The English afternoon tea tradition dates back to early 19th century, created to stave off hunger before dinner, served at 3-5pm. Now it's become a quintessentially English tradition, and we can't think of a better way to enjoy the bank holiday. Below are a few afternoon tea ideas. And to celebrate May bank holiday, enjoy £5 off your Heathcote & Ivory order* when you spend £30 or more, plus FREE delivery for this weekend only.
Everyone's got their favourite sandwiches, but here's a few ideas. Remember, doorsteps are not what you're after with an afternoon tea; dainty and bite-sized works best, cut into four triangles or three long fingers, and always crusts off.
Cucumber – the cucumber sandwich: it's what Britain was built on – that and tea – and it goes perfectly with cream cheese and a sprinkle of dill and freshly ground black pepper. Serve on white bread.
British Beef – use finely sliced rare beef for tenderness. Try mixing watercress with crème fraîche and mustard for an indulgent addition that works best on white bread.
Smoked Salmon or Mackerel – both fishy fillings are great with cream cheese, Greek yoghurt or butter with a squeeze of lemon mixed in. The robustness of brown bread is a classic complement.
Free Range Chicken – try smoked chicken breast, or any high quality free range chicken for maximum flavour. Serve with a fresh herbed mayonnaise or even horseradish for the ultimate mini sandwich.
Egg & Cress – use free range eggs from happy hens and a high quality mayonnaise for this classic filling, as it makes all the difference. It's actually quite easy to make, just ask Gordon...
Other Ideas – Roast Ham & Whole Grain Mustard with Honey, Mature Cheddar Cheese & Caramelised Onion Chutney, Crab & Lemon Mayonnaise.
A cake stand with multiple tiers is a must for an afternoon tea, and of course a fine selection of doilies!
Scones – a true classic for the afternoon tea, delicious when baked with sultanas. Try this Mary Berry recipe that uses both sultanas and buttermilk for a lighter texture. A high quality strawberry preserve is a must, and you could go for either whipped cream or the more classic clotted cream to accompany. But which goes on first? You decide...
Meringues – another must for afternoon tea is meringue. There's something so perfectly indulgent about the sweet, crunchy and gooey texture. Valentine Warner's Lavender cream meringues are just the ticket.
Classic Cakes – select your favourite cake (or cakes if you've got the time). Light sponges work best as they're not too filling (dinner's in a few hours, after all!), sliced small and delicately. The classics are Victoria sponge, carrot, lemon drizzle, coffee and walnut, but take a look at Easy Livings's collection of cake recipes that will now doubt inspire and tickle your taste buds.
Now there's nothing wrong with a good old English cuppa, but there are alternatives to a tea bag. Loose tea is well worth the effort for your special afternoon tea, as it allows the water and leaves to circulate more freely and provide a fuller flavour. Possibilities include:
- English black tea - the classic option
- Earl Grey - makes the perfect accompaniment
- Jasmine tea
- Green tea
- White tea - for something a little different
Happy bank holiday!