When serving high tea at home, a broad assortment of tea flavors and fine finger foods should be presented to guests in an elegant and fashionable manner. A mixed and matched set of tea serving instruments may be used to provide eclectic and traditional charm to the meal, although each piece should be made of fine china or porcelain. Guests can be made to feel comfortable in a relaxed environment that revolves around a uniquely set table that displays the foods, teas, and serving ware that will be enjoyed during the course of the afternoon.
When serving high tea at home, it should begin promptly at four o'clock in the afternoon. Other serving times may range between three and five in the afternoon, but these cannot be considered high tea. This occasion is differentiated from standard afternoon tea by the more extravagant amounts of food served. High tea is often used as a substitution for dinner, depending on the types and amount of food present.
The type of serving ware used during high tea at home is usually characterized by its formal nature. Fine china tea cups and teapots, linen napkins, and silver eating utensils are traditionally used. A sugar bowl and cream bowl should also be present, as well as numerous dessert plates, dessert forks, and teaspoons. The serving table may be additionally adorned with lace or paper doilies to hold serving trays of food, and seasonal displays of flowers.
A wide variety of tea flavors should be offered during the afternoon tea time. This variety allows guests to sample different blends, from dark and exotic flavors to light, herbal remedies, in the course of one afternoon. To create a traditional high tea at home, the tea should be loose leaf, and brewed in separate, small tea pots. Some hosts may prefer to offer each guest their own pot and signature tea to enjoy for the entire occasion. Less formal high teas may include the use of tea bags, in which each flavor may be sampled one cup at a time, and teapots contain only hot water.
Any type of small finger foods may be served for high tea at home. These can include different types of sandwiches, petit fours, scones, cream puffs and egg souffles. Similar to the variety of teas made available, guests should be allowed to choose from a wide selection of food items to fill their plates. All food should be arranged in a pleasing table presentation that is as beautiful to the eye as it is delicious to the palate.