Afternoon tea is most often served on a three-tiered silver stand, which allows guests to admire the beautiful selections and the creativity of the chef. We always taste first with our eyes! There is a preferred sequence when plating tea foods on a tiered tray. Begin eating from the bottom tier and work your way up.
The three courses should be: bottom tier: tea sandwiches and savories; middle tier: scones or crumpets; top tier: pastries, tarts, or any dessert-type sweet. Be sure no single item overshadows any other. A successful afternoon tea is all about perfect balance and harmony.
Tea sandwiches are called savories, tasty tidbits eaten first to blunt the appetite. English tea sandwich selections have stayed the same for nearly a century — cucumber, egg and cress, smoked salmon, and chicken salad. That standard is changing worldwide as travel increases and cuisines blend together. Today’s choices may include open-faced or closed sandwiches, wraps, pinwheels, or puff pastries filled with delightful regional delicacies. It’s all about being creative.
Bread for tea sandwiches should be trimmed of all crusts. Frozen bread is much easier to trim. Sandwiches may be made ahead of time, placed in airtight containers and refrigerated up to 12 hours. Be sure to place a slightly damp paper towel over each layer to prevent dry sandwiches.
— By Bruce Richardson, Elmwood Inn Fine Teas