What to Serve with Afternoon Tea

afternoon tea mlesna earl grey cream with scone

Whether you’re hosting afternoon tea for a celebration or just want an excuse to treat yourself, you’ve got to get two things right: the food and the tea. So that’s what this article is all about. I’m going to give you a traditional afternoon tea menu that can be scaled up or down, plus 5 amazing teas that work beautifully with an afternoon tea menu.

Before we jump in, however, I just want to clear up the difference between afternoon tea and high tea. Afternoon tea is an early afternoon event with scones and jam and cream and tasty morsels. It’s a bit posh and very indulgent. High tea is just an old-fashioned name for dinner. Many people still refer to dinner as ‘tea’ too.

I’ve seen some teashops mistakenly label their afternoon tea as high tea, which only confuses the matter further. But now you know the truth!

Now let’s take a look at some classic afternoon tea menus…

A Traditional Afternoon Tea Menu

The typical afternoon tea menu includes something savoury to start with, followed by something sweet, and often ending with a cream tea. With this formula in mind, you can take it any direction you like. You could even create a theme!

However, the most traditional afternoon tea menu (in my opinion) has to be:

  • Finger sandwiches (crusts off),
    • Cucumber,
    • Egg and cress,
    • Ham, cheese and cherry tomato,
  • Savoury scones with butter,
  • Pastries and mini cakes,
    • Victoria sponge cupcakes,
    • Lemon and poppyseed muffins,
    • Carrot cake with cream cheese frostings,
    • Fruit tarts,
    • Mille-feuille (fancy vanilla slice),
  • Scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam.

You’ll notice that there’s more sweet than savoury here. This is because my experience tells me that people are more looking forward to the sweet elements when they book an afternoon tea, so it’s wise to use a minimum 60/40 ratio for sweet/savoury.

If you’re not keen on taking on this menu yourself, then I highly recommend you order an afternoon tea food hamper. My personal recommendation is the ‘Cuppa Rosie’ Homemade Afternoon Tea Hamper by Mother Supper on Not On The High Street. It has free UK delivery!

Savoury Ideas

There’s more than just finger sandwiches and savoury scones that you can incorporate into your afternoon tea. Any food that is small in nature (or can be made into small servings) can work in your afternoon tea menu.

Here are a few ideas that I’m tempted by:

  • Devilled eggs,
  • Mini quiches,
  • Mini pies,
  • Sausage rolls and mini scotch eggs (or any picnic food, if you want to go for an informal vibe),
  • Focaccia, cut small,
  • Spring rice paper rolls (put an Asian twist on it!).

As for sandwich fillings, why not try these:

  • Coronation chicken,
  • Tuna sweetcorn,
  • Cucumber, smoked salmon and cream cheese,
  • Cheddar and pickle (a posh ploughman’s),
  • Roast red pepper, balsamic vinegar, and goat’s cheese,
  • Halloumi and apricot jam (trust me on this),
  • Mozzarella, salami, cherry tomato and basil leaf.

The key is that these foods are all snackable. You can use some very bold flavours, as each person at the afternoon tea party will only have a mouthful or two of each food – not enough to get tired of the same flavour.

Sweet Ideas

If you have a disappointing sweet menu, you’ll never live it down. So, here are some fab ideas if the classic menu didn’t quite hit the spot for you:

  • Mini cheesecakes (lemon, strawberry, classic),
  • Chocolates,
  • Mini brownie cubes,
  • Mini Battenberg cakes,
  • Mini meringues with fresh fruit and whipped cream,
  • Chocolate dipped fruits,
  • Mini British classics (e.g. Bakewell slice, lemon drizzle, Faversham tea loaf)
  • Mini pastries (croissants, apple turnovers, pain au chocolat),
  • Sweet-filled momo (Tibetan dumplings),
  • Brandy snaps,
  • Eclairs/profiteroles,
  • Any other tiny version of a classic French dessert always goes down a treat!

What to Serve Afternoon Tea On (China)

ceramic teapot warmers

If you have bone China, fine China, or any other delicate porcelain, now is the time to bring it out. I quite like the way it looks when you mix and match different floral designs – it’s quite ditsy. But if you want to get all-matching teacups, saucers, serving platters, tiered stands, etc. you can do that too.

If I had to recommend you buy just one product for you afternoon tea session, it would be my ceramic tea light teapot warmers. They are very beautiful and functional too! They’ll keep your tea nice and warm while you eat your way through the afternoon tea service and chat with friends.

5 Great Teas for Afternoon Tea

If you want to splurge on a new tea for your afternoon tea party, then here are my recommendations. I have personally tasted and reviewed each of these teas – you can read their full reviews on the blog here at Immortal Wordsmith.

1 – Whittard Afternoon Tea

whittard afternoon tea with sandwiches
  • Ingredients: Black tea, oolong tea, green tea, rose petals, jasmine, bergamot, cornflower petals, flavouring
  • Flavour: Silky smooth light black tea with citrus and floral notes
  • Availability: Teabags or loose leaf, from Whittard of Chelsea

Using a blend of several tea types, this is a really enchanting tea from Whittard of Chelsea. Bonus – it’s designed specifically for afternoon tea! You could certainly drink this tea with a splash of milk, but it’s tasty with a slice of lemon too.

