Top 8 Afternoon Teas to Serve to Guests

Whether you call it high tea, low tea, or afternoon tea, afternoon tea is an occasion to socialize and relax in style with friends. Selecting a great tea for afternoon tea is just one of the many aspects of the occasion, but it's often largely overlooked by people putting on or attending afternoon teas. This list of top ten afternoon teas includes old and new favorites that are well suited to pairing with ​afternoon tea fare.

  • 01 of 08

    Earl Grey Tea

    Steeping Earl Grey tea

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    Earl Grey is one of the world's most well-known flavored black teas. It gets its citrusy flavor from the essential oil of bergamot (an orange-like fruit). It is served and enjoyed both hot and cold. The natural sweetness of Earl Grey lends itself to pairing with many afternoon tea sweets, like scones, Madeline cakes, and shortbread cookies.

  • 02 of 08

    Assam Black Tea

    Assam tea leaves

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    Assam black tea is grown in the mountainous region of Assam, India. It is known for its robust, malty, and sometimes tannic (astringent) flavor. A popular breakfast tea, many people enjoy their Assam tea with a little milk and sugar. With milk and sugar, Assam teas are ideal for afternoon tea sweets. Without them, Assams can stand up to flavorful savory foods, like finger sandwiches and quiche.

  • 03 of 08

    Ceylon Black Tea / Sri Lankan Black Tea

    Hong Kong Milk Tea

    The Spruce Eats

    Ceylon teas include white, green, oolong and black varieties, but Ceylon black teas are the most popular choice for afternoon tea. Famous black teas from Sri Lanka (formerly known as "Ceylon") include:

    • Orange Pekoe, which does not taste like oranges, and is actually a tea grade made in India and Sri Lanka
    • Nuwara Eliya, which is floral and light
    • Uva, which is sweet, woodsy, and good with milk
    • Dimbula, which varies widely
  • 04 of 08

    Darjeeling Black Tea

    Darjeeling tea
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    Darjeelings are black teas from Darjeeling, India, and are a classic pairing for afternoon tea foods. There are three main flushes for this tea: spring, summer, and autumn. Darjeeling's first flush in spring is more floral and green in flavor; the second flush in the summer has a distinctive fruity flavor similar to a muscatel grape, while the third flush in the autumn is a darker colored tea. They all work well with savory afternoon tea foods, and the second flush is also great with chocolate, fruity desserts, and pastries. This tea is very aromatic and sensitive to air, light, and odors, so store this in a sealed container in a dark cupboard or pantry. 

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Chamomile "Tea"

    Woman holding cup with chamomile tea
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    Chamomile is an herbal infusion with a floral, apple-like flavor. Many people select it for afternoon tea because it is naturally caffeine-free. This tea is known for its soothing and relaxing properties. It also pairs wonderfully with afternoon tea sweets, especially scones and fruity confections.

  • 06 of 08

    Mint "Tea"

    Easy Mint Tea

    The Spruce Eats

    Like chamomile, many mint teas are caffeine-free herbal infusions. A herbal tea or tisane, there are many varieties of mint leaves. Peppermint and spearmint are very well-known and classic choices. Some herbal infusions combine mint with other herbs. This tea can be served either hot or cold, with or without lemon or sweetener.

    When considering whether or not to pair a mint infusion with your afternoon tea fare, ask yourself, "Would I ever use mint as an ingredient in this dish?" You'll likely find that mint "teas" are great with a range of finger sandwiches, fruity sweets, chocolatey sweets, and neutral sweets (like vanilla pound cake or plain shortbread).

  • 07 of 08

    Smoked Black Teas: Russian Caravan/Lapsang Souchong

    Lapsang Souchong Black Tea

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    Lapsang Souchong and Russian Caravan are both popular smoked black teas. They have a strong, smoky flavor that's ideally paired with equally strong foods. They go well with heavy sweets, smoked salmon finger sandwiches, and flavorful quiches. Normally these teas are served hot, and you can add a little sugar or lemon if desired. They also make wonderful iced teas.

    Specialty smoked black teas include Tarry Souchong, Smoked Earl Grey, and Smoked Tanzanian Black Tea. These can be paired in a similar manner to Lapsang Souchong and Russian Caravan.

  • 08 of 08

    White Tea

    White tea
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    White tea is low in caffeine, sweet, light gold in color with a delicate floral fragrance. This tea gets its name from the white hairs that are on the young leaves. White tea is ideal with afternoon tea foods like scones, sponge cake, or shortbread cookies.