Where Men Can Become Better Gentlemen

Afternoon Tea

Tea Service

Tea Pot

Made of china or a suitable metal (silver or stainless steel), this is the crowning object of the service. Certainly for smaller gatherings, it can take center stage. If a tea cosy is being used to keep the tea pot warm, ensure it displays simple elegance and dispense with any which are too bold or comical. For larger gatherings small individual teapots may be provided or infusers which guests “load” themselves with from a heated water urn and their tea of choice. 

Teapots have a specific design by comparison to coffee or chocolate pots. It has a lower and rounded body providing space for infused leaves to expand and adequate circulation of the water. This arrangement also has the benefit of the spout being higher up on the body to reduce any disturbance to the leaves when poured.

Sugar Bowl & Milk Jug/Creamer

Get a set to match the tea pot. The sugar bowl may or may not have a lid, it doesn’t matter providing the sugar is removed after the function and stored in an air tight container. It should be large enough to house enough sugar (cubes preferably) and be proportional to the size of the tea pot. The milk jug is sometimes incorrectly referred to as a creamer, which is used with a coffee pot. It is purely to hold milk and insulated types may be found, but leaving to fill it at the last moment should not cause any problems with it getting too warm and curdling. If it is an extremely hot day (especially outside in summer) the jug can be placed in a (matching) bowl filled with ice.

Tea Cups

While most china is adequate, fine bone china is the ultimate choice and certainly adds to the overall experience. The generally referred to birthplace of bone china is in Staffordshire, England, UK. Originally there were six main manufacturing towns: Burslem, Fenton, Hanley, Longton, Stoke-upon-Trent and Tunstall. These were grouped in to one entity called Stoke-on-Trent and today is collectively known as “The Potteries”.

Usually simple elegance determines a plain white or similar pattern for your tableware but for Afternoon Tea it is perfectly acceptable to move into the realms of floral patterns, even in primary colours. It is important to minimally match the cups, saucers and plates (and teapot if using a china one, with matching sugar bowl and milk jug). With regard to the cups specifically, tea cups are wider and shallower than their coffee or chocolate counterparts.

A teacup is from 3.25 to 3.75 inches in diameter and 2 to 2.5 inches tall, with the saucer varying from 5.25 to nearly 6 inches in diameter. It traditionally will hold around 4 ounces of liquid and is only filled to 75% capacity.

      Set of 6

      Set of 36


Sugar Tongs

These are generally 3.25 to 6.6 inches long (longer versions are referred to as sugar cutters/nips) and were introduced in the late 1700’s. Quite simply, white sugar cubes should be served from a bowl (rather than loose sugar) and tongs provided for use instead of fingers, for basic hygiene reasons. When not in use the tongs should be placed flat alongside the bowl or draped over a handle, should the bowl possess handles.

Originally sugar cubes were made of compressed sugar, shaped into cones. They rather resembled the traditional image of a witch’s hat, and were referred to as such. This is the origin of the phrase “I’ll eat my hat”.

Tea Plates

Originally tea plates were designed to be a saucer and a side plate. The plate had a foot well to help in holding the cup in place, whilst being expansive enough to provide enough area to hold portions of food. If you manage to source these rarities and budget permits, snap them up and use them with relish!

Today, it is normal to have a separate side plate for food. Size can vary anything from 6 inches (small bread and butter plates) to 8 inches (large dessert/salad plates) in diameter. The size is subject to your own discretion, however smaller plates are a better match to the overall style and presentation of this type of repast – small is beautiful! 

  Box of 36 plates   Set of 4 cake forks


12-inch square cloth napkins are used for Afternoon Tea, although this size is harder to find than the standard 20-inch dinner size, they are more suitable for this type of repast. The ideal are plain white but contrasting these with other parts of the serve ware, room decor, flowers etc. can make for a greater sense of panache. Displayed items are a set of 12 linen/cotton blend napkins.

Three-Tier Stands

Not essential but is a very nice touch to an Afternoon Tea. Particularly useful for a smaller intimate Tea e.g. 1 – 4 people, 2 or more stands can be used for larger gatherings.

There is an order for the contents of each tier. At the top are placed the scones – this dates back to when a dome was placed over the top tier (the only tier where this could be accommodated) to keep the scones warm. The second tier holds savouries and/or sandwiches (with the crusts removed) and the bottom tier is for sweets, such as cakes and petit fours. If the stand divides, each tier should be removed at the completion of each service.

Cake Stands

Another stylish piece of equipment is the cake stand. This is a flat shaped plate (usually circular or square) which is raised up on a pedestal (usually around 3 inches in height but can be shorter or taller than this). Some have the facility to revolve making the cutting and serving of the cake easier. Some also have domes (usually transparent), which fit over the top of the plate, encasing the cake and keeping it fresher and more hygienic than if left open to the elements. It also provides a clean environment if storing a partially eaten cake for another day or two.

Cake stands are not essential but add an element of panache to proceedings where cake is served. Should you be serving cake you will need a cake knife, serving slice plus forks/spoons for guests to use.


China tea cups with a handle and saucer are traditional but this is not the only option. Why not try using a glass teapot and thermal glasses that show off the tea. We have also concentrated on Western serveware but this should not prevent you from considering an Eastern tea service. However, to us an Eastern set up is a whole other subject with rituals and etiquette abounding.

Tea Service Suppliers

There are so many options, designs, sizes and contents to tea services that it is impossible to give examples and suggestions. Above we have sought to provide an example of a simple elegant option for each item but there is plenty of scope for individualism and style. The following suppliers provide an inroad into finding what works best for you:

The English Tea Store is a great site for many tea service products.

Enjoying Tea has a good selection,with many items in Eastern style.

Williams and Sonoma have cake stands, tiered stands and some tea service items.

Pampered Chief have a few items e.g. tiered stands, etc.

If you wish for something special and have the money to spend ($100’s - $1,000’s) finding antique and/or collectable items is an exciting possibility:

Collector’s Weekly (online e-bay auction site).

S Wyer in New York.

Leopard Antiques in South Africa.

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