Christmas afternoon tea is one of the most fun, indulgent, and sophisticated ways to get into the festive spirit. And you don't need a booking at The Ritz or The Savoy to enjoy a five-star experience, because we have lots of tips and ideas to help you throw a luxury Christmas tea party at home.
1. Make Christmas afternoon tea sandwiches
No afternoon tea would be complete without a selection of sandwiches. To suit the occasion, try incorporating seasonal ingredients into your fillings and using nutty breads. Classic Christmas afternoon tea sandwich ideas include:
- Turkey, cranberry, and stuffing
- Smoked salmon and cream cheese
- Brie and grape chutney (vegetarian)
- Spiced falafel and roasted vegetables (vegan)
Whatever flavour combinations you decide on, homemade and high-quality ingredients will help you achieve that restaurant-quality result.
It's also a good idea to make your afternoon tea sandwiches last thing, as bread can quickly go stale. Traditionally eaten in two or three bites, we recommend cutting them into crustless finger sandwiches or delicate triangles. You could also use mini bread rolls. Serve four per person, ideally with different fillings.
2. Serve scones with a festive twist
Scones are another quintessential part of afternoon tea, and giving your favourite fruit scone recipe a festive twist is as easy as swapping sultanas for dried cranberries.
You can also easily adapt sweet scone recipes by adding cinnamon (approximately 1 teaspoon per 125 grams of flour) or freshly grated orange zest (approximately one large orange per 300g of flour) to your dry mixture. Try experimenting with fillings, too. Mincemeat makes a great alternative to jam — especially when paired with whipped or clotted brandy cream.
If you'd like to introduce another savoury element to your Christmas afternoon tea menu by serving cheese scones, adding a sprinkling of sage or rosemary to the mix is on-theme and can really amp up the flavour.
Whatever recipe you choose, scones are best served warm. Try popping them into a 160°C oven for a few minutes before serving.
3. Get creative with themed sweets
Luxury Christmas afternoon tea menus typically include around four patisserie items. This is quite a big ask when making afternoon tea at home, but you could always opt for fewer or simpler recipes. For example, you can create Christmassy chocolate bark by adding ingredients like pistachios, candied ginger, and dried cherries to melted chocolate and leaving to set.
Of course, you could also buy sweet treats from your local bakery rather than making them yourself.
As with your Christmas afternoon tea sandwiches, it's best to serve confections that can be eaten in two or three bites. Small servings will look prettier on your cake stand and add to the delicacy of the occasion. Individual cakes and pastries are preferable to slices.
Mince pies, yule logs, gingerbread men, and iced fruit cake are all traditional choices for festive afternoon tea, but there are endless themed recipes you could try. Here are some tips:
- Incorporate festive flavours: Bring the taste of Christmas to your afternoon tea experience with classic flavours like cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.
- Choose festive colours: A red and green scheme can look extremely sophisticated if you're careful not to overdo it. Touches of sparkle can also work well.
- Think about shape: Use different techniques and tools, such as cookie cutters, to give your bakes festive shapes. Christmas trees and stars are good options.
- Go miniature: Miniature decorations can be used to give any confection extra character. Examples include mini candy canes, fondant holly leaves, and edible snowflakes.
- Don't forget the icing sugar: A simple dusting of icing sugar gives your bakes a festively snowy appearance.
4. Pop the champagne
Champagne afternoon tea is increasingly popular, and what better time to indulge than at Christmas?
Laurent-Perrier is often served at prestigious afternoon tea venues in London and beyond, but other champagnes and sparkling wines can work well. Winners of the 2020 Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships are set to be revealed in November, so this could be a great way to get some recommendations.
For an extra Christmassy touch, garnish your sparkling wine with frozen red berries and a sprig of rosemary. You could also try adding other ingredients to create a champagne cocktail, such as a Bellini (peach puree), Kir Royale (crème de cassis), or French 75 (gin, lemon juice, and sugar).
Bellini (peach puree), Kir Royale (crème de cassis), or French 75 (gin, lemon juice, and sugar).
5. Pour the perfect cup of tea
At afternoon tea, only the perfect cup of tea will do. To brew and serve the traditional and elegant way, you will need:
- High-quality, loose-leaf tea: Recommended for its superior flavour. English breakfast and Earl Grey are popular choices, but you may wish to try out some different varieties. There are even Christmas-inspired blends enriched with festive spices and fruits.
- Teapot: It is customary for one diner to take responsibility for pouring.
- Teacups and saucers: Etiquette dictates that neither your saucer nor your little finger should be raised when taking a sip of tea.
- Tea strainer: This is placed over the teacup to capture any loose tea leaves while pouring.
- Teaspoons: Place a teaspoon along the back of each saucer. It is good etiquette to stir tea back and forth rather than in a circular motion, being careful to avoid 'clinking' the sides of the teacup.
- Milk jug: Fresh milk or a milk alternative should be served in a small jug. This is passed around so that everyone can make their tea to their liking.
- Sugar bowl: Loose white sugar should be served in an open sugar bowl. Again, this should be passed around with each person using their teaspoon to help themselves.
6. Set the table
Christmas afternoon tea food is best served on a three-tier cake stand with sandwiches on the lowest tier, scones on the middle tier, and other sweet treats on the top tier. Diners should work their way upwards throughout the meal.
As well as the tea set described above, you will need to set the table with side plates and napkins. Afternoon tea food is typically eaten with fingers, but you will need dessert knives for scone toppings and may wish to provide dessert forks, too. A pressed white tablecloth is the ideal backdrop.
To really recreate that luxury experience, take a look at the Burleigh x Soho Home collection. Our Green Hibiscus tableware is used to serve afternoon tea at Millie's Lounge at The Ned, one of London's best and most prestigious hotels. We also offer Blue Hibiscus as part of Collection One, as well as a variety of other intricate patterns that are just perfect for afternoon tea.
7.Create the right ambience
Christmas decorations are a must for a thoroughly festive afternoon tea. As well as a tree and fairy lights, try adorning your room or table with unscented candles and seasonal flowers.
Music is also key to creating the right ambience. At luxury Christmas afternoon tea venues like The Ritz, choirs sing carols as you enjoy your meal. You can enhance your at-home experience by playing this Classical Christmas playlist at a low volume.
Finally, consider getting dressed up for your afternoon tea party. This will help you to get into the right mood and make your at-home experience all the more sophisticated.
Whoever you're able to share it with and whatever menu you decide upon, we're sure that your Christmas afternoon tea party will be an event to remember.
If you are in need of some beautiful tableware for the occasion, we have a stunning range of cake stands, side plates, teapots, and more to choose from, all handcrafted in England. This includes Christmassy tableware from our Frosted Hues and Perfect Pastel collections.