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Casual Afternoon Tea at Home with Easy Finger Food

Casual Afternoon Tea at Home with Easy Finger Food
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High teas and afternoon teas are great, but they can be a bit on the formal side. A casual afternoon tea with snacks and games can be a great alternative. Throwing your own party means you can control the budget, select your favorite finger food and enjoy a creative activity if so desired. We have some suggestions below for putting on a tea party in casual elegance style. Our latest afternoon tea was an Easter afternoon tea when my kids were visiting during Spring Break.

Afternoon family tea with snacks, a game and cups of tea.
Afternoon family tea

Jump to: Easy cucumber sandwiches | Afternoon tea vs High Tea | What Food to Serve at Casual Tea

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High Tea vs Afternoon Tea

The difference between a “high tea” and an “afternoon tea” is a bit nuanced, depending on who is explaining it, but there are some commonly agreed-on distinctions. The distinctions are around timing, food pairings and class as follows:


High tea is typically a hearty, early evening meal enjoyed around 5-6 pm. It was typically a substantial meal of meat or fish, bread, vegetables, and tea to drink, and it would feed the men and women who had been at work all day. Today it might be referred to as dinner or supper, although in the US those terms do not usually involve tea.

Afternoon tea is a lighter meal served between 3-5 pm. The focus is more upon the tea itself rather than the meal, although sweet or savory snacks are generally served with an afternoon tea.

Food Pairings:

High teas are meant to satisfy hunger after working all day. The food is typically savory, hearty dishes accompanied by a pot of tea. The focus is on the food rather than the tea.

Food or snacks that accompany afternoon teas typically involve finger food. The food might be either sweet (like small cakes and pastries) or savory (like cucumber sandwiches). The afternoon tea is meant to be a leisurely and elegant experience, with the focus more on the tea and the conversation.

Ideas for treats on a tiered cake stand for a tea party.
Other treat ideas for an afternoon tea

Class History:

High teas reference a tradition that originated in the working-class communities of Britain. The tradition dates back to the 19th century where a family would eat a hearty meal at a high table with high back chairs and served with a pot of tea after a hard day at work.

The ‘afternoon tea’ came about from the upper classes in England. It is meant to be more of an experience rather than a means to an end (i.e., dinner). It started in the Edwardian period when ladies would get together at a local hotel for conversation with some dainty treats and ‘a spot of tea’.

The afternoon tea tradition has evolved over the years and is currently quite popular in the US, even as it represents British culture. The focus of an afternoon tea is on the experience and the company, with the treats and tea enhancing the enjoyment of the experience.

Setting the Stage

An ‘afternoon tea’ requires a teapot and teacups, even if it is a casual event at home. It is a “tea party” after all. I got all of my teacups and accessories at the local thrift store and then let each guest pick their favorite cup.

The thrift store is also a great place to look for a tiered cake stand for the finger food. It’s not necessary of course, but it does give a bit of British elegance to your afternoon tea.

If you want a really casual party, you could also use regular plates instead of a tiered pastry stand. I do think a tiered stand and fun tea cups add to the fun however. Here is a unique wooden tiered cake stand on Amazon if you don’t have time to scour the thrift stores.

While enjoying companionship through conversation is the classic focus of an afternoon tea, we changed it up a bit by adding a board game, as our afternoon tea was at home and meant to be casual. This added a cozy family element to the tea and took it into the realm of a hygge experience

Sweet and Savory Food Pairings

The food that works best is finger food, and it can be sweet or savory or both! For our Easter tea, we wanted to have both, but it was important that the food was easy to put together so that it could remain casual.

For ease, we opted for some pastel macaroons at Costco along with some chocolate bunnies and then made our own little cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches. Simple and casual, but with a nod to tradition with the cucumber sandwiches (recipe below).

Afternoon family tea with snacks, a game and cups of tea.
Afternoon family tea

If you are celebrating a specific theme or holiday, it is nice to design the food options around colors and flavors associated with the theme (i.e., chocolate and red berries around Valentine’s Day).

An afternoon tea generally takes place before dinner, but in the late afternoon. The timing is something to consider if you are also planning to have dinner as the snacks can be pretty filling. At our Easter tea, we liked the little cucumber sandwiches so much that we didn’t feel up to a full dinner later that evening.

Ingredients for cucumber sandwiches laid out on cutting board.
Making the cucumber sandwiches

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Cucumber Sandwiches for an Afternoon Tea

Ingredients for cucumber sandwiches laid out on cutting board.
Easy small cucumber sandwiches to serve as finger food at an afternoon tea.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 0 minutes
Servings 40
Calories 55



  • 8 Ounces cream cheese softened to room temperature
  • 3 Tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 3-4 Teaspoons fresh chives minced
  • ½ Teaspoon salt and pepper 'to taste'
  • 24 cucumber slices About 1 1/2 to 2 cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 20 slices soft enriched white bread like Wonder bread
  • 2 Teaspoons fresh dill optional for garnish (use the frilly frond parts)


  • In a bowl, blend the cream cheese and mayonnaise together with a hand blender until smooth and spreadable. Stir in the chives and salt and pepper to taste.
    8 Ounces cream cheese, 3 Tablespoons mayonnaise, 3-4 Teaspoons fresh chives, 1/2 Teaspoon salt and pepper
  • Spread the cream cheese mixture onto one side of each piece of bread and top with thinly sliced cucumbers. Top with another slice of bread.
    24 cucumber slices, 20 slices soft enriched white bread
  • Using a sharp knife, cut off the crusts (you're left with a square). Cut the square diagonally and then cut each diagonal in half.
    You'll end up with 4 small triangular sandwiches. Garnish with dill fronds if desired.
    2 Teaspoons fresh dill
  • Serve immediately or cover and store up to 24 hours.


Calories: 55kcalCarbohydrates: 7gProtein: 2gFat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.3gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0.004gCholesterol: 6mgSodium: 107mgPotassium: 43mgFiber: 0.4gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 90IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 34mgIron: 0.5mg
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