The silver dome has all but disappeared from modern tea wares, allowing scones to migrate to a lower tier and hostesses to vary the order. During afternoon tea, the accepted rule of thumb generally remains that the food is served from the bottom tier up. This emphasis on course order makes etiquette easy, as well as provides the aesthetic benefit of a full top tier throughout tea.
The tea tray is still hard at work today. However, imagination and taste trump tradition, permitting hosts to layer the savories, sweets, and scones—or any fare, for that matter—in a customized arrangement best suited to the event. Scones can be accompanied by, or replaced with, muffins or miniature bagels. The savories tier can present simple sandwiches, quiches, egg rolls, or empanadas. And the sweets can include brownies, cookies, and dipped fresh strawberries.