As an avid tea enthusiast, you appreciate the art of a traditional English tea service. The ritual of high tea, with its delicate cups and saucers, tiered stands, and silver spoons, elevates a simple cup of tea into an event. To authentically recreate this experience at home, you’ll need to start with a traditional English tea set. A proper set includes a teapot, sugar bowl, milk jug, and cups and saucers for each guest. With freshly baked scones, finger sandwiches, and petit fours, you’ll have everything needed to set the perfect scene for enjoying a spot of tea in style. Once you have the tools and treats, invite a few close friends, get out your best china, and revel in an afternoon of conversation and camaraderie over a cup of perfectly steeped tea. An English tea set and a few hours of leisure are all you need to experience the simple pleasures of high tea.
The Origins of the English Tea Set
A proper English tea set is essential to fully appreciate the high tea tradition. The origins of the English tea set date back to the 17th century. As tea became popular in Britain, specialized crockery was developed to suit the new beverage.
The first English tea sets were imported from China and featured delicate porcelain cups without handles, as was the Chinese custom. Soon, British potters began producing tea sets with handles added to suit Western preferences.
A traditional English tea set will have at least two teapots, a milk jug, a sugar bowl, and cups and saucers for multiple guests. Higher-quality sets may include a tea strainer, tongs for handling sugar cubes, and plates for finger foods.
Popular styles of English tea sets for afternoon tea include Blue Willow, with its distinctive blue pattern, and bone china sets like Royal Albert’s Old Country Roses. For a classic look, choose a set with gold accents or rims.
Use a linen tablecloth and placemats to set the table for a proper high tea. Arrange the tea set, cups, saucers and plates on the table. Provide 3-tiered stands for scones, tea sandwiches and sweets. Include linen napkins, silverware, and candles for ambience.
By understanding the origins and components of a traditional English tea set, you can create an authentic high tea experience. Choose a quality set that suits your tastes, and take care to arrange all the necessary elements. Your guests will surely appreciate your knowledge and attention to detail in putting together a proper English tea. Relax, pour the tea, and enjoy this timeless tradition.
Components of a Traditional English Tea Set
To enjoy a traditional English high tea, you’ll need to acquire and set up an authentic tea set. A proper tea set will have the following components:
- Teapot:A teapot is essential for steeping loose-leaf tea. Look for a teapot that holds 4-6 cups of tea to serve multiple guests. Popular materials for English teapots include porcelain, ceramic, and bone china.
- Teacups and saucers:Teacups and matching saucers are necessary for drinking the tea. For high tea, choose teacups that hold 6-8 fluid ounces. Teacups and saucers are also commonly made of porcelain, ceramic, or bone china.
- Sugar bowl:A sugar bowl holds cubes or granulated sugar to sweeten the tea according to taste. Matching sugar bowls and creamers helps complete the tea set.
- Creamer or milk jug:A creamer or small milk jug contains milk, cream, or a non-dairy alternative for adding to the tea.
- Serving tray:A serving tray is an attractive means of transporting the tea set components from the kitchen to where the tea will be served. Look for a serving tray made of wood, metal, or lacquered bamboo.
- Additional plates and utensils:Small plates for finger sandwiches and scones, as well as basic utensils like teaspoons, knives, and forks, should also be included with your tea set.
By obtaining these essential components, you’ll have everything you need to host a traditional English high tea for friends, family, or special occasions. With an elegant tea set, delicious treats, and quality loose-leaf tea, you’re on your way to an enjoyable afternoon tea experience.
Best Places to Buy an English Tea Set in Singapore
A traditional English tea set is a must to fully immerse yourself in the English high tea experience. Singapore offers several options for purchasing an authentic, quality tea set.
TWG Tea is a premium tea retailer based in Singapore that offers a selection of English tea sets. Their sets include a teapot, sugar bowl, creamer, cups and saucers for two to four people. TWG Tea sources its tea sets from renowned English brands like Royal Albert and Wedgwood. While higher in price, these sets are an investment made to last. TWG Tea boutiques throughout Singapore, including Marina Bay Sands Shoppes and ION Orchard.
