? If you want to give everyone their own cupcake and place card, have you got time to do that?
Now here’s the fun part. You might already have a theme in mind and build your party around that. Or, our essentials might have led you to one. Other ideas include:
- English summertime
- Alice in Wonderland
- Queen of Hearts
The beauty is, once you’ve got the basic elements, you can even go totally off-book, and still have it be a high-tea party. Serve tea and cake and it can be any theme you like.
Once you’ve decided on your theme, it’s not just the decorations that will make it. You can use music and games to set the scene too.
TIP: ‘Who Am I?’ is an icebreaker where each guest has a character and the others have to guess. It’s great if not all the guests know each other. The characters can fit your theme.
There are also cool ways to bring the theme through the food. How about mashed raspberries in your cake batter to make them all pink?
Speaking of food, it’s time to decide on your English high tea menu.
Tea Party Food
It’s going to be the basis of your high tea party, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Here are our top tips for planning your tea party food:
- Match your food to your teas – see our guide below
- Use a mix of textures and colors to add variation and interest
- How much food will you need? Work according to an average amount per guest and add a bit more
- What are your timescales? Have you got time to make everything or will you need to buy some dishes?
If you do make your own high tea party food, test your recipes at least once if you can.
Here are some high tea party classics.
Finger sandwiches are perfect as they’re bitesize, look pretty, and you can serve a few different types.
Prepare the fillings in advance and assemble just before your guests arrive so the bread doesn’t get dry or soggy.
Classic afternoon tea recipes for sandwiches include:
- Egg salad
- Smoked salmon
- Shrimp cocktail
- Cucumber and cream cheese
It’s not a high tea party without cakes! Will you serve large, centerpiece cakes, individual cupcakes or both?
Try a classic afternoon tea recipe for basic pound cake. You can add and embellish to your theme.
If you’re short on time or want something particular, some afternoon tea cakes to buy include:
- Luxurious, themed and personalized cakes. We’re not all master patissiers!
- Larger standard cakes and pies if you want to make sure there’s enough for everyone
- Cheesecakes and bakes that take longer
If you’re planning an English high tea menu, scones are essential as they’re a British classic.
They can be sweet or savory; complex or plain. Scones make a great base and are versatile.
It’s best to enjoy them on the day you bake them, but you can freeze them and then warm-up for the same effect.
Serve with clotted cream and jelly or butter.
Here are some classic afternoon tea recipes for scones.
Other High Tea Party Food
We’ve given just a few ideas, but there are so many more! Why not consider:
Now we’ve covered the food, we all know why we’re here, a love of tea! It’s just as important and easy to overlook and only serve one type. Set yourself apart by serving a variety of teas.
Depending on what tea party food you serve, you can also pair the teas with the food.
- Earl Grey: citrus flavor from bergamot goes well with scones and shortbread
- Assam: malty and strong flavors work with savory sandwiches
- Darjeeling: fruity and floral taste is good for chocolate and fruity desserts
- Peppermint: mellow and sweet – think about whether you’d use mint in the recipe
- Chamomile: floral and apple-like, it goes with scones and fruit
- Fruit and herbal: perfume flavors work with simple scones or cookies
- Iced tea: great on a hot day or with stronger savory dishes
- English Breakfast: of course, the classic – it goes with pretty much anything!
You’ll probably be using loose leaf tea. Here are some classics to start with, as well as tips on how to brew.
TIP: show care for all your guests by including some caffeine-free teas and non-dairy kinds of milk.
Ready To Throw Your Perfect High Tea Party?
Wow, it’s a lot to take in, but hopefully we’ve given you some tea party food for thought!
Just remember, get your theme, budget and timescales. Then you’ll be able to think about basics like table settings, crockery and decorations. Following that is the fun part of deciding on your high tea menu.
Or, you might have the perfect cake or even just a teacup in mind and build the event around that. However you do it, a high tea party is always a fun way to celebrate.
What are your high tea party ideas?
Share with us in the comments below!