How to Have the Perfect Tea Party Menu

It may seem daunting when you plan to host an afternoon tea party the first time. Questions would linger on your mind on what needs to be included in the tea party menu. However, you’ll be surprised that it’s fairly simple to come up with the perfect afternoon tea menu.

Depending on the occasion, your high tea or low tea menu can be as sparse as having “cream tea” or as elaborate as having multiple tea types, finger sandwiches, scones, and other treats. Check out these tips on how to plan your perfect tea party menu so you can find the perfect tea party food ideas and drink combinations for your upcoming afternoon tea.

Teas to Serve

teapots, tea cups, and saucers

Sometimes, too much focus on what foods to prepare for an afternoon tea can lead to overlooking the importance of what tea to serve. Selecting the perfect tea or teas is just as important as the foods you prepare. Here are popular afternoon teas that are well suited to pairing with the afternoon tea fare.

Bold teas like Black Tea go well with rich or strongly flavored foods while delicate teas are perfect for subtle foods. Consider having at least one decaf or caffeine-free tisane option in case there are guests who are sensitive to caffeine.

Bold and Subtle Teas:
  • Earl Grey Tea
  • Assam Black Tea
  • Ceylon Black Tea 
  • Darjeeling Black Tea
  • Rose Congou Tea
  • Smoked Black Teas
  • Gunpowder Green Tea 
Tisane (Herbal Tea Infusions):
  • Chamomile Tea
  • Mint Tea
  • Lavender Herbal Tea

Milk and Condiments

condiment container

Depending on the type of tea you’re serving on your tea party menu, make sure your guests have the right condiment options and add-ons to pour into their cup. While it’s generally optional to have milk, sugar, cream, and lemon, it’s an important and thoughtful gesture to have milk and condiments within your guests’ reach.

Food Pairing

high tea scones and pastries

A traditional tea party involves three components or distinct courses: (1) savones or tea sandwiches, (2) scones, and (3) pastries.

Tea Sandwiches

Savones are also known as tea sandwiches or finger sandwiches. They’re often served at full tea, a heavier style of afternoon tea menu. These bite-sized sandwiches play an important role in your tea party menu. Keep in mind that flavor defines how exquisite the tea party experience would be. The intensity of the sandwich flavors should be on a par with the flavors of the tea you’re serving and with everything else that’s on the tea party menu.

Tea sandwiches are crustless and are uniformly and evenly cut. Classic afternoon tea savones include egg salad, smoked salmon, and cucumber sandwiches. They’re considered the essential sandwiches in your afternoon tea menu. Beyond the traditional finger sandwiches, fancy sandwiches you can integrate in the menu are prosciutto rose, spicy avocado, duck rillette with pickled onion, and turkey. If you’re into combo sandwiches, bacon-lettuce-tomato and tomato-mozzarella-basil would be perfect.

Scones & Scone Toppings

Tea party menus have scones as one of the staple foods paired with the appropriate scone spreads or toppings like jams, creams, clotted creams, or lemon curds. Scones can be plain like buttermilk scones and sweet cinnamon scones. They can also be sweet like raspberry, strawberry, and cranberry scones with rich lemon glaze. They can be savory like cheddar mustard scone and potato scones sprinkled with pumpkin pie spices and nuts, as well. Scones pair well with tea.

Pastries and Other Sweets

Beside the oh-so-yummy sweet scones, other sweets are often served with light or full tea. Pastries include cupcakes, sponge cakes, madeleine cakes and cookies, trifles, vanilla cream- and chocolate-flavored cakes. Make sure not to overlap the types of sweets served in your afternoon tea party menu. Include a variety of flavors like cream, chocolate or vanilla, and seasonal fruits or preserves. 


Aside from the three distinct courses mentioned above, some tea party menu ideas incorporate other savories. A wonderful addition to brighten up your tea party menu can include soups, quiches, light crackers, seasoned nuts, and edible flowers or herbs. Make sure to choose carefully the right hors d'oeuvre that can help enhance the flavors in your tea party menu, particularly if you’re throwing a Downton Abbey-inspired themed tea party.

Other Beverages

tea for two with fine china and healthy mandarins for a snack

Aside from tea, there are other beverages to include in your afternoon or high tea party menu. A few bottles of champagne and some mocktails and cocktails are a great addition to your tea party. Don’t forget to add brewed coffee in the list. Also, should there be kids tagging along with your adult guests, prep some iced teas, chocolate drinks, fresh fruit juices, or punch to keep the little ones happy the entire afternoon tea as you chat away with friends and family.

Tea Party Menu Preparation Tips

tea party table setup

  • Consider testing the chosen tea party food recipes at least once before the scheduled tea party. This lets you know what the food or drink would taste like beforehand. This will allow you to tweak the recipes or change the menu, as needed.
  • As you plan your tea party menu, take into consideration the color and texture of the food and drinks to match with the tea party theme, the concept, or the current season. This makes the tea party menu enjoyable for your guests. Also, diverse food texture adds to the enjoyment of foods you serve. 
  • Incorporate flavor and color to your tea party menu with seasonal ingredients. Fresh fruits, edible flowers, and herbs embellish your menu. For example, a strawberry tea is a kind of afternoon tea menu that includes fresh strawberries as the focused seasonal ingredients.
  • Make sure to prepare enough food for the entire party. Plan ahead and make an estimation on how much each guest is likely to eat and make slightly even more.
  • When on a budget, plan the menu carefully by opting for affordable options in your recipe selections. For example, cherry scones can be substituted with raisin scones and shrimp salad tea sandwiches can be replaced with egg salad finger sandwiches.
  • When you’re under time constraint, it’s okay to buy some items instead of preparing them on your own. You can also select dishes that can be prepared in advance to save time. An example would be finger sandwiches that don’t get soggy. For sweets, opt for the ones that can be refrigerated until they’re ready to be served. 

The Takeaway

There are a lot of menu ideas for tea party food and beverages. The tea party menu guide above serves as a food and beverage inspiration in preparing and organizing your afternoon tea. Everything doesn’t have to be in a parfait state. Just relax and take it easy. What’s important is to make the experience an awesome and memorable one. Enjoy every step of the process as the success of your tea party doesn’t depend on making everything seamless but on how you put your heart into it and savor the process.

You can always add more and uncover the perfect tea and food pairing that would satisfy you and your guests. You can also condense your menu to keep it in moderation. Either way, the key to a unique and wonderful afternoon tea is planning well and accepting revisions and alternatives along the way, as needed.



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