We've put together our top tips for pulling off your very own afternoon tea party with panache
The basic kit
If you own a tiered cake stand, dust it off and use it as the centerpiece of your table. Otherwise, use your best crockery and make it a little more special with lace-like doilies, folded napkins and name place signs.
If you want to go all out, charity shops are a good source for reasonable floral Chinaware - don't worry if the patterns are mismatched. Don't forget your teapot, teacups, cutlery and cake slices for serving.
Setting the scene
Extend your table and throw on a table cloth - if you don't have one handy, fabric shops sell cheap spotted, floral and striped material by the metre. String up some bunting or, if you're feeling ambitious, bake up some edible bunting biscuits.
While you're at it, you could make some place-name cookies and ice them with your guests' names. Pop them in paper bags so your guests have a little present to take away - or just snaffle them as an entrée.
Coconut & cinnamon place-name cookies
Edible name place biscuits
Make sure the sugar and milk is set on the table ready to pour your guests a cuppa as they sit down. Try to provide a variety of tea - Earl Grey, peppermint, camomile, fruit, herbal and, of course, English Breakfast.
Iced tea makes for a more refreshing tipple in warmer weather, and adding a touch of Pimm's will really break the ice. You could also crack open the fizz and serve up a sloe gin royale or orange juice-based mimosa - all the better if you have time for a nap before dinnertime.
There aren't any rules when it comes to the food, but a standard afternoon tea comprises a layer of sandwiches, a layer of cakes and a layer of scones or teacakes. However, you could also throw in pastries, petits fours or biscuits.
Don't wear yourself out by taking on too many ambitious bites, but if you feel like a challenge make sure you get your timings right.
These require minimal effort, but get ahead by preparing your fillings in advance and assembling just before proceedings begin to avoid the dreaded soggy sarnie.
Scones are best eaten on the day and don't take long to whip up but if you want to get ahead, freeze a batch and defrost them in a low oven. Serve warm with lashings of jam - decant a pot of homemade preserve into a pretty bowl.
Rhubarb & ginger jam
Cinnamon-scented plum jam
Fragrant strawberry conserve
Teacakes and buns
Shortbreads, cookies, ginger nuts… take inspiration from your childhood biscuit tin. These recipes all take less than an hour, so you can make them in the morning.
Just the mere mention of Parisian-standard pastry is enough to send shivers down the spine of your average home cook. If you're willing to take them on, prepare the pastry or biscuits the night before.
Individual portions are the key here, so avoid making a large cake and bake up something dinky.
Coffee & walnut flapjacks
Blood orange & poppy drizzle muffins
Little pistachio cakes
Coconut chai traybake
Strawberry & polenta cupcakes
Pull out all the stops and serve up something really special.
Blood orange & dark chocolate madeleines
Star anise meringues with mango coulis
Apple rose tart
Raspberry, lemon and frangipane tart
Iced vanilla & caramel profiteroles
Still not sated? Try the best of the rest:
Have you thrown your own afternoon tea party? Share your tips with us below. Or if you still need inspiration, take a look through our afternoon tea recipe collection.