Royal Selangor is a Malaysian pewter company with a retail location in Singapore specializing in high-quality pewter tea sets and accessories. Pewter is an alloy of tin and copper used for centuries to make items like plates, mugs, and teapots. Royal Selangor offers traditional English-style pewter tea sets with delicate engravings and more modern sets in various metallic colours like rose gold and gunmetal. Their sets start around $200 for a basic two-person set. Royal Selangor has a retail store located in Clarke Quay Central.
For those on a budget, Chinatown is an excellent place to search for an affordable English tea set. Shops along Pagoda Street, Temple Street, and Trengganu Street offer a variety of decorative tea sets with a distinctly English style. While the quality may not match TWG Tea or Royal Selangor, you can find a lovely set for under SGD 50. Be prepared to bargain for the best deal. These shops are open daily from mid-morning through late evening.
A traditional English tea set will elevate your high tea experience and allow you to channel your inner Downton Abbey hostess. With options at various price points, you can find an English tea set to match your style and budget in Singapore. Display your tea set prominently, and be prepared for oohs and ahhs from guests as you pour and sip.
Setting the Table for a Proper English Tea
To host a proper English tea, setting an inviting tablescape is critical. An authentic English tea service, or a tea set, should be at the heart of your table setting. Traditional tea sets include a teapot, cups and saucers, milk and sugar pots, and sandwich plates.
Selecting a Tea Set
Choose an English fine bone china tea set for an elegant afternoon tea. Royal Albert, Wedgwood, and Royal Doulton offer charming vintage-inspired sets. For a modern take, consider crisp white china with minimal gold accents. A tea set for four to six guests is ideal for a small gathering. If space allows, set up a separate table for the tea service.
Arranging the Table
Cover the table in a crisp white or pastel linen cloth and cloth napkins. Place settings should include a cup and saucer, dessert fork and knife, butter knife, and linen napkin. Arrange the settings facing one another for easy conversation.
Adding Decorative Touches
A vase of fresh flowers, such as roses, peonies or hydrangeas, makes a lovely centrepiece. Tiered stands display sandwiches, scones, tea cakes and other treats at the perfect height for guests. For evenings, candlelight enhances the ambience. Silver bud vases with single blooms at each place setting are an elegant option.
serving Tea Sandwiches and Sweets
Offer an assortment of tea sandwiches with cucumber, egg salad, smoked salmon and cream cheese. Scones served with clotted cream, jam and lemon curd are a must. Petite versions of Victoria sponge cake, lemon bars, macarons and tea cookies around the menu.
A beautifully set table, quality tea set, and selection of traditional sandwiches and sweets will make for a charming English tea experience for you and your guests. By following these suggestions, you’ll master the art of the perfect tea party in no time.
Steeping the Perfect Pot of Tea
To properly steep a pot of tea, there are a few key steps to remember. Following these guidelines will result in a perfectly brewed cup of tea.
Select High-Quality Loose Leaf Tea
For the best flavour, use loose-leaf tea rather than tea bags. Loose-leaf tea contains whole leaves that have more room to unfurl and infuse the water with flavour. Some of the most popular types of loose-leaf tea for high tea include:
- Darjeeling: Floral black tea from India, perfect for high tea.
- Assam: Malty, full-bodied black tea also from India.
- Ceylon: Light, bright black tea from Sri Lanka.
- Earl Gray: Black tea infused with bergamot oil, a classic for high tea.
Heat Fresh, Filtered Water
Bring filtered water to the proper temperature for your selected tea. Black teas are best with water between 195 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit. To avoid bitterness, green and white teas require lower temperatures, between 165 to 185 degrees. Use a kitchen thermometer to ensure accuracy.
