Room Flip’s very own ‘An Afternoon Tea Party’ celebration in New Hampshire, U.S.A.
So what if Room Flip’s ‘An English Afternoon Tea Party’ in New Hampshire is over? We can always talk about Tea for “Tea is the elixir of life”, Tea is the answer to most of our problems!
“Polly put the kettle on
Polly put the kettle on…
We’ll all have tea
Sukey, take it off again
Sukey, take it off again…
They’ve all gone away”
Ahh, you must be wondering what’s with the quotes and nursery rhyme? Well, I still find myself singing it just as we did at school as our music teacher hammered down on her piano. And why not? Tea Parties are for ALL AGES! And they put a smile on our lips. Whether you’re a child or an adult, there’s something about tea parties that’s very endearing and nostalgic. Children spend hours hosting a tea party for their dolls and stuffed animals. It’s a time of imagination that kids love because they can act like adults. As adults, we like to indulge in such fond memories of a bygone era for tea parties provide the perfect excuse to gather friends together for an afternoon and share great food, stories, and a laugh or two. They’re also great for a children’s birthday, or even for Grandma’s special day! For the next baby shower or a book party. A tea party in anyone’s honor is a great way to show them how special they are to you.
Tea Parties are for ALL ages and can be planned for various occasions.
And finally, it’s probably got to do with Alice in Wonderland! If you recall, the book first published in 1865, contains the most beloved tea party scene in literary history. So we’re here to tell you how to host the best Tea Party ever and hold one like a Victorian for, after all, it IS a Victorian invention and the most quintessential English custom. Let’s begin with where it all started…
Alice in Wonderland holds the most beloved tea party scenes in literary history.
Tip #1: Treat your Guests to some History — the Advent of Tea Parties
Tea consumption in Europe had increased dramatically in the early 19th century, especially after Europeans learned the secrets of tea cultivation and began establishing their own plantations, instead of relying on China. And while the custom of drinking tea dates back to the third millennium BC in China and was popularized in England during the 1660s by King Charles II and his wife the Portuguese Infanta Catherine de Braganza, it was not until the mid 19th century that the concept of ‘afternoon tea’ first appeared.
“The modern European tea party began about 20 years before the publication of Alice in Wonderland, at which point it was still extremely fashionable. Although there are scattered references to fashionable ladies drinking a cup of tea mid-afternoon in the 17th century, most sources trace the tradition back to the 1840s and Anna Maria Russell, the Duchess of Bedford, a lifelong friend of Queen Victoria’s.” — Bess Lovejoy
It’s with Dutchess Anna that the idea of an afternoon tea-based snack fest caught on after she began inviting friends to meet her for a cuppa (as Brits now call it) and “a walk in the fields.” During the Duchess’s day, most British people ate two main meals: a huge breakfast served early, and an 8 PM dinner (there was a light, informal luncheon in between). The Duchess complained of getting a “sinkful feeling” during the long, snack-less gap in between, and started making a pot of tea and some light treats in her boudoir around 4 PM. And voila, the ‘Tea Party’ was born!
Other high society hostesses imitated Dutchess Anna’s party idea, creating intimate afternoon events that usually involved elegant rooms, fine china, hot tea, small sandwiches, and plenty of gossips. “The custom really caught on when Queen Victoria attended some of these gatherings, adding her royal imprimatur.” — Bess Lovejoy
The middle classes soon followed suit, discovering that tea parties were a relatively economical way to host a gathering. There were garden teas, tennis teas, croquet teas, and more.
A pot of tea and some light treats to get over that “sinkful feeling” resulting from the long, snack-less gap in between lunch and dinner came in vogue with Dutchess Anna of Bedford.
Tip #2: Know Which Type of Tea You’re Hosting: Afternoon Tea or High Tea?
Yes, it is DIFFERENT!
High Tea is not a fancy tea, as many people assume. Over time, the custom of taking a mid-afternoon tea break became standard across British society, although it diverged into two traditions: ‘Afternoon Tea’ for the affluent leisured classes (tea and light snacks like delectable scones, tea sandwiches, and cakes served in midafternoon) and ‘High Tea’ or ‘Meat Tea’ — think of it as a more substantive fare with meat, fish, and egg dishes, as well as loaves of bread and desserts that would be served when laborers arrived home after work, in the early evening.
