how to host a high tea party?

Posted by Divya on


Hosting a high tea party, or more accurately – an afternoon tea party, offers an enjoyable opportunity to gather, connect and have a cherished moment with friends. As a host you can look forward to an outstanding get-together that provides an opportunity to reconnect with precious friends. The clinking of teacups, the aroma of freshly brewed tea and treats, and the gentle laughter creates an ambiance that warms the soul.

If you like the idea and are considering hosting your very own high tea party (read: afternoon tea party), then start by choosing a cosy venue or set up at home with a tasteful décor. Next is the culinary delights – you must shortlist what you’ll offer your guests. But rest assured, we have you covered with everything you need.

what is a high tea party?

A high tea party is a British tradition that’s often associated with opulence and sophistication. However, contrary to what many think, a high tea party isn't that in any way – it refers to evening meal served to the working class in Britain. Probably due to the word "high", a high tea party is often wrongly considered a lavish affair. In fact, it’s the other British tradition of afternoon tea that was conceived by aristocracy, as an elite gathering for friends to enjoy light refreshments and pleasant company. Afternoon tea party is usually held in elegant settings with treats ranging from delicate sandwiches and freshly baked scones to an assortment of sweets.

what to have for tea?

While we've mentioned the traditional differences between high tea party and afternoon tea party, we'll use the two names interchangeably, reflecting their common usage here in Australia – after all what’s in a name.

the tea

At the heart of any tea gathering lies the indisputable star – tea. This beverage is the very essence of the occasion. It’s also the element that binds conversations and flavours together. Hence, when it's time to make your tea selection, consider your choices properly. The popular English breakfast tea makes a safe choice, however, if you’re in the mood for some alternatives, you may try Darjeeling Earl Grey or Chai tea.

the treats

While afternoon tea party delights are traditionally served in a three-tiered cake stand, hosting one at home offers the freedom to infuse your own creativity into the presentation. It's an opportunity to let your personal touch shine. You can artfully arrange a trio of delectable offerings – sandwiches, scones and sweets or any combination that suits your fancy. So, instead of discussing the presentation let’s dive into the details of the options you can serve:


Scones are an indispensable element of a tea gathering. They’re cherished for their warm, buttery and slightly crumbly texture. These delicious pastries are typically served with clotted cream and jam, making them an essential part of an exceptional tea experience. The world of scones offers a enjoyable array of choices to elevate your party. Here are some ideas for afternoon tea at home:

  • Buttermilk Scones: These scones are a breeze to prepare, boasting a delicate and flaky texture that pairs beautifully with jam, lemon curd or simply a pat of butter.
  • Earl Grey Scones: Infused with this popular tea and boasting a tender and moist texture, these scones deliver a blend of bergamot and zesty orange notes that make them exceptionally delicious and a perfect fit for your high tea party.
  • Pumpkin Lemonade Scones: These scones are a tasty twist on the usual ones – and as the name suggests – they’re filled with delicious pumpkin with lemonade flavour.
  • Zucchini and Cheddar Scones: These scones are loaded with fresh zucchini, sharp cheddar cheese and some black pepper – making them a savoury treat.
  • Blueberry Scones: Bursting with juicy blueberries, these scones provide a delightful contrast of sweet and slightly tart flavours, making them perfect for your high tea party guests who love fruity indulgences.
  • Rhubarb-Buckwheat Scones: These scones feature a combination of rhubarb and earthy buckwheat that comes together to create a desirable treat.


Sandwiches hold a special place in any tea party. Specially as these delicate, bite-sized creations offer a range of flavours and textures that compliment other delectable treats. And some of the sandwich ideas for afternoon tea at home are:

  • Egg salad sandwiches: These sandwiches are made with creamy egg salad, seasoned with herbs and a touch of mayonnaise. The mix is then spread on crustless bread squares.
  • Smoked salmon sandwiches: Cream cheese spread on whole-grain bread and layered with smoked salmon makes these sandwiches amazing for your high tea party.
  • Chicken salad sandwiches: These sandwiches usually have shredded chicken mixed with mayo and seasonings, on whole-grain bread.
  • Ham and cheese sandwiches: These sandwiches, enjoyed cold or grilled, have thinly sliced ham and cheese with some mustard or mayonnaise. They’re served on a variety of bread options.
  • Roast Beef Sandwiches: These sandwiches are made using roast beef with hummus and parmesan on a variety of bread options.
  • Prawn or Shrimp Sandwiches: Cooked prawns or shrimp are mixed with sauce and then generously spread onto slices of buttered bread.
  • Vegetarian Options: These sandwiches can be made with roasted vegetables, avocado or hummus for vegetarian guests at your high tea party.

the sweets

As your tea party unfolds, it's time to enjoy some delicious sweets. These tiny treats bring a burst of flavour in just one bite. Here’re some ideas for the sweets you can serve at your afternoon tea party at home:

  • Miniature Tarts: From lemon curd tarts to fruit-filled delights, miniature tarts can be an amazing addition to your afternoon tea party.
  • Mini Cupcakes: Bite-sized cupcakes with a variety of frostings and decorations bring a fun element to the high tea party.
  • Lamingtons: These iconic Aussie sponge cakes are coated in chocolate icing and desiccated coconut, offering a perfect balance of sweet and fluffy.
  • Slices of Cake: These thin slices of cake in various flavours (like chocolate, carrot or Victoria sponge) always go well with tea.
  • Chocolate Truffles: These rich, bite-sized chocolates come in a variety of flavours and coatings.
  • Fruit Skewers: Skewers of fresh, bite-sized fruit pieces provide a refreshing and healthy sweet option.
  • Mini Pies: Serve tiny pies filled with fruit or custard for a comforting dessert option.


Hosting an afternoon tea party is a wonderful experience. And it gets better when you host it at home, as there’re a myriad of advantages. For example, it's cost-effective and also allows you to customise the experience for your guests. When you’re selecting the finest teas or treats, you have full control to ensure that the event reflects your unique style. This also ensures that you can savour both, flavours and conversations, and create cherished memories. When planning your party, just remember that it's not just about the food and decor; it's about crafting an amazing experience for your guests.

faqs on high tea party

Q. what time should an afternoon tea party start?

A. An afternoon tea party usually starts between 3:00 PM and 5:00 PM, aligning with the traditional tea time. This timeframe allows for a comfortable interval after lunch, perfect for relishing tea and treats. It’s also aligned with the historical origins of this tradition.

Q. what is the dress code for afternoon tea?

A. The dress code for afternoon tea typically leans towards smart-casual or semi-formal attire. Guests often choose tasteful and elegant outfits, such as dresses, skirts or blouses. However, specific dress codes can vary depending on the venue, so it's advisable to check in advance. And if you’re hosting, then ensure everyone is informed about the dress code you’ve kept.

Q. what is the difference between high tea and afternoon tea?

A. The main difference between high tea and afternoon tea lies in the timing, formality and menu. Afternoon tea, a sophisticated British tradition, is a leisurely affair held in the late afternoon. It features teas and several treats. However, high tea, originating from the British working class, is an evening meal with more substantial dishes.

Q. what do you serve at high tea?

A. At an afternoon tea, you typically serve a delightful spread of nice sandwiches, warm scones with clotted cream and jam and an assortment of miniature cakes, tarts and other sweets. These treats are accompanied by a selection of fine teas – creating a memorable tea experience.