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A Tasteful Tradition


Versatile, delectable, and fun are just a few words that describe the tea sandwich. It is one of the staples of afternoon tea, a setting distinct from high tea because of its earlier serving time and requisite light fare. Susan Johnstone, proprietor of The Lincoln Room in West Chester says, “High Tea is more substantial and filling and served later in the day, often around 5 or 6pm, with a light dinner followed much later.” So if you’re looking for a way to enjoy food and conversation with guests without stuffing them, look no further than afternoon tea featuring delicious tea sandwiches.

Sample of tea sandwiches served at The Lincoln Room

The tea sandwich delights with its dainty size, triangular shape and flavorful fillings. From smoked meat and fish to creamy nut spreads, tea sandwiches offer guests a sampling of bold flavors, rendering them invigorated and satisfied. They accommodate a variety of taste preferences. Egg salad, cucumber, and chicken salad fillings may satisfy guests with more traditional taste preferences, while an artichoke and Brie spread or hummus on baby spinach filling, both of which are served at The Lincoln Room, work well in settings with vegetarian guests or those interested in complex flavors.

Classic cucumber sandwich

Experimenting with breads also transforms taste and influences presentation. Johnstone explains, “White, wheat, cinnamon, pumpernickel, or other Artisan breads make interesting tea sandwiches.” As long as the fillings and breads, and the different sandwiches on the plate are in harmony, concoct away! Their individuality reflects the uniqueness of every tea party and engages guests in a fun way. Manipulating sandwich recipes and combination even influences the atmosphere of your afternoon tea or party.

Though the versatility of tea sandwiches releases hosts from the seemingly rigid tradition of tea time etiquette, following the basic requirements for what Johnstone calls a “true tea serving style” both preserves the afternoon tea tradition and allows all guests to relax and enjoy a summer treat. First, no tea bags are allowed on the table “unless you are on the go,” says Johnstone. “Loose tea must be steeped and strained before drinking,” which maximizes time for socializing. A proper table requires linen tablecloths and napkins, a decision hosts can make based on the theme or atmosphere they want to create. Serve the tea and sandwiches on china, accompanied by a small cup of soup for each guest.

Formal tea table setting

When choosing a platter for the sandwiches, Johnstone recommends using your favorite dish, but to seriously consider the formality of the event, the number of guests, the types of sandwiches served, and the food accompanying the sandwiches. Finally, entice guests after the sandwiches with quiche, tasty scones, cookies, and tarts with butter, cream, and jams.

Prefer to leave the hosting duties to someone else? Visit one of the many tearooms in Brandywine Country and cultivate a truly original experience.

The historic tradition of enjoying tea sandwiches with afternoon tea endures in the 21st century. The practice complements the summer season of long days and flexible schedules allowing participants to slow down and indulge in the simple pleasure of the petite crustless sandwich.

Keep reading for a recipe from a local tearoom and map of where to have tea in the Brandywine Valley.

Recipe: Abigail’s Tearoom Chicken Salad


  • 3 to 3 ½ pounds of chicken breast fully cooked, removed from bone and diced
  • 2 cups of chopped celery
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon pepper
  • ¾ cup finely chopped dried cranberries
  • 1 1/3 cup of mayonnaise
  • 3 hard boiled eggs chopped fine (optional)


  1. Use large mix bowl and add chicken breast, 2 cups chopped celery ¾ cup chopped cranberries 1 tablespoon onion powder 1 teaspoon salt ¾ teaspoon pepper
  2. Mix together well then add Add (optional) chopped hard boiled egg, 1 1/3 cup of mayonnaise spread over top then mixed in till blended well

Quick Notes

This is best left to marinate in refrigerator 6 to 8 hours or overnight to meld the flavors together

* Courtesy of Abigail’s Victorian Tearoom, www.abigailstearoom.com