Ironically, it is the economic downturn, which began around 2008 that is credited for this revival. The return to more traditional values and homely pursuits is more prevalent when money is tight.
Today, the afternoon repast tends both to replace lunch and diminish the need for a large dinner. 'Stay at Home' Mom’s use afternoon tea as a way to meet and eat. What better way is there to use up free time on a cold, wet January afternoon than a spending a few hours lingering over tea and scones with friends? So fashionable is afternoon tea that brides on a budget are choosing to serve it instead of the formal sit-down meal.
A Wilmington Irish afternoon tea consists of all the delicious items that Irish immigrants to the New World colonies would have had on their menu. The Irish Afternoon tea traditionally starts with savory finger-sized sandwiches filled with smoked salmon, cucumber, or egg salad with watercress. Scones follow these with jam and clotted cream or lemon curd. Finally, a selection of cakes served on tiered cake stands. Alongside of course, are copious cups of Irish tea or other favorite tea like Earl Gray. The tea is traditionally poured from heavy, ornate, silver teapots into delicate bone-china cups and served with milk or lemon. Today, the silver is replaced with glass and china teapots and cozies.
How to set up for an Irish American afternoon tea
1. Set up the serving table. It should be covered in a tablecloth and placed to allow ease of walking around the table to collect food. The tea may be served at one end of the serving table or the host to each guest may individually serve it as they are seated.
2. Use fine bone china teacups and silver flatware. Serving plates should be neatly stacked in a pile for guests to take. It is often best to leave the food on the serving table for guests to take themselves, however, individually hand the teacup and saucer with teaspoon as you pour the tea. Be sure to provide sugar cubes. As Irish tea is already milky, it should be served prepared. This means placing milk into the teacup prior to pouring the tea. Explain this to guests before proceeding because some people may prefer to leave the milk out.
3. Prepare the items for the serving table
- Variety of jams
- Clotted cream
- Fresh butter
4. Decorate the serving table. Consider using green napkins, china with traditional Irish designs such as Celtic knots, clover, meadow flowers, etc.
5. Prepare the food. Some ideal items include:
- Irish soda bread
- Irish apple scones
- Irish chocolate mousse
- Irish shortbread
- Irish lemon whiskey cake
6. Place all the food items on the serving table. Be sure to check that there are enough serving tools for each food item.
7. Encourage guests to take seconds and more. Play Celtic music softly in the background and enjoy the afternoon with friends.