Have you heard?... It's the Jubilee Bank Holiday, just in case you missed out on the hype hehe.
I am feeling more patriotic today than I thought I would and with this feeling of love towards Her Majesty and her 60 years on the throne, I am honoring this blog post to our beloved Queen and the upcoming celebrations.
It's the perfect time, along with the gorgeous weather, to host a Jubilee Tea Party and what better way of throwing one than to enjoy it with a few friends or family members, perhaps even just for yourself if you fancy bit of pampering and need an excuse to do so (Pffft, like you ever need an excuse to indulge from time to time?!)
Sometimes only a mini tea party on my sofa is the only way to end a tough weekend of relaxing!
So, first things first, finding your venue. Start with home, depending on how big scale you want to go, although I find the smaller, intimate tea parties much more fun sometimes. use your lounge or dining room and decorate with bunting and pretty table cloths. Perhaps even venture into the garden and safely light with pretty candles and flowers picked freshly from that rose garden in the corner? Place flowers in milk jugs or small teapots for a nice little touch to the afternoon tea table.
Or why not venture out to a large stately park and picnic with a basket and picnic rug? An Al Fresco Tea Party can be very relaxing, especially with a relaxing game of rounders or a walk afterwards to stretch your legs and burn off a scone or two : )
The Tea is important. Loose leaf tea will be the only option in opinion. Try a traditional blend, such as an English Breakfast or an Earl Grey for a fragrant cuppa. Or give something a bit more interesting a go, such as a Pink Ceylon from Kandula Tea or even a Rhubarb & Custard from Teabox Online if you are feeling a bit more playful. Both are winners with guests at my own afternoon tea events.
You must remember to warm your teapot with hot water, empty it then brew your tea, this little trick just helps to keep your teapot warmer for a little longer. And don't tap that teacup with your spoon as you stir in your milk or sugar, it's very rude and Her Royal Highness would not approve.
Quietly does it.
If you are anything like me, then you are sweet enough and don't need sugar in your tea... However, if you do take sugar, check out these gorgeous shaped sugar cubes from John Lewis. They come in cute little hearts, buttons, houses, flowers amongst other designs. They are a fantastic talking point for your table and beautiful to just look at. You can even add them to cupcakes as decorations instead.
Fresh linen is a must, colourful tablecloths, napkins and tea cosy's to keep your brew warm. Cath Kidston are fantastic for a cute tea cosy, or why not be adventurous and attempt to knit your own?
Don't forget the finger sandwiches. Dainty, crustless and perfectly filled sandwiches are the most important savoury option to your afternoon tea. If you are wanting great suggestions for your perfectly formed finger sandwiches, I can highly rate a traditional Coronation Chicken, a good Cheddar Cheese & Tomato Relish and even a good quality Ham & Garlic Jam sandwich for all those looking for something a little more unusual. Not forgetting the classic Cucumber Sandwich, of which you can find my recipes for two different variations here.
Little flags made with colourful paper and cocktail sticks are easy to make an effective, so if you are feeling creative, give it a go.
Cake, of course, is the ultimate afternoon tea treat. Scones, fruit being my favourite, paired with a homemade Peach & Amaretto Jam and dollop of Clotted Cream is a course that cannot be ignored, followed by some delicate Vanilla Creme Patisserie Tartlets or if you prefer, a large layer cake filled with a fluffy whipped cream & topped with fresh fruit. I have been playing this weekend with my twist on a classic victoria sponge and have decided to go with fresh raspberries folded into the sponge mix before baking, and decorating the top with the fruit shaped into the Union Jack design. It's effective and summery, get creating your own version of this simple idea to wow your afternoon tea guests.
If you are feeling ready to get your arts and crafts bag out again (Yes, I do have a naff arts and crafts bag in my lounge that comes out for such activities ; ) then you can make your own cake bunting using coloured card, shaped into triangles, strung onto a length of nylon and attach to 2 bamboo skewers to hang over your cakey creations. It's such an easy task, yet it looks fantastic hanging over a Mocha Layer Cake or another dish that needs a little more colour to it. Why not even use the same idea to hang mini Union Jack paper chains over your dish?.....
Mis-matching china is the only way to enjoy your well deserved sit down after all that baking. You can collect it from charity shops car boot sales, although I find everybody in Cambridge has the same idea lately. So try further afield... I have personally found that the people of Shropshire have not yet cottoned onto this vintage craze... so get yourself down to Ludlow or surrounding areas for some real steals when it comes to their charity shops or antiques!... I even found myself a superb working gramophone there for a fraction of the price it would have been back in Cambridge, so it's worth looking around.
Remember, if you feel unglamorous whilst attempting to be the perfect host or hostess, this is perfectly normal. See my latest blog post on the messy side to hosting an afternoon tea party... apparently it happens to most hosts, so you won't be alone if something goes wrong. But, most likely, if it does, you will be laughing about it afterwards, dont take it too seriously, just have lots of fun.
And if you can, try and rope one of the kids or a partner into the washing up in exchange for all of your glorious baking and hosting skills... they surely can't argue for such a Royal exchange ; )
If they DO argue, then leave it until the next day, it's always easier that way.
If you would like to read more about The Queen and Afternoon Tea, you can read my joint article with the fabulous William Hanson in the June edition of Vintage Life Magazine (You can subscribe online or buy from your local WH Smith : )
William and I will be co-hosting The Etiquette of Afternoon Tea workshop together in September, with a few spaces left, so do book if you fancy learning some good manners to add to your helping of afternoon tea - More information here.
William has also written a stupidly amusing article for the Huffington Post on how to host a Jubilee Garden Tea Party, should you decide to go al fresco with your celebrations. Enjoy!
Happy Bank Holiday Weekend
Miss Sue Flay