Vanilla Chef Afternoon Tea Guide

Welcome to the Vanilla Chef Afternoon Tea Guide – a place where you can learn everything you need to know about hosting your own Afternoon Tea.

There is so much more to an Afternoon Tea than the tea itself. It is a ritual, a process that cleanses your body and your mind.

Allow yourself to become lost in the moment as your tea slowly infuses into your soul and the tastes and smells hit your senses.

Afternoon Tea Guide

Whether you want a way to bring a bit of elegance to a lazy afternoon or you want to create a unique experience for your customers, Vanilla Chef will outline our 3 steps for throwing the perfect Afternoon Tea.

One of the most important things to get right with the afternoon tea is your food and tea pairings. You want to carefully combine flavours to complement each other in order to offer a delicious well-balanced menu.

We have split our Afternoon Tea Guide in to 3 steps:

  1. Pairing
  2. Preparation
  3. Serving

Follow step 1 below to ensure you get your pairings spot on!

1. Pairing

So you are ready to start planning your afternoon tea menu.

We would suggest planning what food you will be serving first and then match your tea flavours to your dishes.

You may be asking why pairing your food and tea is so important?

It is much the same as pairing a fine wine with your meal. You are looking to enhance the gastronomical experience and tea is so versatile it is the perfect drink to experiment with.

This is your chance to be creative, there are no limits as to what delights your Afternoon Tea may include.

If you are stuck for time or ideas, check out Jamie Oliver’s Afternoon Tea Recipes.

Once you have decided what delicious goodies you are going to include, use the Tea Pairing Wheel from the International Tea Masters Association below to match your main flavours with complementary flavours of tea.

Tea Pairing Aroma Wheel

Here is a quick guide to pairing each flavour of tea:

Black Tea:

Black tea is a full-bodied tea with a strong bold flavour. When pairing a black tea you ideally want a closely matched flavour otherwise you may find that one flavour dominates the other.

A black tea with an earthy tone is best matched with a savoury dish to bring out the rich flavours. Although the earthy tones combine perfectly with sweet nutty dishes such as Jamie Oliver’s Almond Pastry Puff.

Black teas such as Darjeeling or an Earl Grey Yin Zen have a sweet citrusy flavour, well suited to a range of sweet dishes. Why not try a lemon cheesecake with the sharp and sweet earl grey yin zen to cut through the tartness.

Green Tea:

Green tea has a subtle vegetal flavour and aroma which makes it more suited to mild dishes. With a milder flavour and vegetative qualities, green tea is suite to a wide range of flavours and styles of cooking allowing you to be creative with your food choice.

We suggest pairing green tea with Asian dishes such as this delicious recipe for Green Tea Poached Shrimp with Green Tea Vinagerette. This is a really creative way to spice up an Afternoon Tea and is just an example for you to take inspiration from.

Not forgetting those with a sweet tooth, green tea is also perfect for desserts!

We suggest pairing this fruity Bali Green Tea  with this punchy Grapefruit and Ginger Meringue Pie. The sweet, fresh and fruity notes of the Bali green tea combine with the robust flavours of the grapefruit and ginger to produce a taste sensation. This one’s a real show stopper!

White Tea:

White tea has a smooth silky flavour and must be treated with care as its delicate flavour can be easily overpowered. With a natural sweetness, white tea is the perfect accompaniment to light subtle desserts.

We suggest pairing your white tea with this beautiful English Rose Cake. The light fluffy sponge and the subtle hint of rose petal will go down a treat with a cup of white tea.

Oolong Tea:

Oolong Tea has unique and complex flavours across the spectrum of flavours, making it a great option for Afternoon Tea as it can be used in so many different ways.

We stock an Oolong flavour you won’t find anywhere else! Our Jardin Du Luxembourg Oolong Tea from Dammann Freres contains aloe vera, rose, jasmine, acacia, melon and plum flowers. This combination is bursting with flavour and gives off a vibrant colour.

