Organizing an Afternoon Tea Party

Organizing an Afternoon Tea Party
Afternoon tea offers the perfect occasion for relaxed conversation in an elegant and refined, yet informal, setting. It is the ideal time of day for chatting with friends or meeting new neighbors, and offering hospitality and friendship over a refreshing cup of tea. It can be very simple – with just a pot of tea and a slice of cake – or it can be an elaborate, special occasion with three courses of savory and sweet foods. In winter, settle into comfortable armchairs in the drawing room or conservatory; in summery take a tray or tea cart into the yard.

Invite guests by telephone, or send a simple card a couple of days before. On the day of the tea party, prepare as much as possible beforehand so that you are relaxed when your guests arrive.

Fill the kettle with freshly drawn cold water but do not boil it until you are ready to make the tea. Choose your teapot, hot-water jug and cozy (if using). Decide which tea you are going to serve, and have the caddy ready. Set out a tea strainer, if needed, and a slop basin for taking the dregs from finished cups of tea. Place sugar or sugar cubes in a bowl with a spoon or tongs, pour milk into a jug, and prepare a dish of lemon slices.

Prepare all the food and keep covered in the refrigerator or in a cool place. You may need dishes of butter, jam, and clotted cream if scones or teabreads are to be served. Plan to serve a selection of dainty sandwiches, muffins, teabreads, scones, cakes, pastries, and cookies. These may be arranged on plates or elegant cake stands. For tea in the drawing room, cover a side table with a fine lace or linen cloth, or place a lace tray cloth on a tea cart. If you are planning tea in the yard, prepare a table and chairs, and cover the table with a pretty cloth.

Then prepare the following items of tea ware for each guest:

• a cup and saucer
• a teaspoon
• a side plate
• a tea knife or pastry fork, depending on the foods to be served
• a small linen table napkin

Once you have prepared everything, change into an elegant afternoon outfit When your guests arrive, invite them in and offer them seats. When you are sure they are comfortably settled, go to the kitchen and switch on the kettle. While it is heating up, take the food and all the things you need to the drawing-room or garden. Once the kettle has boiled, make the tea.

If in the drawing-room, make sure that each guest has a small side-table on which to place their plate and cup and saucer Hand round side plates and table napkins, giving each person a little knife or pastry fork depending on what food you are serving.

Ask each guest whether they would like milk, or lemon, or if they take their tea black. Pour each person’s tea, pouring the milk, if taken, into the cup first. Take the cups of tea to each guest, and offer sugar and lemon if appropriate.

Offer foods – sandwiches first, if you are serving them. Offer more before going on to sweet items such as scones or cakes. Offer more tea as and when necessary, tipping any dregs into the slop bowl before pouring a fresh cup. Make a fresh pot of tea when necessary.

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