October 12, 2019

"Downton Abbey" Tea Party!

Scene from Downtown Abbey PBS Series {Photo credit: Carnival Films}

Since Downtown Abbey is now on the big screen, it's the perfect time to throw an authentic English-style tea party. I hope that my recipes and etiquette tips inspire you to host a celebration of the new cinema release.

 Afternoon tea in the gardenat Downton Abbey {Photo credit: Carnival Films} 

To give you a little background ... Afternoon tea is a British tradition that dates to the mid-19th century. At aristocratic manor houses in the 1880s (when the first season of Downtown Abbey takes place), the four o'clock ritual was a fashionable event and a welcome snack before dinner. I've listed what you need to recreate this de rigeur upper-class social custom.

A Downton Abbey tea party calls for a beautiful bouquet!
Tablecloth is optional; fine furniture need not be covered.

Downton Abbey Tea Party
Afternoon Tea Essentials:
1.) Tablecloth and Flowers    
2.) Homemade Scones
3.) Cucumber Tea Sandwiches
4.) Selection of Sweets
5.) Black Tea and Cream

Afternoon tea scene from "Downton Abbey" Season Four {Photo credit: Carnival Films}

The Downton Abbey Afternoon Tea Menu:

Cream Scones
Photo Credit: Williams-Sonoma
2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon of granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1⁄4 teaspoon of salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) of cold unsalted butter
1 large egg
3/4 cup of heavy cream
1⁄2 cup of dried currants 


Preheat oven to 400 degrees Farhenheit. 

Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a bowl, mix the dry ingredients. Cut butter into small pieces and then add incorporate the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and cream. Stir in the currants until they are evenly distributed.

Step-by-step scones making instructions: Gently knead the dough by pressing it with the palm of your hand on a floured surface or in the bowl about 5 or 6 times. Stop when the dough holds together. Be careful not to overwork the dough—it should be soft (otherwise the scones will be tough).

Form the dough into two equal portions and shape each portion into an round that is 1 inch thick and 6 inches in diameter. Cut each round into 4 wedges. Arrange the wedges about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Bake until the scones are crusty and golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Serve scones warm, accompanied by clotted cream and lemon curd.

Cucumber Tea Sandwiches
Homemade cucumber tea sandwiches

Cucumber finger sandwiches are the classic choice for any afternoon tea menu. These dainty crust-less sandwiches provide a savory contrast to an assortment of cakes and sugary pastries. 

In London, these sandwiches are ubiquitous at fancy tea salons. Jessica Fellowes, niece of Downton Abbey screenwriter Julien Fellowes and author of The World of Downtown Abbey recommends the Cadogan Hotel, which she describes as a "sumptuous affair." Afternoon tea at the Cadogan Hotel includes cucumber sandwiches, scones with clotted cream, and sweet treats.


1 large cucumber
5 tablespoons of cream cheese
4 teaspoons of whipped cream
20 slices of white bread with crust removed


Peel the cucumber and cut it into thin slices. Whisk together the cream cheese and whipped cream. Cut white bread into equal-size rectangles or use cookie cutters to create shapes. Spread the cream cheese mixture onto the bread. Make sandwiches by placing slices of cucumber between two slices of bread. Serve at room temperature.

Afternoon tea service: homemade scones (with currants) and cucumber sandwiches


For the filling:

1 vanilla bean, split and scraped, pod reserved for another use
1 cup of crème fraîche
8 ounces assorted berries, remove stems and slice strawberries

For the mini-tart shells:
1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
4 1/2 teaspoons of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons of ice water


To make the tartlet shells (crust): Mix together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter and combine using your hands or in a food processor, until the mixture resembles pebbly sand. Blend in the egg yolk. Add the ice water slowly, and continue mix just until the dough comes together. (Dough should still be a bit crumbly.) Shape into a ball, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least 1 hour (or up to 2 days).

How to "blind bake" the tartlet shells (meaning you bake the crust without anything in them): Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Using a 3-inch cutter, cut out circles. Fit circles into 2 1/2-inch tart molds (or smaller), and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Line shells with squares of parchment paper, fill with pie weights or dried beans, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove parchment pieces and weights, and bake until shell is golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Invert shells onto rack, and let cool.
Demonstrating "blind baking" technique
How to make the filling: Mix vanilla seeds into crème fraîche until well combined. Spoon filling among tart shells, and top with strawberries. Serve immediately.

Afternoon tea to celebrate the Downton Abbey movie screening!

Afternoon Tea Etiquette:

*How to hold a teacup? 
Place your thumb on the front of the teacup handle and your index finger on the back of the handle. This allows you to hold the cup with three fingers. The "pinkies up" position is not necessary, but it's considered improper to hold the cup with five fingers. Do not loop your fingers through the handle or grasp the cup with the palm of your hand.

Lady Gaga demonstrates the proper way to hold a teacup! {Photo credit: Getty Images}

*How to eat a scone?
You may eat a scone similar to a dinner roll. Split it horizontally with a knife and use the knife to apply the jam, clotted cream or lemon curd. Then consume the scone neatly with your fingers.

The proper way to eat a scone is by breaking off small pieces, using your hands.

*How to serve sugar cubes?
The proper way to serve sugar cubes is with tongs. Use the tongs to pick up a sugar cube and place it in your teacup. Do not use your fingers to pick up sugar cubes.

The traditional way to serve sugar cubes is with small tongs.

*How to stir and sip?
The tea is poured into the cup first. It should not be filled to the brim. According to etiquette protocol, sugar is added next and milk is added last. When stirring cream and sugar into your tea, do so gently in two or three motions. Tea should always be sipped in small amounts and not slurped. 

 Cora from Downton Abbey sips tea properly. {Photo credit: Carnival Films}

 The Dowager Countess always exemplifies proper etiquette. {Photo credit: Carnival Films}

Copyright © 2019, Lisa Alexander. Originally posted in January 2014 and re-posted to coincide with the 2019 "Downton Abbey" movie screening. All rights reserved.

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Giardino Segreto said...

That seems like a perfect tea party for two or for 10. I love the advice on how to hold a teacup and how to stir and sip. Never thought that there's an etiquette for that! Love your website.

Andy said...

Yet again, you've added to the conversation about enjoying fine baked goods with class and detail.
But what about the tea itself? I've always been lost with what tea is best when - is English Breakfast only for mornings? And what about tea in the afternoon?
And who knew there could be a drinking game associated with DOwnton Abbey? Pinkies Up!

Miss Patisserie said...

Thanks for your comments! Yes, you will look very elegant simply by sipping and stirring tea correctly! :)

Miss Patisserie said...

Andy, thanks for the compliment! To answer your question, English Breakfast tea has been marketed in England as a breakfast tea for over a century! I believe this is because it has a robust flavor and higher level of caffeine than other black teas. Here's more information on the topic: http://www.mrbreakfast.com/ask.asp?askid=22