How to Plan an Afternoon Tea
When my daughters were young we enjoyed going to Grandma’s (my MIL) house for tea parties. She would allow the girls to choose their favorite tea cup from her collection. In her gracious way, she taught them to sip tea and enjoy dainty treats like proper young ladies. When they were old enough we began taking them to tea houses for lunch or afternoon tea. Now my girls are all grown up and we still enjoy the occasional Afternoon Tea out with Grandma. It’s been great fun!
Recently, the girls and I decided to host a Valentine’s Day Afternoon Tea for a few friends. Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing the details including our recipes for tea sandwiches and scones, the history of Afternoon Tea and proper tea etiquette. But, I thought it would be best to start at the beginning…. How to Plan an Afternoon Tea.
There are three main components to a successful Afternoon Tea…. Good Company, Good Food and of course, Good Tea!
First, Good Company:
Decide how many people you feel you can comfortably seat and prepare for.
- Plan your seating and serving:
Decide if you would rather have your guests at a dining table or seated in chairs around the living area. Either is perfectly acceptable.
Once you’ve done this, take and inventory of how many tea cups plates ect. you have. This may limit your number of guests.
However, a fun thing to do is ask each invited lady to bring her favorite tea cup. This could allow for more guests and be a great conversation starter, perhaps going around the room and asking each lady to explain any special significance associated with her cup.
- Invite accordingly:
My mom was happy to open her home for the Afternoon Tea. We decided to sit in comfortable chairs in her large living area and we have several of Grandma’s tea cups from her collection, so we were able to invite about 15 of our closest friends. To our surprise, they were ALL able to make it. We were very excited! We had plenty of room for everyone. But my point is, don’t over-invite. If you have a smaller room or decide to sit at a table, stick to a smaller number of friends.
- Give them plenty of notice:
We chose to hand deliver invitations since we see most of these people on a regular basis. Sending them in the mail or a personal phone call would be fine, too. Two weeks before would be a good amount of time but if you know your guests’ schedules tend to fill up quickly you may want to give them more notice. Also, be sure to let them know how “formal” you’re thinking so they don’t feel embarrassed if they are over or under dressed. Also include any special instructions like asking them to bring their favorite tea cup.
- Ask them to RSVP:
Include an email or phone number they can message to let you know if they plan to attend. Ask them to respond 2-3 days in advance of the party so you’ll know how much food to plan. Of course, I always plan extra…. just in case someone is able to make it last minute.
Second, Good Food:
Typically, the food at an Afternoon Tea includes three things… tea sandwiches, scones and sweets. The food doesn’t have to be difficult or fancy, however it often looks more “fancy” just because it’s small and served on pretty plates.
Since our tea was in February, it seemed only appropriate to have a Valentine’s theme (my daughter’s idea). We decided to try to keep everything thematic by using pink, red or making it heart-shaped. You might be surprised how many pink and red food options are out there! I started a secret Pinterest board and collected ideas. The only problem…. I had WAY TOO MANY cute ideas pinned! Narrowing down was the hardest part. In the end we chose… (all recipes coming soon)
- Turkey with Cranberry-Orange Spread
- Dark Chocolate Cherry with Clotted Cream and Strawberry Jam
- Cream Cheese Stuffed Strawberries
- White Chocolate Dipped Cherries
- Red Velvet Cupcakes
Now, this may seem like a lot of food. Keep in mind, it’s only a “snack” so preparing one (1) of each item per guest is the appropriate number. The idea is for each person to be able to have 1 of each thing. I, however, struggle with that and did make a few extras of everything.
Third, Good Tea:
Arguably, this could be THE most important thing! The idea is to get friends together and enjoy a nice cup of tea, so it HAS to be good.
For our party, we served a variety of teas from Lipton’s new black and herbal teas as well as their improved Greenteas. Lipton is my prefered brand and it was nice to be able to try their new selections. Here’s what we served…
- Irresistible Lady Lipton – Black tea with bergamot and citrus
- Stirring Ceylon Black Tea – adventurously intense and uplifting
- Cinnamon Apple – a Luscious Herbal Tea
- Purple Acai Blueberry Greentea
- Decaffeinated Honey Lemon Greentea – having a decaf option was great!
The boxes were so lovely we placed them with the tea pots so each tea could easily be identified. Having a variety was nice and I think most people tried at least two. We served one cold, just in case someone prefered it. All the teas were a big hit, but the Acai Blueberry Greentea was generally considered the “favorite”. We served it hot but I think it would make a wonderfully refreshing cold tea as well.
Thanks, Lipton for helping make our Afternoon Tea a great success!