Add Tea Leaves to a Teapot
For each cup of tea, add approximately one teaspoon of loose-leaf tea to the teapot. Add an extra spoonful for extra-strong tea or a few more cups. Swirl the leaves around to distribute them evenly, then pour the heated water into the pot.
Steep the Tea
Allow the tea to steep in the water according to the recommended time for your selected tea. Most black teas steep for 3 to 5 minutes. Green and white teas require 2 to 3 minutes. Oolong teas are typically steep for 3 to 4 minutes. Check on your tea as it steeps, and remove the tea bags or infuser once the time is up. Your tea is now ready to pour and enjoy!
By following these steps and using high-quality ingredients, you’ll be well on your way to steeping and enjoying the perfect pot of tea for your English high tea. Sip and savour your tea’s delicious flavours, freshly baked scones, finger sandwiches, and other treats.
Classic Tea Sandwiches and Savories to Serve
Classic Tea Sandwiches
Tea sandwiches are a quintessential part of the traditional English afternoon tea. These dainty finger sandwiches are meant to be eaten in small bites to accompany your tea. When preparing tea sandwiches for your high tea, consider the following:
Use thin slices of white, wheat or pumpernickel bread. Trim off the crusts for triangular, square or circular shapes.
Spread fillings lightly and evenly to avoid soggy sandwiches. Some classic fillings include:
- Cucumber: Thinly sliced cucumbers and whipped cream cheese or butter. Season with salt and pepper.
- Egg Salad: Finely chopped hard-boiled eggs, mayonnaise and fresh herbs like dill or parsley.
- Smoked Salmon: Flaked smoked salmon, lemon juice, fresh dill and cream cheese.
- Roast Beef: Thinly sliced roast beef, horseradish, watercress and mustard.
Arrange the tea sandwiches attractively on a platter, grouping sandwiches with similar fillings together.
Consider adding labels or flags to identify the fillings for your guests.
Have extras on hand, as tea sandwiches tend to disappear quickly!
In addition to the classic tea sandwiches, you may also want to offer savoury pastries, tarts or quiche to balance the sweet treats at your high tea. Bite-sized sausage rolls, cheese twists, mushroom tarts or asparagus quiche are all traditional options to consider.
Including an array of classic tea sandwiches, savouries and sweets at your high tea will create a memorable experience for you and your guests to enjoy an authentic English tradition. Attention to detail and presentations will make for an impressive spread on your special occasion.
Traditional Scones: A High Tea Essential
To complete the traditional high tea experience, scones are an essential component. Scones are a quick bread, similar to biscuits, that originated in Scotland and England. They are lightly sweetened and often served with jam, clotted cream, and butter.
The typical ingredients for scones include:
- Flour:All-purpose flour or cake flour provides the right texture. Whole wheat flour can be used for a heartier scone.
- Baking powder and salt: For leavening and flavour.
- Sugar: Just a few tablespoons for a lightly sweetened scone. Additional sugar can be added to make the scones even sweeter if desired.
- Butter: Cold, cubed butter is cut into the flour to create a fine, crumbly texture.
- Egg: One egg yolk or whole egg helps bind the dough together.
- Add-ins (optional): Raisins, currants, lemon zest, or orange zest are popular additions.
To make traditional scones:
- Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.
- Add the cold butter cubes and use your fingers or a pastry cutter to cut it into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
- In a separate small bowl, whisk the egg. Add to the flour mixture and stir just until the dough comes together. Stay undermixed.
- Gently knead the dough on a floured surface 8-10 times. Pat into a circle about 3⁄4-inch thick.
- Use a knife or bench scraper to cut the dough into wedges. Place on the prepared baking sheet, spacing 2 inches apart.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the scones are light golden brown. Allow to cool slightly, then serve with jam, clotted cream, and butter.
- Scones are best enjoyed the day they are made but can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days. For the freshest taste, freeze scones up to 3 months; reheat in the oven before serving.
Delectable Tea Cakes and Pastries
To complete the English high tea experience, serve an assortment of tea cakes, scones, sandwiches, and pastries. These delicate treats pair perfectly with the aromatic teas.
