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Afternoon high tea menu

Updated on March 11, 2012

What to serve for afternoon tea?

When the English take tea it can be a variety of different things.Tea can mean anything from an evening meal to just a cup of PG Tips or Tetley with a digestive biscuit at the ready for dunking.Afternoon tea refers to a light meal, usually of sandwiches and cakes or pastries, or you might have a cream tea, with scones and jam.

Afternoon tea was very popular amongst the upper classes during the Victorian era and afterwards but in the modern world, most of us rarely have the time or the appetite to eat in the afternoon.Despite this, it has risen in popularity again in recent years and does make for a delicious treat, particularly on a sunny Saturday afternoon.If you’re entertaining friends or family during the summer it is the perfect way to provide refreshment, quick and easy to prepare in advance and something a little bit different.


The traditional cucumber sandwich on white bread with the crusts cut off is not very exciting and there are no hard and fast rules about what you should have or not at your afternoon tea.Below is a selection of some traditional favourites:

  • Egg mayonnaise and cress
  • Cheese and pickle
  • Roast beef with horseradish
  • Ham and mustard
  • Smoked salmon
  • Coronation chicken

If your afternoon tea has an English theme then any of the above would be acceptable.Don’t overfill the sandwiches as it is supposed to be a light meal and do cut the crusts off and cut them into triangles or fingers if you want to be particularly dainty.

Other savouries

If you want to make your afternoon tea more substantial then you could serve other small savoury items alongside your sandwiches.

  • Scotch eggs
  • Pork pies
  • Pasties
  • Quiche
  • Savoury tarts
  • Quails eggs
  • Cheese scones
  • Slices of flavoured breads with butter

These aren’t traditional but many of these items do appear regularly in a modern afternoon tea and can either be served as miniature versions or in small slices.

Something sweet

Many people will happily take afternoon tea with just a selection of sweets and nothing savoury to start so feel free to go wild with the cakes (there will be nothing wasted).None of these suggestions would be out of place at a modern afternoon tea:

  • Victoria sponge
  • Chocolate cake
  • Fairy cakes
  • Macarons
  • Jam tarts
  • Fruit tarts
  • Cream cakes
  • Rock cakes
  • Eccles cakes
  • Buns
  • Scones
  • Soft fruits

Cream tea

Scones, jam and cream are the traditional ingredients of a cream tea.Thick, whipped double cream is a good choice but clotted cream is traditional in the south-west of England and delicious if you can get it.You can also substitute fresh raspberries or strawberries for the jam.


The most important element of any afternoon tea, this should be a blend of black tea served hot with milk, sugar to taste, and preferable brewed in a teapot and served in a tea cup.

Image credit to Clare Bloomfield of


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    • SilkThimble profile image

      SilkThimble 6 years ago from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

      There's nothing quite like the ritual of afternoon tea - one of my favorite things to do when visiting the U.K.

      It's growing in popularity here in the States, too. It used to be, even in large, metropolitan areas, that only the most expensive hotels served it on weekends. But I've seen a number of little tea shops opening up that offer both traditional and more adventurous menus for afternoon tea.

    • profile image

      The Fastionista 6 years ago

      I love this hub! From time to time I try to work afternoon tea into my schedule, because I just love the idea so much, and all of your menu suggestions are terrific. Please write more hubs! Voted up!

    • Hayley Richardson profile image

      Hayley Richardson 6 years ago from London, UK

      Thanks for the feed back guys! I must dust off my digital camera and take some pictures. Any excuse to get some scones in!

    • Bud Gallant profile image

      Bud Gallant 6 years ago from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

      I really like this hub and I think it was a very inspired idea. Good work.