One thing Americans didn’t inherit from the British is tea time. It’s unfortunate, because tea can be a great beverage to sit down and enjoy on a cold winter’s night. It can also be a great way to spend time with friends during the day.
A Basic Afternoon Kit
If you own a tiered cake stand, a nice tea pot, and loose leave tea, you pretty much have all of the basics for a tea party. Loose tea, like the kind you can buy through Teavana or specialty tea shops, makes for an entertaining party.
If you don’t have any of this stuff, pick up a starter kit at stores like Bed Bath & Beyond and stores that traditionally sell kitchen appliances. They have a nice collection of tea supplies that won’t break the bank. Otherwise, you can hit up thrift shops and Goodwill for old Chinaware. Don’t worry too much about matching the patterns or finding complete sets of coffee cups; you’re going for the experience to start out.
Once you have hosted a few tea parties, you can worry about getting matching sets.
Setting the Atmosphere
Do you have any rustic furniture you could set outside? For example, do you have any old wooden or metal chairs that would add an authentic feel to the whole tea party experience? If not, can you pick some up at a second-hand furniture store?
If not, what about getting some floral print table cloths, or some bunting?
Starter Drinks and Accouterments
Make sure to set out sugar, milk, and other accouterments. Also, provide your guests with a variety of teas and hotwater.
For food, it’s customary to offer finger sandwiches, scones, layer cake, and teacakes. You don’t need to provide a full meal, only something to snack on while eating. Pastries are also acceptable as are petit fours and biscuits.
Offer just 2 or 3 different menu items. You don’t need to stress yourself out by providing a full spread.
The point of a tea party is to socialize with friends. You can facilitate this by setting out games, playing upbeat, but soft, music, or setting out picture or scrapbooks that everyone can discuss. The challenge is to find something that everyone can participate in.
Games don’t have to be board games. They can be card games. But, board games do have a strong social component to them, so keep that in mind. The best types of games are ones that encourage teamwork, so Trivial Pursuit or Pictionary would be good choices.
Other games, like Rummy, can be good too, since it encourages you to talk with your opponents. Even a simple game like Scattergories can be fun. Avoid two-player games like Othello or Battleship unless there are only two of you.
Pure strategy card games like poker that involve full concentration would not help to create the right atmosphere. Remember, this is a lighthearted time where you’re supposed to relax and enjoy each other’s company.
Tea parties can last anywhere from one hour to three or even four hours. It should be an afternoon affair that fills the gap between lunch and dinner, so keep that in mind when planning your event.
About the author:
Mark Watson is a retired cook who loves to have guests visit. When he’s not entertaining friends and family, he’s writing about it. You can read his interesting articles on a variety of websites and blogs.