Party Planner
May 11, 2015

Host the perfect tea party

By: Helen Racanelli

Host the perfect tea party Author: Style At Home

Party Planner
May 11, 2015

Host the perfect tea party

By: Helen Racanelli
 
Hosting a tea party is one of the most elegant entertaining ventures that you can undertake, and one of the simplest. You don’t need to keep entrees hot or even concern yourself too much over the food-and-serving logistics that typically go into a dinner or lunch party. What you do need for a perfect tea party, however, are great friends, a few pretty decorating touches, brewed tea and tasty finger foods. Fancy tablecloths, porcelain teacups and saucers, and even a proper matching tea service are wonderful extras, but strictly speaking, they are not essential (nor are the strict and stiff rules that have governed formal tea parties traditionally). Here are some of the basics to ensure your tea party is fun, easy and gorgeous.

Invitations
If your tea party is part of a baby shower or bridal shower, then paper invites are still a must. However if your tea party consists of a few close friends, give them a call, an email, even a text will do. Be sure to remind them a few days in advance of the event as well.

Tea
A cup of tea, properly made, is not a bag of tea plopped into a cup with boiling water poured over it. You have to brew it. First off, you need a warmed-up teapot. Swish a little just-boiled water around in it, discard. Add loose-leaf tea (or tea bags) according to the directions and proportions listed. Let it steep for a few minutes, then it will be ready to serve. Offer “regular” tea (orange pekoe, breakfast, black tea) but also have an herbal tea option, too. And have milk, honey, lemon slices and sugar at the ready.

Table settings

The beauty of a tea party is that you don’t need anything fancy, but it is the little details that matter. Keep things easy by setting up food and tea buffet-style. Borrow a teapot if you don’t have one, find a few platters for serving if you don’t have a tiered stand; cups can be charmingly mismatched too and mugs are fine if that’s what you have. Unsightly milk cartons should not be on the table; decant into a milker or even a glass jar with a narrow mouth. You’ll need lots of teaspoons, and a small dish to hold the used ones. Paper napkins are perfectly acceptable, but we recommend you choose the cocktail size.

Decor

Tea party decorating can be as bold or demure as you like. Florals and pastels, be it tablecloths or teacups, will strike a traditional note, but there’s nothing to stop you from setting an all-white tabletop and adding in bright turquoise or hot pink accents or going dramatic with dark blues and greys. Flowers are a must, even a small posy in a low vase will make a big impact.

Food

If you’ve ever been for an afternoon tea at a restaurant or hotel, there is almost always crustless tea sandwiches, scones and pastries. The loose idea is that the finger sandwiches take the edge off your hunger, the scones are a sort of middle course and the pastries are dessert. Sticking to this tradition will make choosing food a snap, but anything goes at a less-formal party, as long as you don’t need utensils. If you have a guest who has food restrictions, you don’t have to serve a whole separate menu for her, but it’s the height of graciousness to offer one or two things she can eat.

Serving
A guiding principle of a tea party is that the host mingles and enjoys her guests. You should not be endlessly in the kitchen, poking your head out only to bring a tray of food fresh from the oven while everyone enjoys the festivities without you. Cold and room-temperature food is essential. When offering tea sandwiches, keep in mind they dry out very quickly so they need to be covered tightly even while being made, some people drape a slightly damp clean tea towel over them.  Of course, a little last-minute serving is necessary, especially for refrigerated items or if a guest asks for a cold drink. A fun and long-established tea party tradition is that you can deputize a friend to serve the tea. He or she asks how guests take their tea, and pours it out to them as requested.

Ready to host your own perfect tea party? Here are 5 pretty items guaranteed to make an impression on your guests.

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Host the perfect tea party

Tea set

While you don’t need a formal tea set, a tea party is a great excuse to enjoy some retail therapy. This tea set is a great pick for lovers of informal, quirky dinnerware and its soft white shade ensures it will mix readily with your existing white tableware. The textured surface mixed with the nautical and oceanic motifs will charm your guests. Ocean Explorer tea set, Anthropologie, $58 USD.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: Anthropologie Credits: Style at Home

Host the perfect tea party

Three-tiered stand

Elegant tea parties traditionally offer the trio of tea sandwiches, scones and pastries. That’s why three-tiered stands are indispensable for such get-togethers. A simple one can be used throughout the year for any kind of party, but also at the brunch or dinner table to save space when you’re serving food with lots of DIY garnishes, like waffles or tacos, for example. Great White Tiered stand, Pottery Barn, $68.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: Pottery Barn Credits: Style at Home

Host the perfect tea party

Modern and affordable teacup set

No one can argue with the prettiness of vintage floral teacups and saucers, which can be easily sourced everywhere from thrift shops to upscale second-hand stores. Consider however that if you’re not going to use them regularly, they’re better left to someone who will. A modern option is pairing a glass teacup or mug with a white saucer for a practical but strikingly updated (and affordable) look. Mallorca cups, Create and Barrel, from $5, saucer, $5.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: Crate and Barrel Credits: Style at Home

Host the perfect tea party

Linen tablecloth

Tablecloths can be a take it or leave it proposition. But a tea party almost calls out for the formality of crisp linen. White is of course a standard, but it can be a bit bright and too restaurant-like. Instead, a soft shade can add a subtle, sophisticated and almost French Country mood. Williams-Sonoma’s heirloom quality double hemstitch tablecloths come in a beautiful range of shades, including the sumptuous Mirage Gray and Purple Haze. Linen Double Hemstitch tablecloth, Williams-Sonoma, from $182.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: Williams-Sonoma Credits: Style at Home

Host the perfect tea party

Platter

Seeing as you don’t want to be nipping in and out of the kitchen while your tea party is in full effect, you’ll need a tray or two, especially if you’re hosting a crowd. This duo-chromatic pick also makes a perfect platter for cheese and crackers, and it’s chic enough to take pride of place displayed on a coffee table or sideboard. Black dip platter, CB2, $9.

By: Helen Racanelli Source: CB2 Credits: Style at Home

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Host the perfect tea party