It scored 3.5 in my rating system, which is very good. If you are looking for a higher-quality version, make sure you buy the loose leaf format from Whittard rather than the tea bags. You can find the link to buy it directly from Whittard above, or you can find it in Whittard outlet stores near you.

2 – Ahmad Darjeeling Tea

Ahmad Darjeeling Tea Review
  • Ingredients: Black tea from Darjeeling, India
  • Flavour: Smooth and bright black tea with low astringency and natural floral hints
  • Availability: Teabags on Amazon

The beautiful thing about single-origin teas is that they enable you to really detect the natural flavours of the tea. This Ahmad black tea is sourced from various estates in the Darjeeling region of India – the same region that produces “the champagne of tea” too. It’s naturally smooth and bright with pretty floral hints that are a natural quality of the tea leaves.

Impressively, this Darjeeling tea is very low astringency. That’s why I love it so much. The best place to buy this tea is on Amazon, as it’s usually available in both the US and UK (for all my international readers).

3 – BOH Garden Teas Palas Afternoon

BOH Garden Teas – Palas Afternoon Tea Review
  • Ingredients: OP ‘A’ black tea from Malaysia
  • Flavour: Smooth and light with citrus astringency and tannins
  • Availability: Pyramid tea sachets on Amazon

Another single origin! This tea was very kindly sent to me by the team at BOH in Malaysia. The ‘Garden Teas’ range is made entirely from loose leaf grown in the BOH tea gardens in the Cameron Highlands, and I love the ‘Palas Afternoon’ tea especially.

This makes a wonderful afternoon tea if you can’t drink your cuppa without milk. It has a natural citrusy astringency that makes it not as comfortable to drink black. Nonetheless, a slice of lemon will freshen it up too. Like an Earl Grey, the citrus note really cuts through the delicious sandwiches and cakes! You can find this tea on Amazon as well.

4 – Whittard Mango Bergamot Tea

whittard mango bergamot tea review
  • Ingredients: Green tea, mango flavouring, lulo flavouring, cornflower petals, rose petals, sunflower petals, bergamot flavouring
  • Flavour: Astringent green tea with tropical fruit notes
  • Availability: Teabags or loose leaf, from Whittard of Chelsea

I wanted to offer a green tea option, just in case any of my readers want to avoid black tea during the afternoon tea party. The caffeine levels in black tea are usually medium-high, so you’ll only want to drink a cup or two. Green tea, like Whittard Mango Bergamot, is lower in caffeine.

Furthermore, I really love the way this tea reacts to food. It is quite an astringent green tea, which really cleanses your palate. The fruity notes also blend well with the grassiness of the green tea, making it delicious in its own right. The best place to buy this tea is directly from Whittard, as it’s not always available on Amazon.

5 – Offblak Future is Pink Tea

Offblak Future Is Pink Tea Review
  • Ingredients: Black tea, lemon peel, lemongrass, rose petals, flavouring
  • Flavour: Gentle black tea with a hint of lemon and strong rose aroma
  • Availability: Pyramid tea sachets on Amazon

I didn’t get on with this tea at first because it’s just so strongly perfumed with rose. But now that I’ve sipped it several times since my initial review, it’s starting to grow on me. I’ve actually found that a generous amount of milk will quash the rose quite significantly.

Overall, this is a gentle black tea with rose and lemon. It’s quite dainty and if you love the scent/flavour of rose, then you will go absolutely crazy for this one. Offblak are also great for natural ingredients and biodegradable packaging.


What is afternoon tea?

Afternoon tea is a social gathering, where you and your friends can sip a delicious cup of tea and enjoy a range of dainty snacks. It’s very ‘British’ and refined – upper class, if you will. You can find afternoon tea served in lavish establishments, like The Savoy in London, and in quaint teashops up and down the country. You can also host an afternoon tea yourself!

What’s the difference between afternoon tea and high tea?

High tea is an old-fashioned name for dinner, where tea was served “high” in the day. It’s actually more working class in origins. Afternoon tea, on the other hand, refers to a mid-afternoon tea session served with fine China, savoury snacks, and sweet treats.

What tea to serve at afternoon tea?

Any delicate black tea that has enough astringency to cut through your decadent meal will suffice. If I had to pick just one tea, it would be Whittard Afternoon Tea, as it’s specifically blended for the occasion.

What food to serve with afternoon tea?

Sandwiches, tiny pastries and cakes, then a cream tea. That’s the traditional menu that you can’t go wrong with. You can deviate from this to fit a theme or your personal tastes!

Isobel Moore

Isobel Moore is a quiet, quirky and creative “human bean” whose favourite pastime is curling up with a cuppa and a good book.

Over the past 5 years, her tea reviews at Immortal Wordsmith have helped thousands of readers choose vibrant tea blends and single origin selections from fine, organic, and responsible tea companies.

As a professional content writer with a qualification in digital marketing, Isobel has worked with market-leading tea brands around the globe to develop their content marketing campaigns and gain exposure. Her professional portfolio can be found on Upwork.

Besides a deep-rooted passion for tea, Isobel writes on topics ranging from food and travel to wellness and literature.

Favourite Quote: “Manuscripts don’t burn” – Mikhail Bulgakov

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