Tea Party Tips and Etiquette
Having an Elegant Tea Party
Having an elegant tea party or taking tea is an occasion that allows you to feel that you've taken a step back in time; tea time is where you feel pampered and things are slower and more simple. Serving tea adds an aura of elegance and creates an atmosphere tinged with anticipatory delight. Having an elegant tea party is now a form of modern entertaining; from business meetings to birthday parties, bridal showers, formal weddings, holidays, or any social gathering that requires a special touch. Tea party tips and etiquette follow, so that classy ladies can entertain properly and have the most elegant tea party ever! Also included are recipes, hosting tips, tea sets, and how you can shop online for purchasing tea party essentials.
The History of Afternoon Tea
The Chinese are credited with discovering tea as a beverage some 4,000 years ago. When tea began to gain a British following in the 17th century, it was served mostly in coffeehouses that already existed, admitting only men. As a result, women of the family adopted tea on their own ground. Tea drinking became much more of an at-home activity, and afternoon tea, as we now know it, came into being.
At that time, the day's three meals were a heavy breakfast, a light lunch and a large dinner around eight or nine o'clock. Women soon realized that they were feeling hungry and faint around five o'clock and started serving tea with assorted sandwiches and small cakes, thus creating the afternoon tea. However, it is not to be confused with the high tea. High tea was served around the same time in working class homes. The high tea was a hearty meal consisting of cold meats, cheeses and bread, eaten when the men came home from the factories or field.
Hosting a Tea Party
Types of Tea Parties
Relax and enjoy time with family and friends anytime by hosting a tea party. Some types of parties include:
- Intimate Tea for Two: Possibly after antique shopping, sit in the garden or by the fireplace, place a bowl of fresh flowers on the table, serve some fluffy scones with pots of jam and sweet country whipped cream.
- The Solitary Tea: Try it, and treat yourself as elegantly as you would guests. In the late afternoon, stop whatever you're doing and steal half an hour for yourself. Brew a fragrant pot of tea—do not dunk a teabag—and arrange some light sandwiches and a cookie or a small cake on a pretty plate. Carry your tray to a favorite place—a window seat, a sofa before the fireplace, perhaps a secluded corner of the garden. Take the opportunity to catch up on letter writing, cuddle with your cat, or simply reflect on the day. After a few sips of tea, the world will seem to be a calmer place.
- The Unplanned Afternoon Tea: If a friend drops by unexpectedly, the beauty of tea is that you can rustle up the food quite easily from ingredients you probably keep on hand in your kitchen. A batch of scones, for example, take only about 15 minutes to make from scratch. Eat them at the table while they are fresh and warm from the oven.
- Arranged Tea Party: Unlike the impromptu teas described above, this tea party should be planned. Start making the arrangements and sending invitations several weeks in advance of the date. Give a definite time—4:00 p.m., just as you would for a cocktail party.
- Bridal or Baby Shower Tea Party: Be the first on your block to have one.
- Your Child's Birthday Tea Party: Revive weary parents by serving tea in another room away from the noisy kids.
Hostesses—Tea Party Tips and Basics
- Hostesses, use your best china for a tea party. Teacups and saucers are preferable to heavy mugs. Invest in a small tea set which includes a teapot, milk pitcher, sugar bowl, teacups and saucers, and cake plates.
- Use cloth napkins—cotton or linen at a tea party. Adorn your table with a lace tablecloth like ladies did years ago.
- Present the food attractively at a tea party. Cover your tray or cart with a tray cloth, doilies or a pretty napkin. A single rose in a bud vase, or a basket of seasonal fruit adds warmth to the scene. Serve your tasty tidbits, cookies, scones, or party favors on a pretty tiered tea party serving tray to make both a beautiful and appetizing presentation.
- Atmosphere is important at a tea party. Instead of in the kitchen, serve tea by a crackling fire or in the garden. Decorate with fresh flowers and add the quiet, melodic background music of a harpist or pianist.
- As hostess of a tea party, pour and the tea, serving it to each guest in turn, adding sugar cubes if requested.
