Generally, sandwiches and scones with a third course of sweets or pastries are standard fare but choices can include muffins, crumpets, bread and butter, cakes such as pound cakes or sweet quick breads, cookies (biscuits), gingerbread, pastries, fruits, truffles and a selection of spreads including marmalade, jam and jellies, preserves, lemon curd, and clotted cream.
For a full blown afternoon tea for 200+, you will also need:
Although buffet service is attractive, the traditional way to serve afternoon tea is to place all the contents for the full event on each table. This allows the hostess to join her table and each group to settle in for conversation without interruptions. The place for a tea is best if large enough for everyone to be seated, preferably at a table or tables. Large size tea pots and plates of edibles on each table give the impression that the guests are invited to linger over the tea.
In a large party served buffet style, it is thoughtful to provide an urn of hot water with an assortment of herbal, flavored and decaffeinated teas.
16 2 pound loaves
3 pounds softened unsalted butter
4 dozen eggs
2 bunches fresh parsley
OPTIONAL fresh mint, tarragon, chervil
2 pounds lean ham, chicken breast or roast beef, thin deli sliced
2 1/2 pounds full fat cream cheese, divided
18 ounces cherries, raisins, drained crushed pineapple or dates
1 cup pecan bits
1 pint sour cream
1 1/2 pounds Velveeta or mild cheddar or colby cheese
4-7 ounces canned pimento or chopped olives
18 to 20 ounces cooked or canned drained shrimps or crab
2 pounds canned salmon or tuna
1 bunch of celery
2 large burpless English cucumbers
OPTIONAL 1 bunch watercress
4 tablespoons white vinegar
4 quarts top quality mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste
Use thin-sliced bread (Pepperidge Farm makes white and wheat commercially), or that sold as "cocktail slices". You can also make or purchase square-topped unsliced loaves of firm bread. Slice by hand (electric knife is handy for this) or have the bakery slice them thinly for you. The bakery can slice the loaves in the regular way or horizontally for ribbon type sandwiches. Each 2-pound loaf of bread makes about 20 thin slices, which is about 10 regular sandwiches, or 30 to 40 tea sandwiches.
To prepare for immediate serving, after making the sandwiches, cut the crusts off and cut into triangles, squares, or other decorative shapes (you can use a cookie cutter). If you need to make tea sandwiches in advance on the same day and need to keep them from drying out, cover them loosely with a sheet of wax paper and then place a damp kitchen towel layer of paper towels over the wax paper. Placing a damp towel directly on top of the bread risks making the sandwiches soggy. Refrigerate until serving time.
When ready to serve, remove from refrigerator. Uncover sandwiches just before serving. To serve, place the sandwiches on a iceberg lettuce-lined platter- the lettuce's water content which will keep the sandwiches moist during service.
There are several sandwiches you can freeze ahead for your tea party, but you must select your fillings carefully. Egg, mayonnaise or salad dressing-based fillings CAN NOT be frozen successfully. Rolling the sandwiches you plan to freeze and wrapping tightly in waxed paper before freezing, gives the best results for thawing. Roll up each slice like a jelly roll. Roll into waxed paper. Double wrap in plastic wrap; place in freezer for up to 3 weeks. Wrap tightly to prevent ice crystals.
The morning of the reception, you remove from the freezer,thaw them just enough to help you cut them in 1/2" slices, and with a sharp knife slice in 1/2 inch pinwheels. Place pinwheels on trays (they will still be partially frozen) loosely cover with clean wrap (a sheet of waxed paper under a slightly dampened tea towel is great) to prevent drying out. They will thaw in about an hour.
Freezing some sandwiches allows you to increase the assortment and makes the trays even more attractive. In addition, even if you are not going to freeze the finished sandwiches, freezing the bread before spreading and trimming makes for easier handling, especially if the bread is very fresh or tender.
Some ideas for freezable fillings include:
cream cheese and crushed pineapple, or any other fruit/nut combination
mashed shrimp with butter
deviled ham with mustard or pickle
olive and cream cheese
very thin slices of good ham or roast beef or smoked salmon with a bit of cheese and pickle
cheese spreads with butter base, not made with mayo. For flavor ideas, inspect those expensive little jars of cheese spread by Kraft and others.
