August 2, 2016
There is something quintessentially English about afternoon tea. Typically eaten between 4pm and 6pm, afternoon tea dates back to the 1840s when, during a visit to the Duke of Rutland at Belvoir Castle, the Duchess of Bedford – who was perhaps feeling a little peckish before her evening meal – discovered that a light meal of tea and sandwiches or cakes was a perfect stopgap. She then began to invite her friends to join her for afternoon tea and the custom was quickly established amongst the upper classes.
Since then, afternoon tea has never really gone away, it’s even seen a resurgence in recent years – just think how many hotels offer afternoon tea alongside their usual lunch and dinner offer. So it’s no surprise that afternoon tea is also a popular catering option at weddings and parties.
Sometimes it’s just really nice to do something a little different to the standard three-course sit-down meal. Afternoon tea can be presented as a visual feast, creating that all-important wow factor for your guests. And it’s a great ice breaker, which can turn any event into a really special experience.
Just imagine for a moment all of your invited guests. The odds are no one will know everyone who has been invited. Some people will know no one else except for you, their host – and you won’t have time to sit down for any length of time with every single guest. During a seated meal guests will make polite conversation with those next to them, but the formality of the meal can make it difficult to socialise. Afternoon tea, however, naturally starts to break down those formalities and has a way of getting past guests’ natural reservations.
Afternoon tea breaks down barriers
Essentially, afternoon tea is finger food presented on different plates, platters, cake stands – it all needs to be passed and shared between guests, and it forces (in the nicest possible way) everyone to interact. The food becomes a talking point as guests discuss what they’re eating, it eases people into more general conversation – so how much more perfect than to see everyone getting along. Their common link is you and your choice of food has helped to create a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
Presentation is everything and afternoon tea can be easily adapted to tie in with your wedding or party theme. A traditional afternoon tea with cake stands and vintage crockery fits beautifully with an event held in a lovely country estate setting – think perfect triangle sandwiches with the crusts cut off, lovely cakes and scones, jam and cream, lace doilies and tablecloths. But there are endless ideas and fun to be had when it comes to afternoon tea (after all, tea cups don’t necessarily have to be filled with tea!) – it’s all down to the imagination and clever thinking by your caterer.
Caper and Berry shared with us an afternoon tea that they recently created for a birthday party. Held at Cowdray House, the client wanted a fun family-friendly picnic in an outdoor setting. The theme worked effortlessly, with picnic baskets, blankets and carefully styled temporary serving tables creating the backdrop for an array of deliciously tasty treats. The guests couldn’t help but dive in to the food, enjoying the discovery of the different treats on offer. And the styling and presentation turned the food into an event in its own right.
Avoid dietary dilemmas!
Lots of choice makes it easy to cater for different diets and food preferences. People who would normally shun vegetarian food will happily tuck into parmesan and garden pea tartlets – fussy guests can pick and choose between what they do and don’t like, some may even discover the delights of trying something new and unusual! Younger guests will have fun tasting different bite-size items just because they look so inviting. And it’s easy to graze, rather than feeling the need to finish a full plate of food.
Naturally, afternoon tea works really well for a marquee event, and at Inside Outside we can put you in touch with suppliers who know how to put together a sumptuous spread!