In the world of takeout coffee, being invited to a tea party is a special occasion. Although most people associate tea parties with Great Britain, the roots of the tea tradition date back to ancient China and the 2nd century BC. Other cultures in which rituals starring this herbal beverage occupy a prominent place include Korea, Japan, Russia, India, Thailand, and Turkey.
Despite popular belief, tea rituals are not exclusively an aristocratic habit: in fact, tea parties offer an excellent alternative to formal dinners and fancy banquets. To throw a tea party, you will need basic knowledge of tea table arrangements and the necessary supplies including a teapot/kettle, tea cozy, cups and saucers, tea strainer, pitchers, silverware, and napkins.
Setting the table
Depending on the number of guests, set the table either as a full-scale buffet or place the tea set in the center of the table. For a sophisticated tablescape, use quality home decor fabric, such as stylish tablecloths and elegant napkins to create a perfect party backdrop.
The tea set (kettle, trays with sugar, lemon, honey, and water and milk pitchers) should be placed toward the head of the table where you will serve tea. The rest of the table can be laid with dessert plates laden customary food, such as tea sandwiches, cakes, cupcakes, scones, and fruit.
Picking the right tea set
There is no shortage of refined tea utensils on the market: you can use all-white ceramics, mismatched cups and chipped saucers, cast iron teapots, delftware, gilded sets, or modernist tea infusers and designer sets.
Think of your tea table as the canvas onto which you will paint the colors of bonhomie: you can place a carnation or rose at every seat, or you can pare the look down to a vase with a tasteful bouquet or a single flower at the center.
Classy tea sets make an excellent conversation starter, and an elaborately decorated teapot can also double as a table centerpiece instead of candles or flower arrangements.
As for the tea service, you can find fine examples of contemporary tea craft at renowned Italian design brand Alessi. The brand’s latest kettle design draws on the blueprints of the best-selling 9093 kettle, but it replaces the iconic bird-shaped whistle perched atop the kettle spout with a dragon created by late designer Michael Graves in honor of the 30th anniversary of the Alessi teakettle.
Another noteworthy tea service that will make a lasting impression on your guests, HORNE tea sets boast a range of hybrid, minimalist and lavish gold-streaked designs executed in stainless steel, brass, and porcelain, blending recognizable Scandinavian, French and Asian elements.
Or, if you prefer a modernist look to conventional tea sets, try Emmo Home: a combination of minimalist elegance and unexpected visual twists (think stainless steel tea sticks, holey citrus baskets and tea bag-shaped infusers), this brand is a go-to for creative spirits and postmodern tea lovers.
Tea gadgetry galore
A carefully selected tea gadget can turn around the party mood and add visual interest to a plain tablescape. Over the past few years, we have seen many imaginative takes on the tea infuser design, tiered glass cake platters, asymmetric saucer and teacup renditions and designer tea sets.
Tiered platters are a must-have for tea lovers, and they are an extremely useful extra to have in your cupboard for family gatherings, birthday parties and festive get-togethers.
Whichever tea party accessory you opt for, make sure you strike a balance between appeal and function: after all, a tea party is a social gathering, not an extravaganza show.
Afternoon tea is an excellent excuse to invite your friends over for chit-chat, and the quaint feel of a proper tea party will make you fall in love with the ritual. Polish your silverware, bring out your finest table linens and platters with dainty bites, and put the kettle to boil – it is time for tea!
------written by Sophie Andersen, Contributing Writer