- Your ladies might want to wear Victorian hats and crocheted gloves at your tea party.
- Give party favors at your tea party. Tea party favors vary and you can use your imagination and give according to your tea party theme.
- Conversation should be light and fun-filled at a tea party, no gossip or deep subjects that can be disturbing to others.
Choose your teapot carefully, as this will be the focal point of your table setting.
This pretty teapot is certain to have your guests compliment you on your elegant taste, for sure. Kate Spade New York's Greenwich Grove Tea Set (Pictured above) features tea cups and a teapot in bright, cheerful hues and is perfect for casual brunches. Hand-applied gold accents finish each piece with polished shine that make them very impressive.
Just a glance at this classy dinnerware and you know it's high quality. The pretty, colors can make any day seem brighter. And when your ladies asked you who designed these lovely pieces, you can proudly tell them, "Kate Spade dahling."
Teapots make perfect gifts for birthday, Christmas, or just because! Wouldn't it be nice to have the perfect gift when you need it?
Your tea party will focus a lot on the serving of tea, so be sure you choose your tea cups wisely. They don't have to match, long as they stay along the same theme, like florals for example. It's fun to buy a variety of cups and saucers for your tea party. Your guests will secretly anticipate sipping their tea from any of the nice selections you have chosen for them.
The Inside Out Heart Collection in assorted colors is a whirlwind of femininity and fun. A perfect gift for a bridal or baby shower or to enjoy a wonderful High Tea with the ladies. Available at Amazon. The 6 cups and 6 saucers are heart shaped which offer a whimsical twist to the fine porcelain collection.
Tea Party Foods
Tea party recipes are the light foods served with tea and are just as important as the actual beverage itself. Traditional tea party recipes are mouth-watering, hot-buttered crumpets and muffins and traditional English scones served with Devon cream and jam or lemon curd. More hearty foods such as beef cottage pie, sausage rolls, Welsh rarebit and Cornish pasties make more of a meal. Petite sweets are also on the bill of fare for tea parties and include: tantalizing raspberry tartlettes, chocolate truffles, shortbread, and cream puffs.
Whatever else you serve at your tea party, be sure to have scones. All the delightful varieties of scones should be eaten fresh as they don't keep well. Happily, they're so quick to make you can easily bake them while you prepare for the rest of the tea party.
Tea Party Fruit Scones Recipe
These tangy delights are a little heavier than plain oven scones. Make them slightly smaller and serve without the jam and cream. This recipe makes about 18 scones.
- 2 1/2 Cups Butter
- 2 tsp. Baking Powder
- 1 tsp. Baking Soda
- 1/2 tsp. Salt
- 1/2 cup Sugar
- 6 tbsp. cold butter cut into small pieces
- 1/2 cup Raisins
- 1 Beaten Egg
- 1 18 oz. carton Plain Yogurt
- 1/2 Grated Lemon Peel
- Milk, For brushing on scones
- Preheat oven to 425F. Lightly grease a large baking sheet; set aside. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl. Stir in sugar. With your fingers, rub in butter pieces until mixture is crumbly.
- Mix in raisins. With a fork, stir in egg, yogurt and lemon peel and blend well to make a dough that barely holds together (you may need to press dough together with your hands).
- Turn out onto a floured surface. Roll out with a floured rolling pin or pat dough with your hands to make a round about 1/2 inch thick.
- Cut in rounds with a 1 1/2 inch fluted or plain cookie cutter. Place 1/ 1/2 inches apart on baking sheet; brush tops lightly with milk.
- Bake 10-12 minutes or until scones are well risen and golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool 5 minute. Split and serve warm with butter. Makes about 18 scones.
Hosting a Tea Party
Serving tea or having a tea party at home is a gracious, yet inexpensive way to entertain. The adventurous host or hostess has ample opportunity for creativity and can serve a truly unique meal.
Tea parties can be formal or casual, intimate or crowd-size, serviced indoors or out, with a light snack or a filling and substantial meal. The food is not only delicious but it is enjoyable to prepare.
