By Lyndsey Fought
Whether it’s lunching at home or out at a restaurant, sometimes you’re average, run-of-the-mill lunchtime regime can get boring. We should be enjoying our food, and the times we allot to eat, as they can be times to recharge our batteries, reflect, and (of course) try delicious foods.
When things start to feel stale, I love the idea of trying something new, like an afternoon tea party. Well, okay, it’s new for me, but old in tradition. Anna Stanhope, Duchess of Bedford, is credited to have started afternoon tea around the mid-1800s, and she’d totally encourage us all to splurge every now and then for an afternoon tea. It’s the perfect excuse to gather a few friends, to impress some family members, or just to mix things up in your own life.
Since afternoon tea is based around… you guessed it… tea, we will begin with the centerpiece.
- 12-16 ounces of good loose leaf tea
- Lemon wedges
- Candied Fruits
- Crystallized Ginger
- Edible Flowers
A black tea is most commonly served with a light meal, so you’ll warm your water to approximately 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Any hotter and your tea will turn out bitter. I use loose leaf tea with a clear teapot as it makes for a showier centerpiece, but you can find a tea kettle at most stores that sell kitchen items, and many are available for only a small price.
At the gathering, each person will likely drink around three cups of tea. Because one teaspoon of loose leaf tea is used for each eight-ounce cup of tea, so you will need around 12 teaspoons of a good black tea. I prefer Darjeeling or Irish Breakfast.
You can provide one large pot to brew all tea or you can provide mesh tea strainers for each guest. If you do the latter, you can also provide candied fruits, edible flowers, crystallized ginger, clove, and star anise so each guest can ultimately create their own brew.
You will want milk, as cream is too heavy and can overpower the taste of the tea. Also, sugar cubes with tiny little tongs can be a nice touch! (How freaking cute, right?)
Afternoon and high tea was usually celebrated only by the upper class, which meant it was ruled by the terms of etiquette. For example, one was to add the sugar to the tea first, followed by lemon, and lastly the milk.
When a Victorian lady stirred her tea she made sure she didn’t hit the side of her teacup, instead she moved her spoon in an arc back and forth quietly. After stirring one would place the spoon on the saucer with the handle facing the same as the teacups handle.
When one takes a sip of tea one takes the saucer with the cup. A good host doesn’t ask if someone wants a refill; she continues to fill their cup until they have said they’ve had enough.
Of course, we aren’t Anna Stanhope, so most of these rules are entirely up to you — but sometimes it’s fun to pretend, right? For a fun spin on tea parties, there are plenty of places to buy quirky tea sets or tea strainers, including ModCloth; places like The Tea Shop also provide a multitude of options when it comes to choosing the perfect black tea for the occasion.
Tea parties are like every little girl’s (or boy’s!) dream come true. Most of us have pretended to have tea parties with our stuffed animals in our bedrooms; now that we’re older, we can actually do it with real, live people instead of stuffed animals. But, hey, if you want to invite your stuffed animals, that’s cool with me, too.
This is part one of two. Check back soon for the recipes to go along with your tea!
I have too many interests and I get easily distracted, so I haven’t completed a single thing in my life. Yay, hyperboles! I have been to culinary school and I like baking cupcakes. I write the beginnings of too many novels. I am driven by ambition and delayed by perfectionism.
I would like to travel the world, learn from others, write some best sellers, and have a restaurant or bakery someday. I am a Slytherin. I like the tenth Doctor best (followed by ninth). I am too obsessed with Downton Abbey and the whole etiquette of that era. I never forget to be awesome!