High Tea Party: Hosting Afternoon Tea
Afternoon tea conjures images of fine China and English gardens. It is as much an activity as a beverage, one that denotes simple pleasure and quiet introspection. If coffee is accepted as the get-up-and-go drink of morning warriors, tea is the soothing balm that follows a harried lunch and precedes the day’s closing.
The beauty of tea is that it doesn’t have to be indulged alone, although it certainly can be. As a drink with ever-increasing popularity, tea is a smart refreshment choice for all types of social occasions. But before you reach for the cups and saucers, make sure you know the proper etiquette this age-old beverage demands.
Always offer two tea blends that complement your food selections, one of which should be a caffeine-free alternative. Few have mastered proper tea and food pairings, so you will likely need to stick with classic blends until you fully understand this art. Hearty black teas from India and China pair well with a variety of foods, whereas green tea is ideally suited to lighter fare, such as seafood or poultry. Aromatic blends like Earl Grey can be off-putting to some tea drinkers, while most connoisseurs prefer to enjoy the intricate flavors of oolong tea without interference from food. Similarly, the flavors of white tea are so delicate that most foods overpower them.
Finger foods that save guests from fumbling with heavy plates and a cup and saucer work best with tea. They also lend simplicity and elegance to both morning and afternoon events. Scones, small sandwiches, various breads, cakes, and cookies are among the most common choices served with tea. You can personalize these dishes when preparing them. Sandwiches with tarragon and shrimp are more memorable than those with standard cucumber, and the buttery flavor of shortbread cookies is richer than that of traditional chocolate chip cookies.
Above Right: Teas Pictured Here Are Available at RiverTea.com
Casual: How about a fun, themed girl's night? Go as girly as you like! Ask everyone to wear a dress and bring a fancy hat or purchase some hats, dresses and gloves ahead of time from a thrift or vintage clothing store. Don’t feel compelled to rush out and purchase a silver tea service. It’s a nice touch, but a simple tea set with a teapot, creamer, and sugar bowl works just as well. You will also need a plate for lemon slices. These pieces don’t need to match, and a fun and informal feeling can be achieved by mixing patterns and colors.Complete the party with old fashioned games - charades and cards are perfect for all weather, but croquet or horse shoes would be great when it's warm enough! Complete the party with a little "something stronger" and some good period movies - Jane Austen or Downton Abbey anyone?
Right: Serve goodies in style (and on the cheap!) How to guide at "Adventures in Creating!"
Formal: If your event is formal, you’ll need loose tea instead of tea bags. Prepare tea in the kitchen ahead of time by placing loose tea leaves in an infuser basket or disposable paper tea holder. Steep according to label instructions and remove spent leaves, then take the teapot to the table. Tea can be brewed up to an hour before guests arrive and kept warm in urns or carafes. You’ll want to use containers that have not previously contained coffee, as aromas from this beverage can linger and ruin the flavor profile of any tea.
Buffet: When hosting a buffet or shower, stack coffee cups and saucers at one end of the table. Arrange the tea service to the right, with plenty of teaspoons, lemon slices, sugar, and cream. Appoint friends to serve as pourers, and help them understand these posts demand grace. Cups should be filled to 2/3 full so guests have room for adding flavor agents. Once the guests have passed through the buffet line once, encourage pourers to move throughout the room and refill cups as necessary.
Tea parties of years passed meant warm hospitality and friendly conversation. Hours and worries melted away as the beverage flowed fragrantly from pot to cup. While this is a luxury few can enjoy every day – as some people once did - you can recreate the same pleasant feelings any time you decide to host a tea party. Simply plan ahead, sip the tea, and enjoy the finger foods. Here are just a few ideas to get you started:
Curry Chicken Salad Recipe: "...with a little Sweet and Spicy Curried Chicken Salad Sandwich on toasted tandoori naan to take along and make things extra special and flavorful, you’ll realize that today is as good a day as any to really start savoring those precious little moments you do have."
Herbed Shrimp Salad: "Full of bright flavors, this shrimp salad is delicious on its own, too. If you’re in a hurry, you can use precooked shrimp for an easy weeknight dinner. The shrimp salad will keep for up to 2 days, covered, in the refrigerator."
Tomato Mozzarella Salad Recipe: "There is something about ripe cherry tomatoes and mini “pearl” mozzarella balls I have found to be irrisistable. Add slivers of fresh basil, a drizzle of olive oil, and salt and pepper, and this salad represents the essence of summer."
Minty Fruit Salad Recipe: "Behind the scenes, I’ve meticulously juggled a hectic professional schedule and pursuing the passions that truly light the flames of my soul. I’m madly in love with creating amazing food, tossing back a fantastic chilled beverage and laughing loudly."
Blueberry Scones Recipe: "Can I interest you in something blueberry? These blueberry scones will melt in your mouth."
Chocolate Strawberries Recipe: "If you find yourself with the best of intentions, but at a loss for the hours in the day, check out this strawberry-licious recipe. In less than 30 minutes you’ll be making these delectable but oh-so-simple treats that are sure to impress the one you love—or heck, make them for yourself, I would!"
Custard Tarts Recipe: "When I was living in Montréal there was a Portuguese chicken place called Romados on rue Rachel that made little Portuguese custard tarts that were oh so yummy. I’m not sure these are true to the genuine Portuguese thing, but they taste pretty good and are really easy to make as well. Enjoy!"