Updated: Aug 24, 2021
There are lots of things to think about when creating an afternoon tea service for takeout...how you will package it, how you'll take the orders, how frequently you will schedule pick ups and other logistical issues, but all those won't matter if your food doesn't taste delicious, travel well or be easy for the guest to serve.
Things to think about include:
- Will this item still be delicious, have a good texture and be safe to eat if not consumed immediately?
Some folks will pick up their order for use later in the day. When you are serving in your dining room, you expect people to eat the food then, and if they take a doggy bag, they don't expect the food to be the same quality as they enjoyed in your tea room.
One way we have adapted our menu is to use thicker sandwich fillings so the tea sandwiches don't get mushy. We might use cream cheese instead of all mayonnaise in some fillings. We often make a lemon herb chicken salad, and have replaced the lemon juice with a pinch of powdered citric acid and lemon zest. We might use mustard powder instead of mustard.
We also often use premade phyllo tart shells with a filling, like an artichoke parmesan mixture, but the tart shells don't stay crisp very long, so we switched to a pastry shell brushed with an egg wash. Same thing with dessert items. We overbake our cream puffs just a bit so they stay crispy longer. We use a little moulded chocolate cup filled with something yummy, since it doesn't get mushy at all.
We also adapted our homemade mock clotted cream recipe to include whipped cream cheese so that it holds up a lot longer...the kind we serve in-house needs to be rewhipped if it sits overnight.
- Will your items travel well and arrive looking beautiful?
The decorated cupcake might look darling when you put it in the box, but what if they have to slam on their brakes? We pre-frost our mini cakes whenever possible and pop them in the freezer on warm days, so that if they tip over, they will not smear frosting on other items.
We also use colored foil cupcake liners to separate and hold tippy items in place in the takeout box. We always include a little fresh fruit on our teas and the foil papers keep the juices from running onto other items too.
- Will the menu be easy for folks to enjoy at home?
In our dining rooms, we often serve our tea with warm savories, that are plated just as the tiered stand is heading out the kitchen door. We discovered that some folks are eating the tea alfresco, or dropping of at a senior living facility. Giving them a savory item that needs to be heated means that in many cases, it won't be served that way. We swapped out recipes for things that can be enjoyed either cold or at room temperature.
We do include soup with one of our afternoon tea, but use a microwavable paper cup rather than styrofoam, so if the tea is to be served informally, they can easily reheat it.
These are just some of the ways you can ensure your afternoon tea will be as wonderful to-go as it is in your establishment. Please share your tips and tricks in the comments.