There’s something oh-so, charming and quintessentially, British about the long held, tradition of afternoon tea. And while formal, dinner parties, set courses and the angst-ridden prep of an evening soiree leaves me flustered for weeks, the setting up of a pretty, summery tea party is something to look forward to with gusto.
Yes, there is no better way to spend a few hours than throwing a delicious afternoon tea at home for your nearest and dearest. The first rule of thumb is don’t overcomplicate things. Key to a stylish and stress-free high tea is to keep every ingredient as simple as possible – that’s the food, the drinks and the tableware (even opt for pretty paper throwaways if that makes your life easier) – so you can remain as relaxed as your guests.
I still can’t get enough of the vintage, shabby chic look, and, as luck would have it, the sherbet palette and faded prints happen to be perfect backdrop for dainty, cucumber sandwiches, plump cream cakes and old-fashioned, pink lemonade. Then, there couldn’t be anything simpler than laying the table with a crisp, linen cloth (an old sheet will do the job just as well), old jugs filled with garden posies and a mishmash of pretty plates and coloured glassware picked up from charity shops and car boot sales. (Remember the real beauty of this look is that nothing needs to match, so feel free to mix stripes with floral and polka dots and anything else that takes your fancy).
If the weather is looking good and you have an outdoor space (even the teeniest patch can be transformed with cute bunting and vintage tablecloths) then take your tea outside. Fill the table with glass cake stands piled high with homemade scones (or cheat with tasty, shop-bought versions), thick slabs of fruit cake and fresh raspberries and cream. Treat guests to a glass of bubbly Prosecco (complete with a single strawberry plopped into the bottom) or antique bottles brimming with cloudy lemonade and elderflower cordial. It’s all about the sweetest treats and delicious delicacies for an afternoon of laid-back nibbling and enjoying the sunshine…
Of course, as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s classic children’s novel, ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’, this year, why not take the look one step further by putting on your very own Mad Hatter’s Tea Party? With the basics in place thanks to the vintage style, recreate the quirky, whimsical vibe of Carroll’s fantastical world and crazy adventures by sprinkling your garden (or living room) with glittering chandeliers, battered birdcages, old-fashioned lace panels, giant teapots, white rabbits…and a pack of playing cards or two. Bake clusters of mini fairy cakes and decorate with rainbow coloured icing and ‘Eat Me’ flags, and line up old, weathered bottles in milky glass and make your own iconic ‘Drink Me’ labels using plain, brown parcel tags.
All that’s left to remember is a plate of freshly-made, warm jam tarts…but don’t scoff them all at once or The Queen of Hearts might just get to hear about it.
Curiouser and curiouser, I say…
Featured image: Kara’s Party Ideas
Image 1: A Diary of Lovely
Image 2: Kara’s Party Ideas
Image 3: Kara’s Party Ideas