How To.......Host A High Tea
How to Plan a Tea Party
The nineteenth century tea party tradition started in Britain, but has now spread across much of the world.Alice in Wonderlandhas excited readers for many decades with its description of the Mad Hatter's madcap tea party, and the image of formal tea service with polite or gossiping conversation appears all over popular culture. Everyone from children to duchesses enjoys tea parties, so read on to find out how to host an event suited for you and your guests.
Planning a Tea Party for Adults
Decide on a budget and guest list.A Tea Party does not have to be expensive or large to be memorable. Figure out how many people you can host in your home, and decide on how much you want to spend. Even if you're not concerned about money, having an amount in mind helps prevent you spending more than you would like.
- Tea parties are generally smaller events than dinner parties. Aim for a total party of four to eight people depending on space.
Decide on a dress code.Even for casual tea parties, some hosts encourage their guests to dress up in semi-formal or mock-Victorian clothing to add to the atmosphere, but usually accept guests in any attire. If you are planning a formal affair and wish to follow traditional dress etiquette, request semi-formal summer dress. This typically means bright colored dresses and hats for women, and slacks, button-down shirt, and blazer or suit jacket for men.
Create your invitations, or purchase pre-made invites.You may use store-bought cards, make your own, or simply phone your guests for less formal events. If your guests are close friends or live nearby, consider delivering a small bouquet of garden flowers with the party details attached. Gives guests at least a week of notice if possible.
- You may want to delay sending out invitations until you plan the menu and see how much everything will cost. This allows you to reduce the number of guests if you need to save money on refreshments.
Let guests know about special considerations.As the host, it is up to you whether to allow smoking, pets, or young children.Communicate your decisions clearly on the invitation. Let your guests know whether to expect a full meal or light refreshments. If you are not sure what food to provide, advice is provided below.
- Keep in mind that some guests may be allergic to pets or bothered by smoke. You may wish to designate another room to keep pets in, and ask smokers to step outside.
Select attractive tableware and table decorations.If you have a nice tablecloth and tea service, plan on using them. Three-tiered cake stands are traditional, but not mandatory. Small plates and teacups with floral patterns produce a good atmosphere, but don't feel that the teacups have to match unless you are entertaining formal guests or business contacts. Make sure you have a teapot or nice-looking kettle that can hold enough hot water for your guests.
- Consider a vase of flowers as a centerpiece.
- Place a single fork on the left and a knife and spoon on the right of each plate.Even if you are not serving food, provide small spoons for stirring sugar and milk into the tea.
Check that you have enough teas and tea-related items.You'll need at least one black tea such as Earl Grey or Darjeeling; at least one non-caffeinated tea such as decaf black or chamomile; a small pitcher of milk or cream; and a container of sugar or sugar cubes. If you are not familiar with brewing loose leaf tea, you may provide a teapot of boiling water and a selection of teabags for guests to add. Arrange these all on the side of the table where you will be sitting or standing as you pour tea for your guests, or place on tray on either end of the table if you are hosting a large group.
- Be prepared to ask each guest how he would like his tea. Many people are picky about how much sugar and milk to add (or whether to add any at all), so follow their instructions exactly.
- Optionally, you may provide honey and/or lemon slices.
Have other drinks on hand.Some people prefer coffee to tea, while others dislike any type of hot drink. Prepare for these scenarios by providing water at minimum, and preferably other drinks such as ginger beer or lemonade as well. Alcohol is not typically served at tea parties, but you may choose to serve small amounts of champagne or a light wine.
Decide what type of food to serve.There are three traditional ways to provide food at a tea party, mostly determined by the time of day. If you are serving tea in the mid-afternoon (between mealtimes), you may either serve an "afternoon tea" or "low tea" with a few sweet and savory snacks, or a less formal "cream tea" that serves only scones, clotted cream, and jam. Teas served during evening mealtimes (traditionally 5–7pm) are called "high teas" and usually provide more substantial food, such as meat pies, quiche, or any filling, savory dishes. A light soup and salad are sometimes served at formal high teas before the main meal.
- While you may follow the links above to find recipes for common dishes, it is completely acceptable to serve store-bought foods.
- Note that the term "high tea" is now often used to refer to any type of tea. If you are invited to a tea party in the afternoon, do not expect a full meal regardless of the name used in the invitation.
Make traditional tea sandwiches.Tea sandwiches are not mandatory, especially if you are serving a "cream tea" focused on scones, but they are high on the list of what your guests will expect regardless of whether they have attended a tea before. Traditionally, the sandwiches are made with white bread, then cut into small triangles or squares without crusts. Provide two or more varieties of sandwich, selected from these common choices or using other light ingredients:
- Butter or cream cheese can be used as the only ingredient or added to sandwiches with vegetables or smoked salmon
- Cucumber slices, watercress, or thinly sliced radish
- Smoked salmon
- Ham and mustard
- Egg salad
- Coronation Chicken salad, invented for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
Arrange the food.If you have a large party or a small table, you may arrange the food buffet-style and have the guests stand or sit in your living room or garden. If you have space to seat your guests around the table, place the food in the center of the table, or divide each dish among multiple serving platters to make it easy for everyone to reach.
- If using a three-tiered tray and serving a traditional afternoon tea, the proper etiquette is to place scones on the top tray, sandwiches on the middle, and sweets such as small cakes or candies on the lower.
Planning a Tea Party for Kids
Choose a theme.Maybe you picture a traditional British tea party, with fancy sandwiches and doilies. Or maybe the guests want to dress up as princesses, pretend to be fairies, or decorate a room as though it were winter, or underwater. Finding out what the guests are excited about will help you make it more fun for them.
