Remember when you were little, and you gathered up your best stuffed animal friends for an impromptu tea party, huddled in a circle on the floor drinking "tea" and eating cookies while dishing the latest gossip?
If you're not much of a party animal (like me), and don't have the room or the budget for hosting keggers and raves (also like me) hosting a tea party is the perfect way to enjoy the good company of good friends!
Hosting a tea party can be as simple or as elaborate as you like, but really, you don't need much. Set the scene with some good quality tea, a bit of finger food, some inexpensive flowers and gentle background music for ambiance. Whether it be elevenses, lunch tea or high tea, remember that fun is the most important ingredient!
How To Host A "Grown Up" Tea Party
A paper invitation is not necessary for your tea party--an email invitation is completely acceptable (provided you have everyone's email address, that is). It's also a sweet and thoughtful touch that will set the tone for your get together. I wouldn't get too fancy with the design; instead, stick with something floral, colorful and/or feminine. What I wouldn't suggest? An invite over text message. In my opinion, it's way too informal and seems completely last minute and not very considerate.
When I think of a tea party, I envision dainty tablecloths and delicate china. If you don't happen to have these on hand, you can always scour your local thrift stores and Goodwills for inexpensive cups, plates and linens. Patterns don't necessary have to match, but you might want to keep your color scheme consistent. Not up for a scavenger hunt? A great alternative is paper goods (and frankly, my way to go--inexpensive, easy to clean up and less dishes to wash).
I do admit, however, that while I love the ease of disposable plates, cups and napkins, I do use cloth tablecloths and real cutlery and silverware. Add your tea kettle, a small creamer and sugar combo and a few silver colored trays for food and dessert (and/or a tiered cake stand, below) and your table is all set!
Want to kick your tablescape up a notch? Grab some inexpensive flowers and a bit of greenery from the market (or your garden) and put together a pretty bouquet or two. Use what's in season: tulips in spring, mums in fall, etc. It doesn't have to be anything elaborate; depending on the size of your table, a few small arrangements and/or potted plants are really all you need. Just be sure to cut the stems of the bouquets on the shorter side; you don't want to have speak to your guests through a wall of flowers!
Speaking of gardens, your tea party doesn't necessarily have to take place in your dining room or at the kitchen table, either. If the weather is pleasant, consider a shaded spot outside such as a garden, patio, balcony or deck. Depending on the number of guests, these are all perfectly acceptable locales for a tea party, especially during the warm spring and summer months.
Music for a tea party should be gentle, not too loud, nor too up tempo. Mozart, Debussy and Chopin set the perfect musical backdrop for your fete. Be sure to keep the volume low (and in the background) so as not to interfere with your stimulating conversation! If necessary, make sure your phone and Bluetooth speaker are charged, and find a commercial-free classical station on Pandora, iTunes or Spotify.
Is your TV in or around the same spot as your party? Here's 4+ hours of beautiful classical music set to a roaring fireplace background. Voila, ambiance!
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A tea party is not a tea party without finger sandwiches and bite-sized sweet treats. In my opinion, everything at a tea party should be eaten with your fingers--daintily, of course! I feel the only flatware on the table should be teaspoons and serving utensils.
Here are a few easy-yet-delicious finger sandwiches that you can serve at your "grown up" tea party:
Roast Beef & Horseradish Cream:
Spread horseradish cream on rye cocktail bread. Sandwich with sliced cucumber, roast beef and watercress; season with salt and pepper.
Salmon & Cucumber:
Spread softened cream cheese on plain white bread. Sandwich with smoked salmon and sliced cucumber, sprinkle lightly with chopped fresh dill. Trim the crusts and cut into fours.
Egg Salad & Watercress:
Spread your favorite egg salad on plain white bread. Top with watercress. Trim the crusts and cut into triangles.
Add delicate cornichons, olives and cheese tidbits for the perfect accompaniments.
For dessert, we suggest you continue with simplicity and pick up an assortment of mini pastries from your favorite bakery. Petit fours, truffles, madeleines and macarons served on inexpensive silver trays lined with white paper doilies (both of which can be found at the dollar store, by the way) are affordable, sweet treats to serve guests with tea. However, if you're feeling ambitious and want to do a bit of baking, go for it!
There is something to be said about serving good tea at a tea party rather than plain old every day tea. And thankfully nature has given us thousands of varieties to choose from--green, oolong and orange pekoe--just to name a few. Try different teas and tea blends, and think about adding loose teas as well as bagged teas to the mix. If you have the space, perhaps you can set up a tea bar with a kettle and trivet, along with an assortment of teas, and accoutrements such as milk, half and half, sugar cubes, sugar alternative, lemon slices and honey.
No tea party would be complete without a take-away favor for your guests. Again, this doesn't have to be anything fancy; it could be anything from a sweet treat with a sampling of teas to a small plant or seedling. Personally, we love these personalized iced sugar cookies from Treats Buy Terri on Etsy.
As you can see, with some careful planning, the right location, food, music and, of course, tea, you can throw a "grown up" tea party of your own! Have you hosted a tea party before? Do you have any additional tips to share? Let us know in the comments below, we'd love to hear from you!