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What is Eaten in an Afternoon Tea First Course?

Wondering what is traditionally served in an afternoon tea first course?   Maybe you are ready to plan your first tea party and want to know all about what to serve, what goes where and how to make things simple.  

Or even more exciting, maybe you’re getting ready to attend your first official afternoon tea?  Read on for the skinny on the first course usually served at a traditional English afternoon tea, so you’ll be ready no matter if you’re throwing your own tea, or attending a swanky afternoon tea at a fancy hotel.  

Read on for over 75 delicious ideas and recipes to serve as the first course at your next afternoon tea or tea party.

Three Courses in an Afternoon Tea

When you’re figuring out the order of food at an afternoon tea, think “savory to sweet”.  Each successive course becomes less savory and more sweet as the afternoon tea progresses.  

  1. First Course:  Tea Sandwiches & Savory Snacks
  2. Second Course:  Scones
  3. Third Course:  Sweet treats

What Is a Savory Food?

A savory food is one that is salty or spicy, rather than sweet. Think of roast beef instead of something sweet like a cupcake.

afternoon tea first course
The first course belongs on the bottom level of a three tiered tea tray.

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What is the First Course for Afternoon Tea?

Whether you’re out at a traditional English afternoon tea, or hosting a casual tea party gathering with friends, the afternoon tea first course is made up of tea sandwiches and other savory tea party food, like mini quiches and other delicious savory small bites.  

If you’re hosting a tea, all these sandwiches and savory snacks go on the bottom level of a three-tiered tea tray like this one.

Yesland 3-Tier Porcelain Cupcake Stand, Embossed Cake Stand and Dessert Stand, White Cakes Fruits Candy Pastry Buffet Stand Serving Trays Cupcake Tower for Wedding, Tea Party and Birthday

How Many First Course Servings for Each Guest?

A general rule of thumb is to provide 4-6 servings of tea sandwiches and savory bites for each guest. That may seem like overkill, but remember they’re very small! Each serving is only 2-3 bites!

What is a Tea Sandwich?

Tea sandwiches are tiny creations made to be eaten in two or three bites. They are created on thinly sliced bread from almost any savory filling from eggs to roast beef.

What is a Finger Sandwich?

A finger sandwich is simply another name for a tea sandwich. It’s just a small, usually halved or quartered sandwich made to be eaten with the fingers and finished in several bites.

Are Tea Sandwiches Hard to Make?

Tea sandwiches are easy to make and they are extremely versatile since you can make them in an almost infinite amount of ingredient combinations. Making your own? See this post on how to make tea sandwiches like a pro.

Afternoon Tea First Course Sandwich Ideas

If you’re looking for ideas for delicious, easy to make tea sandwiches, look no further. Scroll below and click on the images to be taken to tons of ideas for the tea party sandwiches to make your gathering just perfect.

Savory Tea Party Finger Sandwiches

In this list you’ll find recipes for 16 deliciously different tea sandwiches from Italian pinwheels to tiny crab salad sandwiches.

savory tea sandwiches
Recipes for savory tea sandwiches

Savory Tea Party Food Ideas

Looking for a first course recipe that’s not a sandwich? Check out this list of savory tea party food ideas that range from deviled eggs to smoked salmon bites. Yum!

savory tea party food ideas graphic
Savory Tea Party Recipes

Savory Finger Sandwiches

You’re sure to find the perfect small bite in this list of savory finger sandwich recipes. The variety ranges from the traditional cucumber sandwich and coronation sandwich to the more casual but equally delicious mini slider.

easy finger sandwich recipes
Savory finger sandwich recipes

Vegan and Vegetarian Tea Party First Course Ideas

Are you expecting guests who don’t eat meat or animal products? No worries! Because the tea sandwich is such a versatile food, you can easily whip up some first course treats just for your guests who are vegan or vegetarian.

Savory Vegetarian Finger Sandwiches

You don’t even need to be vegetarian to appreciate the deliciousness of some of these recipes. From gooey grilled brie cheese sandwiches, to a chickpea salad sandwich, these savory vegetarian finger sandwiches are sure to please every guest.

vegetarian tea sandwich recipes
Vegetarian finger sandwich recipe ideas

Vegan Tea Party Menu Ideas

If you have vegans attending, you’ll definitely want to make them feel welcomed by including some vegan choices for your tea party menu. This list of vegan tea party menu ideas contains both savory first course choices, as well as some sweet treats as well. Check out the recipe for roasted tomato and avocado crostini, it’s delicious enough to fool your non-vegan guests as well!

tea party menu vegan
Vegan tea party menu ideas

Choosing the right afternoon tea first course recipe doesn’t have to be hard!

Don’t be overwhelmed by the number of choices! Simply pick a couple of recipes and you’re good to go. Want an even simpler guideline to tea party food? Check out this short, sweet guide to small bites tea party food!

Want to save this post for later? Save it to your favorite tea Pinterest Board and pass it on!

afternoon tea first course graphic
Save to your favorite Pinterest Board for later!