Afternoon Tea is also known as ‘Low Tea’ as it was most often taken at a low table, like a coffee table in the sitting room before a warm fire. (This is not to say that you can’t serve afternoon teas at a dining table.) High Tea derives its name from its tendency to be served at a high table, like a dining table or high counter, at the end of the workday.
Tea: the second most popular drink after water!
Tip #3: The Tea
Whether you call it high tea, low tea, or afternoon tea, selecting a great tea is just one of the many aspects of the occasion. As is making a good pot of tea!
- Try and get your hands on some loose leaf tea (English Breakfast & Earl Grey are a popular choice). It will give you the ‘real tea’ experience and will taste so much better compared to the regular teabags.
- Try to select bold teas for rich or strongly flavored foods or more delicate teas for more subtle foods.
- Consider including at least one caffeine-free tisane (“herbal tea”) or a decaf option, in case some guests are sensitive to caffeine.
- Overall, remember to serve a range of teas to suit different tastes and include lemon slices, sugar, and cream to accompany the tea.
Here’s a list of the top teas for Afternoon Tea that pair very well with a range of foods found on afternoon tea menus.
Go for a melange of bold (like Assam/Darjeeling black teas) and delicate teas (Mint, Cinamon, Lavender).
Tip #4: Tea Party Snacks
The tea is accompanied by a variety of foods that are easy to prepare/order and manage while in a sitting room: thin sandwiches, such as cucumber or tomato, cake slices, buns or rolls, cookies, biscuits, and scones.
- The cake was a favorite food of Queen Victoria’s and she reportedly ordered “16 chocolate sponges, 12 plain sponges, 16 fondant biscuits” along with other sweets for a tea party at Buckingham Palace.
- Cakes asides, Scones are the other most popular foods for tea party menus. They can be sweet or savory, and complex or plain. Here are some scone recipes for any style of tea party. Be sure to pair your scones with appropriate scones toppings or spreads, such as Devonshire cream, clotted cream, or lemon curd.
Choose from a variety of sweet bites: Swiss Rolls, Macaroons & Marshmallows, Cup Cakes, Sorbets, and Scones.
- Finger sandwiches (also known as “tea sandwiches”) are often served at full tea, a heavier style of afternoon tea menu. Classic afternoon tea finger sandwiches include egg salad, tea sandwiches, cucumber tea sandwiches, smoked salmon finger sandwiches, roast beef finger sandwiches, ham finger sandwiches, and chicken salad finger sandwiches. (These types of simple recipes tend to work especially well for kids’ tea parties.)
Quiche, Egg Salad, Ham Sandwiches, Nuts, Crackers and Cheese: all go well at afternoon tea parties.
- In addition to finger sandwiches, some tea party menus include other savories, such as savory scones, soups, quiches, or lighter savory snacks, like seasoned nuts or cheese and crackers.
- Besides sweet scones, other sweet delicacies are often served with full tea or light tea. Common types of sweets found on tea party menus include various types of sponge cakes, Madeleines, cupcakes (which are ideal for kids’ tea parties), and trifles. “Be careful not to have too much overlap in the types of sweets you serve. Ideally, your sweets menu will include a variety of flavors, such as seasonal fruit (or, in the cooler months, preserves), cream, vanilla or chocolate.” — Lindsey Goodwin
- Other Beverages For kids’ tea party menus, consider serving iced tea, juice, or punch. For adult tea parties, you might consider offering champagne or a tea cocktail — there’s nothing like cozying up with a hot cup of tea when it’s cold outside and even better when the cup of hot tea is spiked with a little something extra.
Tea Cocktails, Iced Teas & Fruit Punches: some other beverages that you could serve up at your afternoon tea parties.
Tip #5: Tea Party Decor
A tea party is a tasteful affair. No tea party would be complete without the right accessories, so make sure you’re equipped with a cake stand, your best crockery, and a lovely tablecloth with decorations to match.
- “Think about color and texture when you plan your tea party menu. Carefully selected colors can relate to a tea party theme, the current season or other concepts, or they can simply be another way to make your tea party menu enjoyable for your guests.” — https://www.thespruceeats.com/
- Having the right china is important! Fine bone china teaware will bring a hint of vintage elegance to your party. If you don’t have any, walk to a nearby thrift store and amass some for throwaway prices. I assure you that you won’t regret it.