Scones are essential to a traditional English tea. Offer plain scones as well as fruit-filled varieties like currant, raisin, or apricot. Serve the scones with clotted cream, jam, lemon curd, or chocolate spread.
Tea sandwiches are dainty finger sandwiches with fillings like cucumber, egg salad, smoked salmon, or watercress. Use soft, crustless bread and cut the sandwiches into small triangles, squares or circles.
Petits fours are bite-sized cakes, tarts, or pastries. Mincemeat tarts, fruit tarts, macarons, cake pops, cupcakes, chocolates, and cookies all make wonderful petits fours for high tea. Arrange the petits fours on a tiered cake stand for an impressive display.
Madeleines are small sponge cakes with a distinctive shell-like shape. They have a light, buttery texture that melts in your mouth. Madeleines pair exquisitely with tea, especially Earl Gray or other citrus-scented blends.
Offer cream puffs or profiteroles filled with chicken, seafood, or vegetable salad for something savoury. Profiteroles also come in a sweet version filled with ice cream, custard, or whipped cream and topped with chocolate sauce. Either variety makes a delightful addition to the tea table.
An assortment of these tea cakes, pastries, scones and sandwiches will make for a memorable high tea experience. Be sure to have extras, as guests will surely want to sample all the options. Most importantly, relax and enjoy this time-honoured English tradition of afternoon tea with good company.
English Tea Set FAQs: Your Questions About Tea Sets Answered
What types of English tea sets are available?
There are several styles of English tea sets to choose from. The most traditional options are:
- Bone China: Made from bone ash, clay, and feldspathic rock, bone china tea sets are lightweight yet durable. They feature elegant designs and a glossy, translucent appearance. Bone china is considered the highest quality and most prestigious.
- Porcelain: Porcelain tea sets are also lightweight and elegant but more opaque and affordable than bone china. They are still an excellent choice for an authentic English tea experience.
- Silverplate: For a luxurious tea set, consider silverplate. These sets have a silver coating over a base metal like copper or nickel. They have an opulent, polished look but at a lower cost than sterling silver. Sterling silver tea sets are the most premium option but also the most expensive.
- Stoneware:For a casual, country-inspired feel, choose a stoneware set. Stoneware is thicker, heavier, and more durable than bone china or porcelain. Glazed stoneware is earthy yet refined, perfect for a rustic English tea.
How many pieces are in a traditional English tea set?
A traditional English afternoon tea set will have at least 40 pieces to serve tea for 4-6 guests. The basic pieces include:
- Teapot: Holds the brewed tea. Usually 4-6 cups in capacity.
- Teacups and saucers: The standard is to have one teacup and saucer for each guest. Teacups hold 6-8 ounces.
- Creamer and sugar bowl: For adding milk, cream, lemon, and sugar to taste. Some sets also include a bowl for lemon slices.
- Cake stand: To display petite cakes, scones, tea sandwiches and other treats. A 2 or 3-tier stand is common.
- Serving plates and utensils: Small plates, forks, spoons, knives, and tongs for serving the accompaniments.
- Hot water kettle: To heat water for the teapot. An electric kettle is convenient but a stovetop kettle is more traditional.
- Strainer: For straining loose-leaf tea when pouring from the teapot into teacups. Some teapots have a built-in filter.
Additional pieces like sandwich trays, creamer jugs, and toast racks may also be included depending on the particular set. An extensive set may have 60-70 pieces or more.
You now have the essential knowledge to host your delightful high tea. With a charming English tea set as the centrepiece, you’ll transport your guests to a sophisticated era of refinement and hospitality. As the final scones are devoured, and the last cups of tea are drained, your guests will surely ask when the next high tea will be. Though the tradition originates from Britain, high tea is a cultural experience with no boundaries. By sharing this time-honoured custom with friends and loved ones, you’ll create cherished memories for years to come. High tea awaits – all left is for you to set the scene.