Afternoon Tea – Food Service Styles

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Afternoon Tea Etiquette and Protocols   

 

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Tea Serving Options Available

Excerpt from A Tea Party Planner™ by Ellen Easton 2005 – All Rights Reserved

 

All teas should be served decanted and hot.  A selection of teas should include a minimum of one black tea, one green tea, and one herbal infusion.  Enhancers for the table should include sliced lemon, sugar cubes, honey, milk, Devon or clotted cream, and preserves.  Optional: Assorted nuts (raw or salted), and/or lemon curd.

The host/hostess or wait staff always pours the first cup of tea for the guest.  Prior to pouring, always asked the guest if they prefer milk and sugar – one lump or two.  If children are to included, hot chocolate, lemonade, and apple cider may be served.

As iced tea was not yet invented at the time that afternoon tea was introduced, it is not included on traditional tea menus.  However, iced tea is now welcome as an additional choice.

Check out more of Ellen Easton’s Tea Travels™ articles and recipes.

Learn about the History of English High Tea and more delicious Afternoon Tea Recipes.

 

Afternoon Tea
Yellow Roses Covered Sugar Bowl: Photo by Ellen Easton – All Rights Reserved; Hand Decorated Rose Sugars By Reva Paul – All Rights Reserved

 


 

Afternoon Tea Food Service Styles
Photo by Ellen Easton© – All Rights Reserved

English Tea Service

The traditional English afternoon tea is served on a three-tier curate stand.

Each tiered plate holds one course.

Trifles and puddings are served individually as a separate course, if desired.

Typically each tiered 8-inch or 10-inch plate will accommodate equal service for two persons.

The sit down – English presentation is suitable for smaller groups, as the stands usually take up too much table space.

 

Proper placement of foods to be presented:

Top Tier = scones, seasonal breads, and cheese sticks

Middle Tier = sandwiches and savories

Bottom Tier = sweets

The orders in which foods are consumed:

First Course = sandwiches and savories

Second Course – scones, seasonal bread, and cheese sticks

Third Course = sweets

Separate Fourth Course = trifle, pudding, and seasonal berries

Tea, Champagne or Sherry


 

French Tea Service – a la Francais

Afternoon Tea Food Service Styles
Photo by Ellen Easton – All Rights Reserved

The sit down – French-style service is the most suitable for large groups or banquet service.  Additional service help is a must.

Once the teas have been poured, the wait staff, beginning with the first course, presents each course pre-plated.  Each plate contains one serving of every item from each course, as per the planned menu.

Soup and salad courses may be served prior to the first course.  As an alternative, the first course may be on the table just prior to seating the guests.

The second course of warmed scones, seasonal breads, and cheese sticks are initially presented and served by the wait staff to each guest a la Russe, usually in a bread basket, lined with a linen napkin or linen bread warmer.

Once each guest has been served, the basket is placed on the table for additional self service or to be passed once again by the wait staff.

Prior to the third course, all of the savory and bread items, with the soiled plates, are removed from the table.

The third course of sweets is now presented pre-plated.  Each place contains one serving of every item for each course, as per the planed menu.

The fourth course is served approximately ten minutes after the third course.

 

The orders in which foods are served and consumed:

First Course = sandwiches and savories

Second Course – scones, seasonal bread, and cheese sticks

Third Course = sweets and seasonal berries

Fourth Course = trifle and/or pudding

Tea, Champagne or Sherry

 

Pointed cut – Individual servings of foods, cake, and pie should be served with the point facing the guest.  One never serves pointed food facing royalty, as it once was a signal designating assassination.

 


 

Russian Tea Service – a la Russe

Afternoon Tea Food Service Styles
Photo by Ellen Easton – All Rights Reserved

The sit down – Russian-style service is conducive for large or small groups, provided one has engaged service help.

Once the teas have been poured, the wait staff, beginning with the first course, presents a tray and serves each guest, each course individually.  This allows each guest to choose from the selections of their choice.

 

The orders in which foods are consumed:

First Course = sandwiches and savories

Second Course – scones, seasonal bread, and cheese sticks

Third Course = sweets and seasonal berries

Fourth Course = trifle or pudding

Tea, Champagne or Sherry


 

Buffet Tea Service

Afternoon Tea Food Service Styles
Photo by Ellen Easton – All Rights Reserved

 

Buffet service may be used in a private home or a public space, for small or large groups.

If no formal service help is to be engaged, it is customary for the hostess/host or a designated hostess/host to pour the tea.

Buffet teas are for finger foods only.  Do not serve any foods that require a knife or fork.

Duplicate stations should be set up to accommodate larger groups.

 

As per the planned menu, each item should be presented individually on trays.

Baskets of warmed scones, seasonal breads, and cheese sticks are place accordingly.

Example: All mini quiches are on one tray, all scones are in one basket, all petit fours are one tray, etc., etc., etc.

If loose-leaf tea is to be served, it must be decanted before being brought out to the buffet table.

Coffee may also be served at a buffet tea.

 

The foods served and consumed:

First Course = sandwiches and savories

Second Course – scones, seasonal bread, and cheese sticks

Third Course = sweets and seasonal berries

Fourth Course = trifle or pudding

Tea, Coffee, Champagne or Sherry


 

 

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Ellen Easton, author of Afternoon Tea~Tips, Terms and Traditions (RED WAGON PRESS), a lifestyle and etiquette industry leader, keynote speaker and product spokesperson, is a hospitality, design, and retail consultant whose clients have included The Waldorf=Astoria and Plaza Hotels.  Easton’s family traces their tea roots to the early 1800s, when ancestors first introduced tea plants from India and China to the Colony of Ceylon, thus building one of the largest and best cultivated teas estates on the island.


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