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tea party planning

I wrote a tea party post for Raven Bower (not sure when it’s going “live”) but it was such a short post that I knew I couldn’t share everything I knew about hosting a tea party.  That’s when I decided I needed to do a tea party series here.  I love tea parties and it’s been awhile since I’ve taken the time to actually have one.

Planning a tea party can take a few minutes for an impromptu party or hours depending on what you want the end result to be.  In the beginning, you may have more difficulty because it’s a new experience.  However, tea parties are not meant to be hard.  They are elegant but simple enough that everyone gets to sit down and enjoy the end results.

I will probably use the phrase simple but elegant or likewise often through this series because that is the goal.  It needs to be simple enough that it’s not stressful for the host or hostess.  But nice enough that it feels like a treat.

The first thing you need to determine when planning a tea party is location and occasion.  If there is no “real” occasion such as a birthday or holiday, that’s okay.  Sometimes I have thrown tea parties because I needed a rainy day pick me up.  I want to caution you against tea party stereotypes.  Men can drink tea and enjoy themselves as much as women.  I know that tea parties have a reputation for being girly but you can have one that’s manly and still have an elegant event.

Let’s talk location.  When I mean location, I don’t mean whether or not you will rent a space or do it at home, I mean where in your home will you have the party.  Will this be indoors or outdoors?  Do you want a more formal dining room experience or a more casual, sitting on the couch experience?  We’ve had amazing tea party/BBQ events in our backyard when we had a backyard.  Now we have an apartment so there’s not a lot of choice but I can still determine if I want the party to be formal or casual.

Once you have location and occasion determined then you can come up with your menu.  I will say that sometimes a recipe will prompt me to want to have a tea party and that will lead to location and occasion so don’t think this is a solid planning guide.

Drinks are always first in a tea party.  It’s the one time that I actually remember that my guests might want something other than water to drink.  I know you might be thinking – it’s a tea party, they are going to drink tea but that might not be true.  You might want to have a tea party and serve coffee instead.  You can have all the same elements without actually serving tea.  You, also, have to determine if you are serving hot or cold drinks.  I prefer hot tea when I have a tea party but I have had equally lovely parties with several pitchers of iced tea and flavored water.  Then there’s the option of a finishing drink such as a nice fruit flavored liquor served with dessert.  I’ve only had that experience once when I attended a mother daughter tea in a tea house.

The comes menu.  I like to have one complicated recipe (or one that looks complicated) and frame it with really simple recipes.  For example, I could serve a flourless chocolate cake with strawberry cucumber salad and a fruit/vegetable platter.  I often have more than three items to eat but you get the impression.  I nearly always serve scones with jam and cream and dessert.  The desserts are usually when I get more extravagant and let that be sort of the icing on the cake.

Over the next month, I’ll talk about a specific part of the menu (on our new Tuesday Tea Posts but it won’t be called Tuesday Tea).  Next week, I’ll start with making tea and drink choices.  There is more to tea than boiling water and adding a tea bag.