Happy Hour at Home: How to Have Afternoon Tea Service at Home

Be our guest for Happy Hour at Home, a small series about the joys of lesbian socializing from home, because let’s be honest with ourselves — we’re going to be here for a while.

I’ve been trying to think of little ways to break up the day but also to replace the social act of going out for food and drink. It’s not just the food and fancy cocktails I miss about restaurants but the ritual and space itself. (Bryan Washington wrote on this beautifully, focusing specifically on Houston.)

I’ve been hosting happy hours for me and my girlfriend at home, complete with fresh fruit margaritas and Vanderpump Rules viewing sessions (everyone talks so chaotically and at the same time on that show that it feels like you are in a noisy bar!). But yesterday I decided to do something a little different: afternoon tea service at home.

When I lived in New York, tea service was something I liked to do for special occasions. I drink tea all the time at home (I make a perfect cup of masala chai btw which is absolutely a brag but I’m not precious about the recipe so maybe I’ll share on here soon!). But TEA SERVICE? AT HOME? It had never occurred to me until home suddenly became the only bar/restaurant/cafe I’ll experience for the foreseeable future.

I don’t have any fancy teapots or china where I currently live, but that’s okay! My simple but still special tea service consisted of the following:

  • Tea (any kind you like! tbt when I wrote a guide to drinking tea post-heartbreak lol)
  • Tiny! Sandwiches! I love those goddamn itty bitty sandwiches that come with tea service. And I recreated them just using regular ol sliced sandwich bread that I cut into quarters. one version I made with sliced ham and avocado and another version I made with spreadable garlic and herb cheese and sliced cucumbers. Theoretically you could make literally any kind of tiny sandwich. Tiny pb&js! So cute! Keep it simple.
  • Sweets! Simple cakes or cupcakes or cookies are the idea. As for me, I made lemon rosemary olive oil cookies (recipe below) because I suddenly remembered I have a rosemary plant in my apartment. But you could also use pre-packaged cookies! Maybe think about what goes with the tea you’re choosing. Gingersnaps would go great with ginger-lemon tea; something light and simple like a sugar cookie would be good with black tea; maybe a lemon cookie to go with a fruity tea. Those packaged wafer sticks that I’m freakin obsessed with would also be good for tea service. MAKE A WHOLE ASS CAKE IF YOU WANNA! Now would be a very good time to delve into the Femme Brûlée archives, but some of the specific recipes that I’ve flagged as good for afternoon tea are Reneice’s cheddar apple crackers, flourless chocolate cake, cinnamon sour cream coffee cake, cranberry white chocolate scones, and no bake fruit tart.

You don’t have to convert your kitchen into a whole ass tea parlor, but there are little things you can do for ambiance. I had fresh flowers that were still looking good even though I bought them pre social distancing, so I set those out. I also lit the fuck outta some scented candles (wow I’ve written about candles before, too). My girlfriend and I also put on floral-print clothing because why the hell not. Maybe you want to make an afternoon tea service playlist. I didn’t think of that until now, but it’s a pretty good idea!!!!

Yes, I am lucky to be staying at home with a partner, but don’t let being home alone stop you from indulging in tea service. Read a book while you sip your tea or do something relaxing like a puzzle or watching Great British Bake OffVideo chat in some friends and don fancy hats. Get cozy.

Here is the recipe I used for the cookies: Lemon Rosemary Olive Oil Cookies.

Some notes: I did not have lemon olive oil nor particularly fancy olive oil so I added about a table spoon of fresh lemon juice to my basic olive oil. I also used a lot more lemon zest and rosemary than it called for. I also froze half of the dough to use later.

Pinkies up bitch!

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 814 articles for us.


  1. My college friends and I had a skype tea party this week where we all put on fancy clothes and drank tea together. As nice as being in pajamas all the time has been, it also really helped to have a reason to dress nicer and put my tea in a fancy cup instead of a thermos like the rest of the week and, like, actually brush my hair. One of the participants actually made herself profiteroles, which is way more put together than I can manage, but I highly recommend the “communal” tea party experience. Maybe next time I’ll make myself some fancy tiny sandwiches, that is more doable than pastry.

  2. I love this! I’m always getting hungry around 3pm and I never know what to eat because I’m worried about ruining my dinner appetite. Now I know exactly what my day needs.

  3. Oh no this activated too many grandmother feelings and now I’m leaking
    Was just going to pop up to mention cracker sandwiches as savory option with anything creamy spreadable but not jam. Jam too slippery, and jelly no way josé.

  4. Wow I literally just ordered cream cheese, cucumber and dill for curbside pickup yesterday so I too could make tiny sandwiches accompanied by ginger chai and I’m so glad you’re already out there DOING IT and living the best quarantine life

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