- Keep in mind that some themes require more work than others. If you're looking for a quick and simple theme, pick a single color and decorate a room or table with flowers, objects, napkins, and dishes in that color from around the house.
Decide on a location.If the weather is sunny, you could host a tea party in your garden or take a picnic to a nearby park. Throwing a tea party indoors is also fun, though, and gives you the option of hanging up decorations.
Invite guests.Give cards to your friends inviting them to your tea party, but make sure to check with everyone in your house first to see how many people you can bring over. Remember to let your friends and family know what day and time the tea party are. You can plan a tea party weeks in advance, or throw one spontaneously with your brothers and sisters. Whatever makes you happy!
- Ask your friends to bring their favorite doll or stuffed animal.
- Tea parties don't have to be all-girl or all-boy. Invite anyone who makes you happy.
Dress up.For some people, the best part of a tea party is getting to dress up. If you don't have any fancy clothes or costumes to put on, try making your own silly costumes by asking family members if you can put on their hat, makeup, or scarves. It's a good idea to keep a few extra objects like this around for guests who show up without a costume.
- Princess costumes can be as simple as the kid's favorite dress and a paper crown.
- If you are willing to spend extra time on costumes, sew them from patterns, use face paint, or track down pre-made costumes online or at Halloween shops.
- If you and the other kids and parents involved want to throw a super special tea party, have each kid pick a character from their favorite book, or from a single popular book such as Alice in Wonderland or Harry Potter.
Make sure you have enough plates and cups.A fancy tea party might have tea pots, teacups, and saucers, but you can host a tea party using any dishes. Just make sure there's at least one plate and one cup for each person. Silverware is optional if you are only going to be serving finger food, such as sandwiches and cookies.
Decorate the table or room.If you are holding a tea party indoors, you might want to hang up colorful cloths or flags, or put stuffed animals and art projects around the room. Flowers at the center of the table or picnic blanket can give people something pretty to look at.
- Hold a faerie tea party in a garden or park, using toy mushrooms, flowers, and moss covered rocks to make a faerie circle.
- Create a winter wonderland theme with paper snowflakes, hanging white cloths, and hot cocoa (or iced tea if you are holding it in summer).
Find some drinks to serve.Many kids don't like black tea, or it might make them hyper or make it hard for them to sleep. Fortunately, there are plenty of other teas such as peppermint, lemon, or rooibos (red tea). Since not everyone likes tea, it's a good idea to have lemonade, juice, or milk around to serve as well.
- Ask an adult to help you make the tea if you aren't supposed to boil water on your own.
- If your guests don't like tea or you don't want to serve hot drinks, put juice in a teapot instead.
Make sandwiches.For a real tea party feel, make sandwiches out of cream cheese, cucumber, or just butter. Have an adult help you cut them into triangles or small pieces, and arrange them on a plate in a pyramid or other shapes.
- Use a cookie cutter on the sandwich to create sandwiches in different shapes.This works best with squishy bread that holds together well.
Have dessert ready too.American cookies or British biscuits make great finger food for a tea party, as do scones or small cakes. You can buy these from a store or make them yourself with adult supervision.
Consider whether your guests need more food.Most tea parties don't serve a full meal, just some drinks and snacks. But if your guests will be staying during lunchtime or dinnertime, you might need to feed them pasta or some other bigger meal. Be sure to let your guests know whether or not you'll be feeding them a full meal or whether they should eat at home before coming.
Figure out what to do for entertainment.Decide what games and activities you want to plan for the party, and gather any items you need before the party starts. You could play games, make art projects, or just have fun pretending to be English royalty.
QuestionAre costumes optional?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerDefinitely! Costumes are a fun addition, but this is your party. You can do whatever you want with it.Thanks!
QuestionWhat if you're a kid alone how are you going to plan thiswikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou can make handmade invitations, and if you know how to bake sweets then that's what you can do. You can always look around your home cabinets for some sweets lying around. For the drinks, you can always use water or warm milk if you don't have any tea on you, and for setting it up, you can use a table if wanted and use a soft quilt or blanket as the base of your party.Thanks!
QuestionWhat kinds of sandwiches are okay to serve? Can I serve peanut butter sandwiches?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerStep 9 in the article covers which sandwiches are most appropriate for a tea party. It is your party, however, and you can choose how traditional you would like it to be. If it's a more relaxed, unconventional party, feel free to serve peanut butter sandwiches.Thanks!
QuestionWhat type of food should I serve at a tea party?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerPeople usually serve small sandwiches, cookies, cakes, etc. at tea parties. Try to find small snack foods that people would usually enjoy with a warm drink.Thanks!
To plan a tea party, start by setting a budget and a guest list. About a week before the party, send out invitations or simply phone guests for a less formal event. Even for casual tea parties, it can be fun to encourage your guests to dress up in semi-formal or mock-Victorian clothing, which you’ll want to note on the invitation. In order to prepare for the event, select tableware and decorations, like vases of flowers. You’ll also want to purchase an array of teas, prepare some sweet and savory snacks, and make some traditional tea sandwiches.
- During a young child's tea party, have the guests create craft projects that go with your theme: decorate hand fans, paint or decorate small flower pots, or create personal diaries that they decorate the outside of.
- If the party is outdoors, be sure there is shade or fans, and have sunscreen available.
- It's not guaranteed that all of your guests will like tea. Serve other drinks as well.
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