Just in Time for Tea

ConferoHave a cup of tea, indeed!

by Christopher Confero   


March Hare: How about a nice cup of tea?

Alice: ‘Have a cup of tea,’ indeed! Well I’m sorry, but I just haven’t the time!

March Hare: The time! The time! Who’s got the time?”

 —Alice in Wonderland


Spring brings with it the desire to entertain. It doesn’t hurt that you can walk in the sunshine, smell the flowers, and watch people interact. After the winter the south has seen, that’s exactly what we all need. It’s the perfect time to invite friends over for afternoon tea.

Having afternoon tea at Claridge’s was a highlight from my London adventure last year. The clanking china and chattering voices taught me a thing or two about this British tradition. What I love most about the custom is the fact that they make time for this daily reflection with company. No matter how busy we get in today’s hustle and bustle world, we should always make time for loved ones and ourselves.

There’s no need to worry about invitations or even doilies. After all, this is a chance to catch up with friends, so it’s up to you concerning the formality of teatime. I do suggest that you pull out that beautiful china set and silverware you were given or purchased but rarely get to use. I know that I look forward to whenever I get to use my tea set from Bromberg’s.

In terms of treats, I like having a selection of both savory and sweet edibles. Use a tiered cake stand to serve your choices. Personally, I can’t help but crave a little cucumber sandwich with my English tea (see my recipe below). Whether it’s scones or sandwiches, make sure you keep it simple. That way you’re left with plenty of time and energy to mingle with your guests. All you should have left to do when your guests arrive is brew the tea.

If you’re a true tea enthusiast, then let me introduce you to a sweet friend of mine, Anita Kanellis, who has a fabulous tea company based here in Birmingham called B&B Special Teas. For Anita, tea is a very therapeutic experience, and she has now blossomed to serve as an outlet for others to partake in the daily ritual as well. With flavors such as chocolate raspberry truffle and apricot cinnamon spice,  your taste buds will certainly be delighted at teatime. Check her out at www.BandBspecialteas.com.

Lastly, presentation; afternoon tea is usually served on white linens. However, there’s no rulebook for these get-togethers. In fact, I urge you to use the spring season as inspiration. Cover your tables with that colorful patterned tablecloth that you love so much. It adds more to the personality of your party. One design aspect I always make sure to include at my parties is floral arrangements. Whether you pick some daffodils from the garden or purchase peonies from the market, flowers are an effortless way to brighten up the setting.


Confero’s Cucumber Tea Sandwich


4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

zest and juice of 1 lemon

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 slices good-quality white bread

1/3 large English seedless cucumber (about 4 inches), thinly sliced



In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, fresh dill, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Spread the cream cheese in a thin layer on each slice. Arrange the cucumber slices in rows over three slices of the bread. Top with the remaining bread, and cut off the bread crusts. Finally, cut into quarters so there are four pieces from each sandwich. Serve immediately.

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