I read somewhere that tea parties are comprised of choosing your best tea set, selecting the perfect flowers, setting a beautiful table, performing the ritual of steeping a lovely blend and spending hours dedicated to this elegant ceremony. It would, it seems, make one slow down and cherish each and every moment of the activity.
Guess what? I LOVE a tea party, but I don’t spend hours dedicated to it. OK, maybe I do, but in a really fun, creative cooking and decorating way. So, here is the run down on what is sure to make your tea party a success.
Let’s start with the obvious- the tea. It’s believed that the ancient Chinese first touted the medicinal qualities of tea. Through the ages came more and more scientific proof that tea has a substantial variety of health benefits. Mostly, though, tea just makes us feel good and relaxed.
The basic types of tea leaves are as follows:
Black, green and white tea comes from the same plant and are considered to be the “true” teas.
Ooolong is a cross between black and green, so is also a “true” tea.
Black tea is the strongest and has the most caffeine – about half the amount in a cup of coffee.
Green tea is more subtle and has about one third the amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee.
White tea undergoes the least amount of processing and thus retains the most medicinal properties.
Rooibos is a caffeine free herbal infusion. Other herb teas are not teas at all, but are technically called infusions and are caffeine free beverages. Of course herbs can be just as beneficial and taste just as soothing as “true” teas, so drink up.
For your party, I would recommend providing one true tea and one caffeine free herbal drink at your party. Also, have lots of water and possibly some other type of fruit juice for the friends who don’t drink tea of any kind.
Use a clean kettle to bring bottled water to just under a boil. Water from the tap may affect the pure taste of the tea leaves. As the water is heating up, use a smidgen to swirl around in your tea pot to warm it up. This will prevent cracking by pouring hot water directly into a cold china tea pot.
Use one teaspoon of loose tea or one tea bag per cup of water plus one extra. A soon as the water comes to a boil, pour it into the tea pot over the tea leaves. Steep for three to five minutes and then remove the tea bags or tea filled strainers from the pot.
Provide a variety of sweeteners as well as milk for your guests to enjoy.
Remember when Mom and Dad used to say, “Stop playing with your food!”? Well, you are hereby granted permission to play with the food for your tea party. That is why I LOVE making little finger foods, appetizers and snacks. Be as artsy and creative as you like. Just remember that the food has to be easily handled, it has to be small to fit on a desert or salad plate and it has to look and taste delicious. A successful tea party will have both savory and sweet foods. Think little finger sandwiches, scones and tiny deserts.
The tablescape: I start every party table with a color scheme. My china and the seasons usually impact my colors. Your colors can be serene, lively, or holiday festive. It’s up to you of course but, as you know, colors do dictate mood, so decide what it is that you want to convey and have fun!
Your guests will feel welcome and pampered if everything is out and prepared ahead of time. You don’t have to have elegant, palatial surroundings to set a beautiful tea party. A serving cart, or even a kitchen table or a coffee table will do. You can elevate a plain table with a crisp, clean and ironed tablecloth. A cloth is not necessary, but it can go a long way in setting your scene. Your friends and family are also to be considered. If a tablecloth will make them feel less relaxed, then nix the cloth and go more casual Sweet Pea.
Your china can be an elegant, matched set or a mash-up of charming little cups and saucers that you have collected over time. What is important is that each place setting has a tea cup and saucer, a desert or salad plate, a tea spoon, a small butter/jam knife, and a desert spoon if you are serving any type of creamy desert. Also provide cloth napkins for each guest.
For the communal table, you need a tea pot, a tea strainer if you have used loose leaves in the pot and a sugar and creamer/milk set. Thinly sliced lemons can be provided on a small plate or bowl. A tea tray is a nice touch, but is also not necessary.
Fresh flowers are a great way to liven up a table. You can choose whatever is in season and compliments your color scheme.
Finally, relax and have fun. My Mama used to say that if the host is relaxed and having fun, then the guests will too.