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Twists on Australian high tea favourites

For their 2022 Pinterest Predicts trend report, afternoon tea was deemed the new happy hour with Pinterest claiming that the British tradition of scones and sandwiches has become “more than a meal–it’s a moment, an aesthetic, a pose.” Judging from the rise of the ‘tea party aesthetic’ on our Insta feeds and the increasing number of Aussie bakeries reinventing afternoon tea classics, it’s safe to say that we, too, agree. Here, we share the difference between afternoon tea and high tea, our favourite twists on Aussie teatime favourites, and a few table styling tips for the most elegant afternoon tea. 

“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea”
– Henry James

What is the difference between afternoon tea and high tea?

Aussies tend to use these terms interchangeably, with both referring to the elegant line-up of dainty sweets and savouries. The original British terms ‘afternoon tea’ and ‘high tea’, however, technically refer to different occasions. 

Despite the associations of a high-end affair, ‘high tea’ is actually not as fancy as ‘afternoon tea’. Instead of sandwiches and cakes, high tea originally featured more substantial food such as meat, fish and egg dishes and was served in the early evening. 

Afternoon tea, however, like its name suggests, takes place in the afternoon (in the 19th century, it was served around 4pm to tide you over till dinner at 8pm). It was traditionally known as ‘low tea’ as it was consumed on ‘low’ parlour chairs (or accent chairs) around a low table (or coffee table), as opposed to ‘high’ dining chairs at a high dining table for ‘high tea’.  

Twists on Aussie teatime favourites


Image via taste.com.au 

Scones with a twist

With cheese and Vegemite scrolls a lunchbox staple, applying these flavours to scones make perfect sense. Chef Matt Moran’s Vegemite and cheese scones are designed to be hefty triangles, but you can just as easily adapt The Great Australian Bake Off judge’s recipe using a glass tumbler to cut perfect rounds. For a sweeter twist, give these Black Forest scones a whirl. The dough is flavoured with cherry jam, drizzled with chocolate, then topped with cherry rippled sour cream for the ultimate decadent tea treat. Alternatively, bring tropical vibes to afternoon tea with these coconut scones with homemade lemon curd (pictured above).

Image via Flour and Stone

Finger buns with a twist

Across Australia, the finger bun is getting a makeover; cue Sydney bakery Flour and Stone’s famous coffee and cardamom finger buns (above). If you can’t go without the pink icing, dessert queen Anna Polyviou covers all the bases with her finger bun collection featuring the classic pink iced version, plus white chocolate chantilly cream buns, chocolate lamington buns and banoffee buns. And, if you’re after more dainty sweets for your tea, these mini finger buns have you covered. 

Image via Tokyo Lamington

Lamingtons with a twist

Australia’s lockdown in 2020 meant that bakery business Tokyo Lamington could not open where it was first intended in Japan, but it meant that Sydneysiders have been able to enjoy its many exotic takes on the lammo. Before you attempt jackfruit and yuzu lamingtons at home, perhaps you can start with these much easier Tim Tam lamington balls. For a textural sensation, we’re loving these fun jelly lamingtons and, for a fusion of two Aussie greats, check out these Iced Vovo lamingtons… and speaking of Iced Vovos…

Image via taste.com.au

Iced Vovos with a twist

Iced Vovos hold a special place in our hearts, so much so that Arnott’s gifted Australians with its original Iced Vovo recipe in 2020. Take this biccie to new levels with this Iced Vovo cheesecake slice that’s sure to be a conversation-starter at your next arvo tea. 

5 styling tips for afternoon tea

  1. Afternoon tea tends to revolve around the centrepiece: the three-tiered cake stand. When it comes to arranging the food on each tier, start from the bottom (first course), then move upwards (second course and third course). Traditionally, the bottom tier should comprise savouries and sandwiches; the second tier scones, and the third, cakes, tarts and slices. Each treat should ideally be no more than a few mouthfuls and should be easy to hold and eat. 

  2. Instead of a perfectly matched tea set, embrace the ‘vintage look’ with mismatched teacups and saucers in soft pastel colours and floral patterns and stripes. 
  3. Avoid any packaging on the table and decant milk in milk jugs, place sugar in sugar bowls (sugar cubes make an extra nice touch) and opt for loose leaf tea using teapots with infusers.  

  4. Consider setting up a drinks station so guests can help themselves. Use a bar cart or a buffet to set up a wide variety of tea, bubbles, spritz cocktails and mocktails in jugs and decanters
  5. If you’re catering for a much larger group, ditch the tiered cake stands and create a buffet table of large platters and serving boards. Check out our blog post on How to cater for a crowd for easy tips on creating a beautifully layered and dramatic spread. 
Selma Nada Rajah 23 March, 2023

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