Tea Party 101

Darlings, taking time for tea is very important in our busy world. There is nothing I have found more soothing than drinking a warm tea from a beautiful china cup. 

Often people believe that having tea has to be an elegant and extravagant affair that involves time and a lot of fuss.  I am here to tell you that while you can have the Fancy you can also do it Fast with some general knowledge.

In my opinion, having some basic, inexpensive, tea items on hand are absolutely essential to your success. Furthermore, while I would chose to drink my tea from a pretty, rose painted china tea cup, you may have a different preference. That is just fine! Follow what you love!

I would suggest the following items as a "starter kit". I also would encourage you to visit any of your local thrift or antique stores for these items. You can also find these times in the Sweet Boutique under the Tea Party heading and also on many other websites I feature on my Whimsical Tea Party Links. 

Be aware of overpriced "vintage" items. I rarely have paid more than 10-15 dollars for a teacup or 20-30 dollars for a teapot while antiquing unless the beauty of the item entranced me or if it was collector piece such as Haviland Limoges or RS Prussia. 

Here are the items:

Teacup with Saucer (two would be nice..one for you and one for a friend!)
Tea of choice 
Tea Strainer (if using Loose Leaf)
Sugar, Milk, Lemon, Honey (as you prefer)
Delicate Teaspoon
Tea Cozy or Teapot Warmer 
Shortbread cookies or any other delicate confection

Pretty, dainty table linens are also lovely to set out on your table to enhance your experience.

There are several beautiful "Tea for One" sets that have a small 2 cup Teapot with a matching Teacup which are lovely such as this...

Guidelines for Brewing the Perfect Pot of Tea
Your tea will only be as good as your water. It is best to use filtered or spring water only. If you must use tap water, take water during the day time from a tap and leave it out overnight. Once the water as come to the boil, take off the lid of the pot, turn the heat down to low and continue to heat for 5 minutes; This gets rid of any unpleasant smells the water may have.

Wait until the water is near boiling, then pour a little into the teapot and swirl it around. This warms the pot so that it is at an optimum temperature for holding the tea. Empty the pot.
To the warmed teapot add one slightly rounded teaspoon of a tea per cup plus one teaspoon for the pot. Or use one tea bag in the pot for each cup. 

When the water in the kettle has reached a rolling boil, pour it in the pot and allow the tea to steep. Steep times vary depending on tea so follow this general rule; 1-3 minutes for green and white teas, 3-5 minutes for black and oolong teas and 5-10 minutes for herbal or fruit blends. When brewing the tea, it is best to cover the pot or cup to keep in the steam and allow the leaves to unfurl more fully. Be careful not to over steep as this can cause the tea to become bitter. 

After steeping, remove leaves. 

(Adapted from Lisa Richardson The World in Your Teacup)

Tea Etiquette

   *Serving Tea 

Serving tea can be very ceremonial. In a group setting, tea etiquette suggests that the hostess serves tea or asks a close friend. The guest of honor, if there is one, should be served first. 

The server should pour with her dominant hand, carefully holding the strainer above the cup if loose tea is served. 

It is suggested that the server ask the guest if they prefer their tea wek, or strong. If the preference is weak, then only pour tea 1/2-3/4 full and then add hot water to fill, careful to leave enough room to add other additions. 

To ask regarding additions such as milk, lemon or sugar should be done next. Be aware that milk and lemon should never be added together. If milk is requested, whole milk is preferred. Never use cream. Cream is too heavy and can mask the taste of the tea.

When using lemon, it is preferred to use thin slices not wedges. Furthermore, never serve lemon on silver or silver plated dishes because the acid from the lemon with ruin your wares.

When adding lemon and sugar, add sugar first as the acid from the lemon can prevent the sugar from dissolving.

The use of sugar can take the form of cubes, granulated or artificial sweeteners such as Splenda.  Decorative sugar cubes are such a pretty delight but granulated sugar or other loose sweeteners allows the guest to add the amount they prefer.

You should then stir the tea for your guest careful not to clink the sides of the tea cup.  Place the teaspoon to the right side of the cup on the saucer and handing it to your guest ensure the handle for her/him is on their right.

*Drinking Tea

In order for one not to spill the hot liquid onto oneself, the proper way to hold the vessel of a cup with no handle is to place one’s thumb at the six o'clock position and one’s index and middle fingers at the twelve o'clock position, while gently raising one’s pinkie up for balance. 
Tea cups with a handle are held by placing one’s fingers to the front and back of the handle with one’s pinkie up again allows balance. Pinkie up does mean straight up in the air, but slightly tilted. It is not an affectation, but a graceful way to avoid spills. Never loop your fingers through the handle, nor grasp the vessel bowl with the palm of your hand.

Do not stir your tea, with your tea spoon, in sweeping circular motions. Place your tea spoon at the six o'clock position and softly fold the liquid towards the twelve o'clock position two or three times. Never leave your tea spoon in your tea cup. When not in use, place your tea spoon on the right side of the tea saucer. Never wave or hold your tea cup in the air. 

When not in use, place the tea cup back in the tea saucer. If you are at a buffet tea hold the tea saucer in your lap with your left hand and hold the tea cup in your right hand. When not in use, place the tea cup back in the tea saucer and hold in your lap.  The only time a saucer is raised together with the teacup is when one is at a standing reception.

The Menu

Having tea alone is perfectly divine but adding a tasty and dainty delight will sure to enhance your experience!

There are three basic types of food that is served with tea; savories, scones and sweets. 

Savories are also known as tea sandwiches or canapes. These small, bite sized treasures are fun to make and even more fun to eat! 

Allow 4 to 6 cut sandwich servings or savories for each person. 

If making tea sandwiches, choose the best-quality white or wheat bread as possible. Never serve end slices. Freezing the bread before cutting and then spreading makes for easier handling.

I feel that bread slices should be lightly buttered no matter what the filling. Unsalted butter should always be used. Butter should be at room temperature before spreading. This prevents the sandwiches from becoming limp and soggy.

Cut the crusts off the bread with a long, sharp knife after the sandwiches are filled. This keeps everything neater.

As tea sandwiches should be delicate, cut each sandwich in half on the diagonal or into thirds or fourths before serving. Decorative shapes can be made with cookie cutters.

Scones are usually small unsweetened or lightly sweetened biscuit-like cakes. They are usually served as their own course with clotted cream or devonshire cream, lemon curd and/or jam. At times you can see them as part of the savories course.

Sweets are well...just that..SWEETS! These can take many wonderful forms from simple cakes to elaborate petit fours or other delightful confections!

I have many wonderful recipes on my blog that you can visit anytime by clicking HERE.

Adapted from Tea and Etiquette Expert Ellen Easton.

72 pages of how to’s, history, etiquette and FAQ about afternoon tea, serving styles and more. 

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