Tea Time Recipes and History
Party Food and Snacks

All you need to know about tea time recipes and history, as well as party food, snacks and games.



tea timeToday, no beverage seems more "British" than a steaming cup of tea. After all, what other nation loves tea enough to dedicate an entire meal to it?

British tea time is an iconic cultural tradition. However, like many such traditions, it has declined in recent years due to the fast pace of modern life.

How did the love affair with British tea traditions begin? Almost everyone knows that tea originated in China, but you might be surprised to learn that Great Britain was one of the last European countries to adopt the beverage.

British Tea Time - How It Began

Most Americans have a set idea of what English tea time means: formal dresses, delicate finger foods, and hot tea all served on the best china. In reality, there are two types of tea time in England:

  • Low tea or afternoon tea

  • High tea or “meat tea”

Afternoon tea or low tea is what Americans picture when they think of tea time: tea served with light snacks such as crustless sandwiches, crumpets and scones. This custom originated among the upper classes, as they had both the time and the money to have an extra meal between lunch and dinner.

High tea, on the other hand, is a full meal served with tea, including meat, bread, side dishes and dessert.

English Tea - What's High and Low Tea?

Ready for some traditional British tea time recipes?

Afternoon Tea Party and Recipes

tea-timeAnna, the Duchess of Bedford (1788-1861), one of Queen Victoria's ladies-in-waiting, is credited as the creator of tea time.

Because the noon meal had become skimpier, the Duchess suffered from "a sinking feeling" at about four o'clock in the afternoon. At first the Duchess had her servants sneak her a pot of tea and a few breadstuffs into her dressing room.

Later, she invited friends to join her for an additional afternoon meal at five o'clock in her rooms. The menu centered around small cakes, bread and butter sandwiches, assorted sweets, and, of course, tea.

The practice of inviting friends to come for tea in the afternoon was quickly picked up by other social hostesses, including Queen Victoria.

If you are you trying to plan a perfect afternoon tea, here are some ideas to get started! I’ll show you how to make traditional tea time favorites to create a menu that’s fit for the Queen!

  • Toasted Teacakes - A light, sweet, yeast-based bun containing dried fruits such as currants, sultanas or peel.

  • Cucumber Sandwiches - This traditional recipe is composed of paper-thin slices of cucumber placed between two thin slices of crustless, lightly buttered white bread.

  • Scones - British scones are often lightly sweetened, but may also be savoury. In the U.S., scones are drier, larger and typically sweet.

  • Classic Victoria Sandwich - What better way to finish than with the classic Victoria sponge, named after Queen Victoria herself?

  • Victorian Cheese Straws - My kids love making Cheese Straws, which were served with tiny petit fours and other delicacies. They are tasty and crumbly and just delicious!

  • Coconut Macaroons - First invented in Glasgow, these macaroons are light and chewy. Accompanied by melted milk chocolate, they are absolutely delicious.

  • Rhubarb Fool - Rhubarb Fool has got to be one of those funny names that the English come up with for their food - a bit like Spotted Dick or Toad in the Hole. It sounds all very jolly and naughty.

More on Tea Sandwiches...

tea-timeLooking for more recipes to serve at your next tea party?

Tea sandwiches are dainty, snack-sized finger sandwiches that are traditionally served with afternoon tea. These delicacies usually have the crusts cut off and are sliced small, so you can polish one off in just a couple of bites.

You can even cut them into fun shapes using cookie cutters! Keep reading for some deliciously different tea sandwich ideas.

More on Tea Bread...

tea-time Tea bread is a wonderfully comforting cake usually served with hot steamy tea and butter. Here are two of my favorites: barm brack and pastry swirls!
  • Irish Barm Brack - The original tea bread is an Irish sweet bread with raisins and other fruits in it. It is delicious eaten hot with butter, and is often served for breakfast alongside apple jelly.

  • Pastry Swirls - A savoury snack that is simple to make. You can add whatever filling you like and they look great on the plate

How About Tea Room Recipes?

tea-timeIn the West, a tearoom is a small restaurant where beverages and light meals are served

A customer might expect to receive cream tea or Devonshire tea. Alternatively a High tea may be served.

Devonshire cream tea is tea taken with a combination of scones, clotted cream, and jam.

They are offered for sale in tea rooms throughout England (especially the South West) and rest of the Commonwealth, or wherever someone wants to give an impression of English influence.

Take the warm, comforting atmosphere of your favorite tea room home with you with our delicious recipes.

  • Frittata - Recently I have been making frittata, a cross between Spanish omelet and quiche! It is perfect – robust and tasty. You can use whatever flavors you like but as I am a fan of Greek food, I use feta and mint – odd, but it really works!

  • Apple Pie - My mother-in-law has a fabulous tea room recipe that uses cheese in the pastry, which sounds odd but goes perfectly with the apple flavor.

Mind Your Manners?

An afternoon tea is a great way to socialize with friends while enjoying a delicious cup of your favorite beverage. However, it is also an occasion where you are generally expected to mind your manners.

For this reason, many people are intimidated by the thought of attending a tea party - it would be too easy to make a social faux pas without even realizing it!

it is not that people want to be rude; it is just that they've never been taught proper tea time etiquette.

Thankfully, you don't have to forgo the pleasures of an afternoon tea for fear of looking like a slob. Most tea time etiquette is really just common sense - just become familiar with the rules below, and you’ll be fine!

Tea Party Etiquette - For A Perfect Afternoon Tea Party

High or Meat Tea Recipes

tea-timeHigh tea is an early evening meal, usually eaten between 5pm and 6pm in the evening.

It would be eaten as a substitute for both afternoon tea and the evening meal. The term comes from the meal being eaten at the "high" (main) table, instead of the smaller lounge table. It is now largely replaced by a later evening meal.

Here are two of my favorite high tea recipes:

A Spanish Tea Time Snack

In Catalunya, Spain's most delicious tea time snack is called the Mona: A sweet bread that is fashioned into a ring and cooked with a whole egg baked into it. tea-time

Traditionally served at Easter, Mona is a huge family tradition. All over the region, kitchens waft the wonderful aroma of baking bread and the sound of laughter and families working together to make this unusual treat.

  • Mona - For a traditional Spanish tea time, try mona, a delicious traditional pastry served with rich, creamy hot chocolate!

  • Spanish Hot Chocolate

Children's Tea Party

Tea time birthday parties are all the rage for kids right now. Many parents hire professionals to throw a tea party for them, but it’s easy and less expensive to host one yourself.

All child tea party recipes should be simple and fuss free – kids are not interested in fine dining but love brightly colored mini foods that pop into the mouth.

If you make the food fun, I find that the kids behave better. This selection of 6 kid-friendly recipe ideas will help you host a perfect tea party for your child.

Here are some recipes to keep your little monsters happy and occupied at tea time, without stuffing them full of sweets and cakes.

  • Dried fruit gums - Try these fruity shapes as an alternative to sugary sweets – they are delicious and nutritious, my kids adore them.

  • Flapjacks - The traditional flapjack is always a good, filling alternative to biscuits – the complex carbs will keep them going for hours and they go well with a hearty drink of milk for extra calcium.

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