A Victorian tea party is perhaps the most elegant theme you can choose for your next tea party. It is also a tradition very rich in history. The fashion of taking tea began with Anna Maria (1783-1857), the seventh Duchess of Bedford. She was always famished in the afternoon as the English upper class ate a small lunch and a rather late dinner. One day, Anna Maria asked her servants to serve tea and cakes in her boudoir. She continued the ritual and began inviting friends. News of the delightful idea spread and it quickly became fashionable for the upper crust to serve afternoon tea.
Plan to have your Victorian tea party in the living room, our modern equivalent to the Victorian drawing room. Make sure that there is table space within easy reach of all of the chairs for guests to place their teacups and plates rather than balancing on their laps.
In the Victorian period, tea was traditionally served at 4:00 in the afternoon but is now usually held anywhere from 3:00 to 5:00. To create the invitations, start with a piece of pastel-colored cardstock and either write or type the necessary information in a calligraphic font. Decorate the invitations with paper doilies, pieces of fabric, dried flowers, ribbons, and pictures or paintings from the Victorian era.
Be sure to note what people should wear and/or bring to your tea party. For an over-the-top occasion, ask guests to wear a tea dress or a suit and a fancy hat and gloves. If you do not have enough teacups for all of your invitees, do not stress. Simply ask each guest to bring their own. Ladies in Victorian times carried their own teacups to afternoon tea in an elegant padded box because owning a porcelain teacup was a symbol of high social standing.
A Victorian tea party should include a sampling of traditional tea party foods such as tea sandwiches, scones, pastries, fruit tarts, fruit cakes, small cookies, tarts, petits fours, and a gorgeous layer cake. Serve the foods in 3 decadent courses: tea sandwiches, scones, and then sweets. Along with the dainty finger foods, plan to serve a popular British black tea like English Breakfast or Earl Grey.
Play classic music in the background at a low volume. Specifically look for piano selections by popular artists from the Victorian period. Select works by composers such as Debussy, Schubert, Schumann, and Chopin. A couple favorite pieces to play are “Suite Bergamasque” or “Claire de Lune” (both by Debussy).
For a Victorian tea party, decorations are not essential. After all, afternoon tea was an everyday event for the Victorians so they didn’t necessarily decorate for it. The teapot, teacups, a pretty tablecloth, and other tea accessories create an elegant atmosphere and can really stand on their own for the décor. The food also becomes part of the decoration when sandwiches, scones, and sweets are placed on a tiered server and a layer cake is displayed on a cake stand.
To decorate, simply do your best to make your living room look like a traditional Victorian drawing room. Serve the tea on a low side table. Doilies, lace table clothes, and pretty linen napkins are perfect for the occasion. Bring out your best china but don’t worry if it is mismatched. As long as the colors are complementary, the various patterns can add character to your display. Also set out sugar cubes and tongs in the traditional Victorian fashion. Beautiful flower arrangements will give that finishing touch but be sure to place them on tables away from the food trays. The Victorians did not arrange flowers next to their tea party fare because they believed the scents from the flowers overpowered the smell of the foods.