BREADS: 16 large (2 pound) firm-textured Pullman, egg or sandwich loaves, 8 white and 8 brown loaves, preferably thin-sliced lengthwise by the bakery. Order ahead of time, and you can even get the white bread tinted to your party color scheme. You will get 6 to 8 long loaf-length slices from each loaf. If you have to slice the loaves yourself, you may want to order an extra loaf of each and to put the bread in the freezer for a few hours to firm it; an electric knife is also helpful.
You MUST spread each slice to the very edge with softened unsalted butter or cream cheese to prevent soggy sandwiches.
If you have to buy store bread, Pepperidge Farm Very Thin Sliced Bread in white or whole wheat works well for making tea sandwiches. Cocktail slices in rye or pumpernickel are also good choices.
FILLINGS: Any filling should be mashed until smooth and mixed with mayonnaise, cream or milk so that it can be easily spread. Wrap/cover in wax paper and chill for 2 or more hours.
Cut each loaf into 1/4 inch slices.
When spreading your filling or butter be sure to spread no thicker than the thickness of the bread, taking it to the edge and keeping it evenly thick. Do not run over the sides. If a recipe calls for the bread to be buttered before adding the filling, you should neatly and lightly spread with butter first.
Trim crusts after filling, but before cutting shapes.
The variety of fillings in this collection includes egg salad; ham, beef or chicken salad; cream cheese with fruit and nuts; pimento or olive cheese; potted shrimp or crab; tuna or salmon salad; cucumber with watercress. Nut butter with thin banana slices or jelly is popular for a child’s tea party.
Here is a good offsite link with pictures of tea sandwich cutting options.
Ham and pickle
2 loaves unsliced white bread, sliced lengthwise (16 slices)
2 cups California dip (Lipton)
16 thin slices cooked ham
16 thin slices Swiss cheese
4 large dill pickles, quartered lengthwise
Trim crust from bread; flatten bread lightly with rolling pin. Spread 2 tablespoons California dip on each slice of bread; top with slice of ham and cheese. Place pickle across one end of bread; roll up, starting at pickle end. Wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap; chill.
To serve, cut into 1/2-inch slices. Makes about 6 dozen sandwiches.
may be frozen for future use.
CUCUMBER TEA SANDWICHES WITH TARRAGON BUTTER2 large English (burpless) cucumber, peeled, seeded, sliced paper thin 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons white vinegar 1 cup unsalted butter, softened OPTIONAL 1/4 cup minced fresh tarragon or fresh mint OPTIONAL 1/4 cup minced fresh chervil Watercress leaves, optional 1 quart dill pickles 1 quart crispy sweet pickles Put cucumber slices in large bowl. Toss with salt. Sprinkle with vinegar. Toss to mix well. Let stand 1 hour. Drain well in colander. You can score the peeled cucumber lengthwise with fork for decoration before slicing. Combine butter, tarragon and chervil. To assemble, spread butter over 1 side of each bread slice. Cover 15 slices with cucumbers, dividing evenly. Close sandwiches. Trim crusts. Cut into 36 rectangles. Arrange on platter, garnished with watercress leaves.
Egg Salad4 dozen eggs, hard boiled - make a filling with mayonnaise and seasonings. You can flavor part of the mix: for four eggs, mix in 1 teaspoon of curry powder and 1 tablespoon dried lavender buds. Spread on your bread and top each finger with a green olive slice.
Deviled Meat Sandwiches2 pound (4 cups)of ham, chicken or roast beef, ground - will be mixed with mayonnaise, ground sweet pickles and a little pickle juice, horse radish or mustard. 1/3 cup finely chopped gherkins 2 teaspoons prepared mustard 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 1/4 to 1/3 cup mayonnaise (about)
Sweet Cream Cheese Sandwiches1 1/2 pounds cream cheese - Mash with 1 pint sour cream until very smooth, spread on bread, sprinkle with well drained chopped dried fruits and chopped pecans. Make into rolls.
Cheese and Pickle Sandwiches1 1/2 pounds Velveeta or American cheese, ground - Mix with mayonnaise, make into rolls with dill slices
Potted Shrimp or Crab Sandwich18-20 ounces chopped shrimp or crab - Mix with an equal volume of mayonnaise or whipped cream cheese and lemon pepper, spread on buttered, trimmed bread slices, roll. These should be tightly rolled in wax paper (it seems to keep them better than plastic wrap) and refrigerated until cut.
Tuna or Salmon Sandwich