At an afternoon tea party or high tea, the teas you offer guests are as important as the food. Choose several tea varieties to complement your teatime menu.
When planning an afternoon tea or high tea party, many people concentrate their efforts on serving delicious food. But just as much thought needs to be put into the beverages that will be offered to guests. Providing a choice of teas to match the food will enhance the whole dining experience.
With the huge range of teas on the market these days, how do you know which ones will be best for afternoon tea? Choose teas that are refreshing, satisfying, but not so strong that they overpower the dainty servings of finger sandwiches and little cakes.
Black Teas for Afternoon Tea
These can be served with or without milk, depending on individual taste. Also offer lemon slices, and a choice of sugar or honey to sweeten.
- Darjeeling is considered to be the 'tea of teas'. Grown at high altitude in India and picked by hand at dawn, this delicate yet aromatic tea is perfect for an afternoon tea or high tea party. One variety called 'Castleton First Flush' goes well with smoked salmon savouries as well as strawberry jam and cream on scones.
- Assam teas are also grown in India. These are a top-quality teas, tasting a little stronger than Darjeeling. Sometimes cardamon is used as a flavouring in this refreshing tea.
- Ceylon teas from Sri Lanka are considered some of the best in the world. These teas are popular in America and England. They match well with many types of food.
- Pouchong tea from China has a mild, sweet taste, perfectly complementing the sweet treats served on a teatime menu.
Blended Teas for a High Tea
Blended teas are when two or more tea varieties are mixed together to produce a unique flavour. They can be savoured with or without milk.
- Earl Grey tea is perhaps the most famous blended tea. A mix of China teas and oil of bergamot give it the refreshing, up-lifting flavour so enjoyed by many tea-drinkers around the world.
- Afternoon Blend, also known as Five O'Clock Tea, blends lighter teas such as Darjeeling and mild Formosa Oolong with jasmine or bergamot.
- Kenya Blend is usually served with milk. Its taste particularly suits food containing chocolate.
- Darjeeling Blend has a smooth, mild taste that is quite delicate.
Scented Teas to Serve at an Afternoon Tea Party
These are blended teas that have flowers such as jasmine or rose added. They are delicate and aromatic and match well with sweet food. The base of scented teas are usually green teas or oolongs, a cross between a black and green tea, or keemun tea from China because of its sweet, pleasant taste.
- Jasmine teas are made by incorporating jasmine blooms into the process of making green tea so their fragrance is imparted to the tea leaves. Some teas such as Jasmine Pearl contain the complete jasmine flower.
- Rose teas have had rose petals added. These are usually strained out in the final processing but the delicate perfume flavours the tea.
Other Teas for Afternoon Tea
It is a good idea to provide guests with alternatives to regular teas.
- Iced Tea may be a pleasing alternative to offer tea party guests at the height of summer. It was invented in 1904 at the St Louis World Trade Fair when a tea vendor noticed his customers were deserting him on the hottest days. He lured them back to his stand when he filled glasses with ice cubes then added the tea for a refreshing, cooling drink.
- Decaffeinated Teas may be appreciated by people who cannot tolerate caffeine or who are trying to cut back on their intake. Modern technology has made removing the caffeine from certain teas possible.
- Herbal Teas are not strictly teas as they are not made from tea bushes. They are more correctly called herbal tisanes. Fruity flavours such as cranberry and strawberry tea, apple tea and rosehip teas are suitable for serving in the afternoon. Mint tea aids digestion.
If you are still unsure which teas would be the best to serve at the afternoon tea party, a visit to your local tea house to sample several different varieties will let you choose some favourites.