Even when you are not entertaining others, the ritual of taking tea or having tea time can be a welcome and a very civilized break in a busy hectic world.
Types of Tea
Tea, of course, is the cornerstone of any tea party. It's essential to brew a good cup that's golden, steaming, fragrant and refreshing. Every kind of tea contains tanin, an astringent; caffeine, a stimulant; water; and an essential oil that gives it its flavor. Like wines, teas are tested, tasted and graded by experts who rate both flavor and color, using their own descriptive vocabulary. Examples of traditional teas served at tea parties and easy to serve at home follows:
- English Breakfast—An elite Chinese tea. This is a brisk tea with a full bodied flavor, ideal as a wake-up tea. Serve the traditional way, with milk and sugar.
- Orange Pekoe—Orange refers to the color of the leaf, not the flavor. Pekoe refers to the leaf size - the largest grade of leaf. Rich in flavor and fragrance. Makes one of the finest afternoon teas.
- Darjeerling—Famous as the champagne among teas. Light color, with a distinctive bouquet often described as flowery. A delicate, wine-like, Muscatel flavor.
- Russian Caraven—Distinctively smoky flavor and aroma. An acquired taste. Usually taken with lemon. The perfect acompaniment to traditional tea room savories such as an English cheese plate or beef pasty.
- Earl Grey—Delicate blend of Chinese and Darjeeling teas scented with oil of bergamot. It is wonderfully fragrant and delightful with sweets. Serve with lemon or a spot of milk.
- Jasmine—Beautifully scented, semi-fermented tea. Exotic, light flavor. Laced with dried jasmine blossoms. Should be sipped plain or with a slice of lemon. Low in caffeine.
Rare Loose Teas
Rare loose teas make a wonderful introduction to the wide range of flavored teas that are available today. Each package makes about 8-10 cups of tea. Your guests will be impressed by the variety of delicious flavors that you allow them to choose from at your special event. Here are some of the newest in tea flavors.
- Chocolate tea—Ceylon tea and rich dark chocolate flavor. Decadent chocolate liquor texture, brightened by the tang of the Ceylon.
- Cinnamon tea—Spicy cinnamon with bright Ceylon black tea. Very warm and high cinnamon flavor, fresh with a spicy-crisp finish.
- Passionfruit tea—Tropical passionfruit with lively black tea. Rich, fruit-floral flavor, lifted by the natural citrus of Ceylon tea.
- Vanilla tea—Bright Ceylon tea with pure vanilla. Soothing and cozy, like warm sugar cookies made with fresh vanilla beans.
- Apricot tea—Get whisked away to a fresh apricot orchard with our Ceylon black tea, flavored with ripe apricot. Mellow, soft cup.
- Blueberry tea—Ceylon black tea with fresh blueberry flavor. Highly aromatic, slightly sweet, rounded texture. Perfect hot or iced!
Purchase any of the mentioned rare loose teas at your local grocery store.
Special Tea Time Touches
Place your tea set on a laced table or a tea cart and create the perfect tea time atmosphere. Consider having the following special tea time touches that will add more delight to your tea party.
- Cozies—Cover for your teapot helps keep contents hot.
- Strainers—Some teapots have a built-in strainer across the entrance of the spout. These usually don't catch all the leaves since they're typically made with quite large holes to allow the tea to pour through evenly. For more efficient straining, pour the tea through a separate strainer held over the cup.
- Tea balls—Forerunner of the teabag, the tea ball is a perforated, ball-shaped metal container. Loose tea is clasped inside and the ball is placed in the pot or cup before the boiling water is poured in. Not recommended for regular use they tend to inhibit the full flavor flow of the tea. They are convenient and preferable to a teabag!
- Sugar tongs—One lump or two? Sugar cubes are most commonly served at tea parties, and the hostess should drop them into the guest's cups with sugar tongs. They add elegance to the table.
- Muffin dishes—Shallow dishes with domed lids that you pop your muffins under as you finish toasting them. The covered dish keeps the muffins or other breads and buns warm at the table.