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How To Throw A Proper Tea Party

 

I have been thinking lately about tea parties. Wouldn’t it be fun to host a tea party? Partially my never-ending obsession with all things Jane Austen is to blame, but also I have decided it is my new-found mission to bring back old school etiquette and formality to current society (don’t you sometimes wish your guy friends stood up when you left the room ever?).

When you think of tea parties today you think of little girls in opera length gloves and tutus (or, Michele Bachmann), yes? Which is a shame, because actually a tea party is a rather formal, elegant affair indeed, with innumerable rules and requirements and all kinds of stately airs, and oh the possibility for pratfalls and speaking out of turn and being all Elizabeth Bennett-y is too delicious to pass up!  I know you feel me on this.

After the jump, how to throw an elegant, fancy, proper tea party. You’re going to be so excited to stock up on those little cubes of sugar and cut off all your sandwich crusts after this, I just know it!


  • ISSUE INVITATIONS 1 of 16
    ISSUE INVITATIONS
    The formality of your invites will depend largely on the formality of your event. For kicks, let's say this is a traditional Victorian tea party: in which case, you'll elect to send a handwritten note on a tea card, which is a notecard specially embossed with images of English roses, tea sets, and other lady-like paraphernalia. The number of invitees depends on your capabilities as a hostess, but I'd start small, say, three to five guests.
  • SET THE TABLE 2 of 16
    SET THE TABLE
    Almost more important than the tea itself is the table setting. Traditionally, a white linen or lace table cloth is used.
  • SET THE TABLE 3 of 16
    SET THE TABLE
    Treats and desserts and tea sandwiches are to be laid out on the table before guests arrive.
  • PRESENT THE DRINKS 4 of 16
    PRESENT THE DRINKS
    Your tea is to be carried in on a tray, one tray for each end of the table (three trays for a larger table), with cups and saucers set to the left of the tray. Drinks are poured with the right hand into the cup and saucer held by the left.
  • INSIDE THE TEA POT 5 of 16
    INSIDE THE TEA POT
    You will want both a tea pot of boiling water with an assortment of tea bags, and a full pot of your favorite tea already brewed (use loose leaf tea for best results). While it is more traditional to offer only the first, I do think it is a nice nod to the differing tastes to allow for both (besides, tea isn't what it used to be, culturally, so I am sure you won't offend anyone with your tea bags!)
  • DON’T FORGET THE EXTRAS 6 of 16
    DON'T FORGET THE EXTRAS
    You will need a cream pitcher, a sugar bowl, a honey pot and tray of lemon wedges, as well as sugar alternatives such as Splenda. One set per tea tray.
  • USE THE GOOD STUFF! 7 of 16
    USE THE GOOD STUFF!
    Now is not the time to be stingy with the antiques! If your tea cups and saucers are mismatched, all the better, in my opinion.
  • ON TEA BAGS 8 of 16
    ON TEA BAGS
    According to elegantwoman.org, the general consensus on tea bags is that they are never to be served in a cup of tea. Proper tea etiquette dictates that the tea be brewed ahead of time. But since we're allowing for a little laxness, if you do opt to use a tea bag, allow the bag to steep in the cup for 5 minutes before daintily removing it with your tea spoon. Wrap the string around the bag and spoon once to squeeze out excess liquid, and then set the bag kindly on the saucer. NOT on the tablecloth.
  • TEA SNACKS 9 of 16
    TEA SNACKS
    You'll want your snacks to fall on the sweet side of the snack spectrum. Tea sandwiches (cream cheese and cucumber are a popular filling), cakes and biscuits, cookies and scones are all popular options.
  • SELF SERVE 10 of 16
    SELF SERVE
    A tea party is a little bit like a grand buffet of finger foods and warm beverages, so most of the prep work can be done ahead of time. If you'll need help keeping a good supply of boiling water on hand while playing hostess, consider recruiting a friend to keep a mindful eye on the tea pot on the stove.
  • AND NOW: HOW TO MAKE A GOOD POT OF TEA 11 of 16
    AND NOW: HOW TO MAKE A GOOD POT OF TEA
    Step One: Heat your teapot first by boiling water. Pouring the boiling water out and set it aside.
    Step Two: Place your selected tea leaves into the warmed teapot.
    Step Three: Pour an inch of boiling water back into the teapot and allow it to steep (more than five minutes for a strong tea) before filling completely with boiling water.
  • WHO POURS THE TEA? 12 of 16
    WHO POURS THE TEA?
    Traditionally, the host pours the tea, or, if the host is busy and you are her close friend, you may ask to "do the honors." Typically, you do not pour your own tea, but alert your host when you are in need of a refill.
  • THE PROPER WAY TO POUR A CUP OF TEA 13 of 16
    THE PROPER WAY TO POUR A CUP OF TEA
    The creamer or milk comes first, if preparing the English way. Next comes a cube (or two) of sugar, if the guest would like theirs sweet. Brewed tea is added last. Of course you have already asked how your guest prefers her tea!
  • PROPER TEA PARTY ETIQUETTE: THE GUEST 14 of 16
    PROPER TEA PARTY ETIQUETTE: THE GUEST
    Proper etiquette requires that tea party guest dresses up to honor her host. A polite guest never overloads her plate, as second and third helpings are always welcomed. And she never "clanks" her stirring spoon against her tea cup.
  • PROPER TEA PARTY ETIQUETTE: THE HOST 15 of 16
    PROPER TEA PARTY ETIQUETTE: THE HOST
    The hostess will always introduce her guests as they arrive with glowing praise and mentions of their accomplishments, and keep a watchful eye on their tea cups to make sure they are always refilled when needed.
  • PLEASE DO NOT FORGET FLOWERS! 16 of 16
    PLEASE DO NOT FORGET FLOWERS!
    What is an elegant tea party without an elegant arrangement? Traditional flowers include roses of all types--English, tea, cabbage-as well as peonies, hydrangeas, and ranunculas, if they are in season.

Doesn’t that sound like fun? (And a lot of work?) Would you ever host a proper English tea party for your friends?

Sources: Pinterest and elegantwoman.org.

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