Do you dress up for a cuppa?

This blog post is by Nicola Baird sharing ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children. This post looks at Mr Manners and the art of afternoon tea… For more info about my book Homemade Kids, with lots of ideas about parenting, click here.

A friend suggests we should make time to take our kids for a sumptous afternoon tea, at a lovely venue in Shoreditch, London where the clock stopped in the 1940s. Dressing up is all part of the pleasure.

I think she imagines the children in Little Lord Fauntleroy suits (boys) or smocking (for the girls) and ourselves buttoned into a slim-fit gown, plus the softest vintage gloves. Tweed (perhaps plus fours) is de rigeur for the gents. Oh how our husbands will resist! That said, it’s a lovely invite, and I’m looking forward to our trip (which will probably be written up on my low carbon travel blog,

Singalong (with the outdoor tea set, see pic above)
“Buns, buns, toasted buns
Buns are liked by everyone.”

“I’m a little teapot, short and stout. Here’s my handle. Here’s my spout.
When you the kettle singing out. Pick me up, and pour me out. “

“Easy, peasy lemon squeezy.”

But thanks to all the things we need to do at the weekends it’s rare I take the trouble to organise a tea party these days – except sometimes for the children’s birthdays.

At my mum’s house teatime is still a big event for guests, regardless of the size of the meal held earlier. There’s a china pot where we (sacriligously perhaps) mix two earl grey to one part (OK bag) lapsang souchong, and is known as Hartsfield blend. There will be toast, crumpets, or hot cross buns in the winter. If someone’s willing in the summer to do indoor duty we’ll have cucumber sandwiches on white bread with the crusts off. Oh yes.

The lovely thing is that tea-as-a-meal can be really memorable. I still remember my Great Aunt Aline, diminutive in a massive fur coat, lost in a stripey deck chair eating cucumber sandwiches (some made by seven year old me) on the one visit she made to our home way back in the early 1970s. Oh boy were we on best behaviour!

Pass the cake, please
I love tea time meals – it’s also one that most children enjoy eating. They love mini portions (eg, tiny egg mayonnaise sandwiches, jam tarts. butterfly cakes etc) and who really can’t resist another slice of cake?  For anyone who’s considering a family get-together, afternoon tea at a hotel – even an outrageously posh hotel like Claridges or the Ritz – is often a genius (albeit pricey) solution to dining together at home or even in a restaurant. People want to come to a special tea; there doesn’t need to be alcohol so the ages mix better and the sumptuousness of the food becomes a family talking point forever (rather than the rows triggered by stress carving and catering).

Other good times to serve tea, sandwiches and cake:

  • Funeral (guests bring food along)
  • New baby (if you must visit bring along a densely-packed fruit cake, and make sure you wash up the cups!).
  • History party (set the clock for the year of the oldest person’s birth?)
  • Around Christmas – perhaps before or after those services which are specifically carols or designed for children.
  • School PTA events.
  • On a picnic rug – perhaps a goodbye to a nursery class or school form, or just an old-fashioned birthday party for any-aged child.

Over to you
What items do you include in an old fashioned menu for tea?

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One Comment on “Do you dress up for a cuppa?”

  1. nicola baird Says:

    From Facebook:
    Tim: “Dress up for tea? Only if you’re Canadian.”

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