To celebrate National Afternoon Tea Week (12th – 18th August 2019), Simon Bradley, Head Chef at De Vere Cotswold Water Park – a stunning hotel situated amongst the rolling hills of the Cotswolds and surrounded by 152 lakes – has shared his top tips on how to enjoy the traditional British pastime at home.
The perfect blend
Without doubt the most important element of an afternoon tea is the tea itself. A traditional English Breakfast blend is a firm favourite with guests at De Vere Cotswold Water Park however, you could tempt your guests with something a little more usual such as a power green tea, for the ultimate teatox, filled with antioxidants and nutrients. Or for the more daring, try a chilli chai tea for that fiery kick. On warmer days, try brewing an iced tea using your favourite tea and add slices of citrus fruits for a refreshing twist.
Sandwiches and scones are the staple of a classic afternoon tea however, you may choose to serve something a little different to cater to everyone’s taste and dietary requirements.
Try experimenting with the fillings in your sandwiches and the flavours of your cakes, for example, you could serve Earl Grey-infused tea cakes, sweet scones with lemon curd, savoury scones with cheddar cheese and chorizo or basil macarons.
Food for thought
Although you may be excited to serve your latest flavoursome concoction, make sure that you keep some of those classic ‘crowd pleasers’ on the menu, namely; egg mayonnaise sandwiches; cucumber with cream cheese and smoked salmon sandwiches; macarons; Battenberg; and éclairs.
Make sure everyone in the group is catered for, and provide more savoury foods such as scotch eggs, quiche and sausage rolls, accompanied with drinks for the non-tea drinkers such as a superfood smoothie for the ultimate health kick.
Dietary requirements now play a huge part of people’s lives with nearly ¼ of the UK now eating a plant-based diet. Include items on your cake stand such as vegan macarons or cakes/ brownies that have been made with avocado as the substitute.
It is hard work being the host and the chef, especially if help is limited, so keep things simple to ensure a stress-free day by preparing as much as you can before your guests arrive.
It’s true that nothing beats a warm scone with lashings of fresh strawberry jam and clotted cream, but you can bake them in advance and then warm them in the oven before serving.
Provide a grown-up treat
Our Champagne Afternoon Tea package is extremely popular with guests being served a glass of Lanson Champagne alongside their tea. Or English sparkling wine provides the perfect alternative to complement your afternoon tea. Pair your afternoon tea with local sparkling wine, Blanc de Blancs from Cotswold vineyard Woodchester Valley, an elegant English sparkling wine with aromas of baked apple, citrus and biscuit. For an added twist, why not serve your favourite tipple with a splash of elderflower or raspberry liqueur.
Everyone loves a scone and a finger sandwich but if you want to stand out from the crowd, you need to get creative. How about adding a theme? Or even an American twist on a traditional British afternoon tea can be fun and something different. Ditch the macarons and enjoy mini doughnuts.
Set the scene
Afternoon tea isn’t just about delicious sandwiches and cakes, it’s about the whole dining experience from décor to vintage crockery. Rummage in the back of your cupboards and dust off your best cake stands, finest china tea set and polish your silver teapot.
Why not also head to the garden and pick some fresh flowers for a centrepiece, place tea cosies on the table, hang bunting around the room and perhaps create your own personalised menus to wow your guests?
Location, location, location
Make the most of the British summertime and take your tea outside. For the perfect opportunity to relax and unwind, explore the great outdoors and bring your afternoon tea with you on a picnic. Or dine al fresco with an afternoon tea set up in your garden so you’re never too far away from your next fresh pot of tea.
Or just relax and let the experts do the work
If this all sounds wonderful but too much of a headache, why not put your feet up and leave it to the experts? Whether you’re with friends or taking a moment for yourself, De Vere Cotswold Water Park serves traditional afternoon tea with savoury dishes, including leek & chive tartlet and salt beef and fresh horseradish bon bons, plus traditional plain and sultana scones with a selection of sweet treats. Guests can indulge in afternoon tea in The Lounge or bask in the sun on the outdoor terrace, enjoying the lakeside views at The Old Boathouse Restaurant & Bar.
Afternoon Tea is served daily, from 2pm to 5pm, and is priced from £19.95 per person.