When it comes to charcuterie, the Brits have been doing it right.
Usually when people imagine charcuterie, they imagine it on a board or spread out on a table. Certainly most people don’t think of their charcuterie stacking up vertically.
One might say I’ve combined England’s love for high tea and America’s love for charcuterie to create something new…
The Origins of Afternoon Tea
But that’s just what the English have done, however. Afternoon tea is somewhat of a ritual meal served in the mid-to-late afternoon, between lunch and dinner. First popularized in the 1840s by the seventh Dutchess of Bedford, afternoon tea was meant to satiate a hungry duke’s wife because he liked to have dinner fashionably late – around 8pm.
She soon made a routine of having this mid-afternoon meal and eventually started inviting her friends to join here; and from there it evolved into a somewhat formal affair for upper class individuals in the 1880s.
The first high tea trays would have included bits of biscuits, butters, jams and dainty fruits. Finger sandwiches and eventually desserts like cranachan also joined the spread.
The Order To Dine In
There is a formal order in which to dine upon afternoon tea. While there are many recommendations on how to eat your afternoon tea, this spread is a cross between charcuterie and afternoon tea, meaning it is a less formal affair.
However, the only rule I impose is to eat your afternoon tea from bottom to top.
Bottom Layer: Petite Sandwiches & Croustinis
The first layer of your board should have several different bite sized sandwiches available. You can make this easy on yourself by buying premade chicken salad, tuna salad and/or egg salad and then assembling the sandwiches from there.
I fancied up the sandwiches by adding some greens like fresh dill to the egg salad croissant and microgreens on top of the chicken salad.
Because this is technically also a charcuterie spread, I also included cured meats, cheeses and croustinis on the bottom layer.
Each of the bites with meat start with the same base: buttered, toasted croustini. From there I made 3-4 of each different option: lox & cream cheese; prosciutto & brie; and proscuitto & whole grain mustard. Feel free to mix and match flavor combinations to your preferences!
Second Layer: Scones, Jams & Clotted Cream
For the middle layer, traditionally scones are served with clotted cream and various jams. I bought some premade cranberry orange scones and served them alongside a few spare slices of the breads I used for the sandwiches.
Scones are usually notoriously dry and crumbly, so it’s best to serve them with fresh fruits like strawberries to counteract the dryness. They also aren’t overly sweet, meaning you can slather on the clotted cream to your heart’s desire.
This layer is meant to transition from the savory bottom layer to the sweet layer on top.
Because we are fusing the concept of charcuterie with afternoon tea, I had sweet jams but also included a spicy pepper jam and a peach bourbon jelly option – which are great to combine on a slice of bread with a swipe of clotted cream.
Top Layer: Desserts & Sweets
The top layer of afternoon tea is reserved for all things sweet! Traditional English desserts include sfogliatine and pecan tassies but I also tossed on a few mini cranachan (inspired by Harry Potter!) and a mini strawberry cheesecake to split!
Each sweet should be able to be eaten in just a few bites. I found the pecan tassies and sgfogliatine premade at my grocery store – and the mini cheesecake was found at a local bakery!
The only dessert element that I actually spent time assembling was the cranachan and raspberry coulis – but DIY is totally optional. Cranachans are pretty similar to what Americans would recognize as parfait, so it’s just as easy to serve that as a replacement without getting the stove hot.
Don’t Forget the TEA
Of course, you can’t have afternoon tea without serving actual tea too! To keep it simple – and give everyone a range of teas to taste – I simply provided a teapot with hot water along with some teabags in various flavors of tea!
Afternoon Tea Charcuterie
- 4 mini chicken salad sandwiches with microgreens
- 4 mini tuna salad sandwiches on wheat
- 4 mini egg salad croissants with fresh dill
- 4 toasted croustini with cream cheese & smoked salmon
- 4 toasted croustini with mustard, brie & prosciutto
- 4 pepperoni wrapped mozzarella cheese cut into bite size pieces
- 4 small slices of bread white & wheat
- double cream
- clotted cream
- sweet jams strawberry, orange, lemon, peach bourbon, etc.
- spicy jellies raspberry pepper, mango habanero, etc.
- 4 scones orange cranberry, plain, etc.
- 8 fresh strawberries
- 4 pecan tassies
- 4 sfogliatine
- mini cheesecake strawberry, caramel, chocolate, etc
- 2 cranachan or can swap for parfait
- fresh berries
- tea loose or bagged
- Assemble the finger sandwiches and use a sharp serrated knife to remove the crusts from the sliced bread so that four smaller sandwiches can be made from one regular sized sandwich. Each sandwich should be about 1×1 inches wide and thick. Dress up the sandwiches with fresh herbs and microgreens as desired.
- Assemble the croustini with prosciutto, slices of brie and about a teaspoon of whole grain mustard (per croustini). Repeat the same process with the slices of lox and cream cheese. Keep at room temperature – and make these closer to when time comes to serve so that the croustini don't get soggy.
- Assemble the cranachan or parfait as desired. Chill until ready to set the table and serve.
- When ready to serve, bring a kettle of water to a rolling boil. Transfer the hot water to a teapot and serve alongside several options of bagged or loose tea.
- Arrange the finger sandwiches and croustini on the bottom level along with the wrapped cheeses.
- On the second level add the jams, jellies, clotted cream, scones and fresh strawberries.
- On the top level, arrange the desserts as desired! Enjoy with hot tea and good company.