As a self-taught artist and cook, Suzanne Clark states: “Decorate your table with memories. Place an old scarf or a piece of lace purchased at a fabric store; scatter old pictures and postcards between fresh bouquets in small vases, canning jars, or wine glasses down the center of the table; add your favorite string of pearls, rhinestone broaches, and special event earrings to embellish your table. You will have fun talking about the memories that come to mind as you and your friends enjoy your one-of-a-kind centerpiece.”
Tip # 6: Choose your Tea Mojo
You can go as elaborate and extravagant or as simple as your time and budget allow although elegance has to be the hallmark either way.
- “Depending on the occasion, your afternoon tea menu can be as sparse as tea and cream scones (a type of afternoon tea menu known as “cream tea”) or elaborate enough that it includes multiple types of teas, scones, finger sandwiches, and other treats.” — https://www.thespruceeats.com/
- If you’re hard-pressed for time, consider buying some items instead of preparing them yourself, and opt for dishes that can be prepared in advance, such as finger sandwiches that won’t get soggy or sweets that can be refrigerated until they are ready to be served.
- If you’re on a budget, plan your menu carefully: opt for slightly less expensive options in your recipe selections, like raisin scones over cherry scones, and egg salad finger sandwiches over shrimp salad tea sandwiches. And psst, you could even replace the fine bone china with some fine porcelain or ceramic tea sets.
Tip #7: Tea Party Ideas
The old-fashioned tea party has become a favorite way to entertain friends or celebrate a special occasion. And since there’s nothing quite as pleasing as enjoying perfect tea time with your best buds, here are some handy ideas to get started on that tea party that you’ve been planning in your head many times over.
- Time: Choose an appropriate time to host your tea party. The afternoon is still the most popular and traditional time of the day for tea parties, serving as an opportunity to enjoy some delicious snacks and lovingly-brewed tea before dinner.
- Invitations: can be purchased or handmade. Choose from pretty floral stationery or parchment paper decorated with pearls/lace/rhinestones/pressed flowers. Invite guests to come in their “fancy dresses.” if you so wish. You may ask guests to wear decorated hats and bring a favorite teacup. You might even decide to have a contest and give a prize for the best hat or prettiest cup.
Personalize your Tea Party invitation cards as you wish.
- Location: Is it going to be outdoors or indoors?
a) If you are planning to host the party on your balcony or your living room, make sure to get the furniture arrangement right. To make sure that the tea party is enjoyable, create a conversation area by arranging the sofa/chairs in a way that they face each other. Make sure to keep a medium-height coffee table to add functionality to the arrangement.
b) A garden tea party is perfect for a spring or summer celebration when the weather is splendid. In fact, the garden tea party theme is delicate and romantic, so make sure to have decorations in pastel colors and many, many flowers.
Garden Tea Parties; there’s always such a charming and romantic ring to it.
- Arrival Treats: Wow your guests, keep arrival treats for them. Having a nice drink to welcome your guests will not only provide a conversation point when they arrive, it instantly relaxes your guests, and lets them know they are in for an enjoyable afternoon.
- Tea Party Games: Conversations are great, but you could make your tea party more fun with tea party games. And there’s no dearth of games that you could engage in: from Tea Party Bingo, Word Race, Tea Leave Pictionary to even Teapot Art.
If you’re organizing a tea party for children, Tea Bag Hunt; Musical Chairs; Tea Party Relay Races are quite the hit. For a full list of tea party games for adults and kids, go here.
While the afternoon tea party became a feature of great houses in the Victorian and Edwardian ages in the United Kingdom and the Gilded Age (1870sto about 1900) in the United States, almost every culture has its own ‘tea etiquettes’ — continental Europe (France, Germany), Russian, China, Japan, Middle East, you name it. But it’s the Victorian Age that made it fashionable and glamorous.
So go on… plan the next Tea Party for your friends or children with these handy tips and tell us how it went. And to partake in more such exciting and ethnic affairs, head over to Room Flip™ and play upcoming events like the ‘Limoncello de Festa’, in Amalfi, Italy, or a ‘Flamingo-themed Pool Party’, for free!
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