National Afternoon Tea Week is coming up (who knew?!). Here, exclusively for Inside Croydon, RICHARD SIMMONDS, the head chef at De Vere Selsdon Estate, offers his top tips to help you host a memorable afternoon tea
Without doubt the most important element of an afternoon tea is the tea itself.
A traditional English Breakfast is a firm favourite with guests at De Vere Selsdon Estate. However, you could tempt your guests with something a little more exotic like Keemun, which has a subtle smoky finish. Or, for something cooler in hot weather, try brewing an iced tea using your favourite leaf and add slices of citrus fruits for a refreshing twist.
Experiment with flavours
Sandwiches and scones are the staple of a classic afternoon tea, however, you may choose to serve something a little different to cater to everyone’s taste and dietary requirements.
Try experimenting with the fillings in your sandwiches and the flavours of your cakes, for example, you could serve Earl Grey-infused tea cakes, scones with lemon curd or basil macaroons.
Please the crowd
Make sure that you keep some of those classic “crowd pleasers” on the menu, such as egg mayonnaise sandwiches; cucumber with cream cheese and smoked salmon sandwiches; macarons; Battenberg; éclairs.
Keep it simple
It’s hard work being the host and the chef, especially if help is limited, so keep things simple to ensure a stress-free day by preparing as much as you can before your guests arrive – this is to avoid any last-minute meltdowns.
It’s true that nothing beats a warm scone with lashings of fresh strawberry jam and clotted cream, but you can bake them in advance and then warm them in the oven before serving. I’d advise, however, leaving it to the guests to decide which is spread first – jam or cream.
Provide a grown-up treat
The Champagne Afternoon Tea package we provide at the hotel is extremely popular with guests, being served a glass of Lanson Champagne alongside their tea.
Prosecco, Cava or an English sparkling wine would provide a perfect alternative to complement to your afternoon tea if you’re watching the pennies. And for an added twist, try serving your favourite tipple with a splash of elderflower or raspberry liqueur.
Make sure you have the right ingredients and quantities at hand – there’s nothing worse than discovering that you’re 500g short of flour just as you begin baking. Invest some time in researching recommended recipes in advance and making a note of ingredients to buy as you go along.
Don’t forget the finishing touches
Afternoon tea isn’t just about delicious sandwiches and cakes, it’s about the whole dining experience from décor to vintage crockery. Rummage in the back of your cupboards and dust off your best cake stands, finest china tea set and polish your silver teapot.
Why not also head to the garden and pick some fresh flowers for a centrepiece, place tea cosies on the table, hang bunting around the room and create your own personalised menus to wow your guests?
Or just relax and let the experts do the work
If this all sounds wonderful but too much of a headache, why not put your feet up and leave it to the experts?
Whether you’re with friends or taking a moment for yourself, De Vere Selsdon Estate’s recently renovated Orangery is an ideal spot to relax and enjoy a traditional afternoon tea. With views across the estate’s 200-acres of parkland, the hotel provides a perfect, luxury location away from the bustle of everyday life, but with a home from home feel.
Afternoon tea in the Orangery is served daily, from 2.30pm to 4.30pm, and is priced from £19.95 per person.
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