Afternoon Tea Pastries

With such a variety of flavour, we urge you to use your creativity and come up with your own unique pairing. Share your Afternoon Tea pictures with us on social media.

FB: @VanillaChef

Insta: @VanillaChefShop

Now you have an idea of how to pair your tea flavours with your food dishes you can carefully construct your tea menu. For a wide range of high quality delicious tea’s the Vanilla Chef Tea Shop.

Once you have ordered your tea and your ingredients, it’s time for the preparation stage.

2. Preparation

Now your delicious Afternoon Tea menu has been carefully constructed, you can start preparing your food and tea.

  1. Food Preparation

Food Preparation

The most important thing to think about with your food is your portions, especially if you are delivering your Afternoon Tea experience at your business.

You need to find the right balance between portions and cost so that you are able to deliver an amazing experience that is profitable and provides value for money.

If you are throwing your own personal Afternoon Tea, you can afford to push the boat out with your portions. When considering your portions for your business however, you must be more frugal.

We suggest 2-3 savoury items and 1-2 sweet items per customer depending on the size.

The other important thing to consider when preparing food is your timings, especially if you are going to be serving freshly cooked dishes.

For an easier approach you can go with delicious time-saving finger sandwiches such as Cucumber or ham and cheese. For a twist on the classic afternoon tea, try mini Cuban sandwiches with pork, cheese, pickle and ham.

For your sweet dishes, you are going to want to prepare and cook/bake these well in advance.

You will also need to work out how many covers you will be doing on any given day, so that you have do not prepare too much or too little food.

Now the wonderful smells of your delicious dishes are wafting through the air, you can begin preparing your tasty tea.  

  1. Tea Preparation

The ritual and process of making the tea begins now.

Loose Leaf Tea Pots

It’s time to put the kettle on and get your tea making equipment out. If you need to get your hands on some fashionable equipment, check out our Tea Wares range where you will find our Loose Leaf Tea Pots, Glass Loose Leaf Infuser Cup, Forlife Pair of Tea Cups, Tea Bag Tidy and an ultra-stylish Kaymet Tea Tray.

When preparing your tea it is important to get your servings and timings absolutely spot on. An Afternoon Tea is a statement so you want to deliver the best experience possible.

For your tea serving, we suggest between 1 and 2 tea spoons per cup and 1 for the tea pot. This is a guideline and you should experiment with your different blends before-hand.

Remember that your tea is working in combination with your food dishes to deliver an all-round gastronomical experience. If your tea is too weak it may be overpowered by the flavours of the food. Too strong and you may find that the taste of the tea starts to overpower your food, especially with the darker teas.

Once you have your servings worked out it’s time to brew your tea.

Here’s a quick guide on the perfect time and temperature to brew different types of tea:

Tea Temperature Time
Black 90-99°C 3-5 minutes
Green 75-90°C 2-4 minutes
White 65-85°C 1-2 minutes
Oolong 80-90°C  3-5 minutes
Rooibos 90-99°C 5-6 minutes
Pu'erh 90-99°C 3-4 minutes
Herbal 90-99°C 4-6 minutes


Again this is just a guideline, you need to experiment with quantity and timings to get the perfect cuppa. This is again something you will be working out beforehand so it is really dialled in when it comes to serving your customers.

We are now at the final step, serving your customers. This is perhaps the most crucial step as it is your chance you to interact with your guests.

3. Serving

When it comes to serving, this is your chance to really blow your customers away with your design and presentation.

Here is a list of our top 3 Afternoon Tea designs by some of the most on-trend businesses out there at the minute.

1. Claridge’s Afternoon Tea - London

Calridge's Afternoon Tea

2. Wonderland Tea Room – Nottingham

Wonderland Tea Rooms

3. Netherstowe House – Lichfield

Netherstowe House

So now you have everything you need to go and deliver your own unique and amazing Afternoon Tea!

If you enjoyed this guide or found it useful, please share it with your friends and family on social media.