by Diana Bulls
Since tomorrow is Mother’s Day it may seem a bit late to plan a Mother’s Day tea, but it is still doable and would be a lot of fun. You can also plan a post Mother’s Day tea for next weekend, or just do a tea party for no particular reason except that it’s fun!
Nothing says Spring or Mother’s Day, like a tea party. Drinking tea was once a lost ritual in the U.S., but it is now making a comeback. The specialty tea market has grown and tea shops can be found all over, even in cities like Fresno! Tea can be sweet or savory, spicy or fruity and it has depth and flavor. Tea is for people of all ages, and especially for those people who like to feel warm and fuzzy on the inside.
Tea parties are supposed to be cozy, so invite your mother or grandmother, or make this a mother-daughter event and invite some good friends. Set up a pretty table, serve tea and a few goodies, sit back and enjoy the conversation and companionship.
Here are the steps, and a few ideas for a fun and simple get together:
1) Choose the party date and invite your guests.
Invitations should be sent out (written, phoned or e-mailed) not less than one week in advance, but two weeks is better. Be sure to give your guests all the details: if you will be outside, for example, they may want to wear a hat and flats.
2) Gather your tea party supplies.
a. Teapot–If you are lucky enough to have a silver tea service, by all means use it but be sure to polish it up. If not, a china or pottery pot works just as well. Check thrift stores for possibilities or borrow one. The teapot should be large enough to pour each guest one cup of tea, but not too heavy to lift easily. If you like, you can use two tea pots for two types of tea. You can also add a small pot filled with plain hot water for diluting strong tea.
b. A tea infuser–To hold loose tea leaves if you are not using tea bags.
c. Waste bowl–This is any small, wide-mouthed bowl in which the cold tea dregs or tea bags may be dumped.
d. Sugar bowl and creamer–Remove the lid to the sugar bowl. If using granulated sugar, place a spoon or sugar shell in the bowl. If you fill with sugar cubes, use sugar tongs. Fill the matching creamer with milk.
e. Tray (optional)–Choose a tray big enough to hold the teapot, sugar & creamer, waste bowl and infuser. This also helps to protect the tablecloth.
f. Teacups, saucers, and small plates–Use your good china cups & saucers and dessert plates, or if you are lucky enough to have a collection of tea cups, use those. Pieces don’t have to match–just look pretty on the table.
g. Tea spoons and dessert forks–Again, bring out the good silver and be sure they are polished and shining.
h. Special serving pieces–Depending on your menu, use pedestal cake stands lined with doilies, tiered sandwich plates, crystal bowls or dishes. Don’t forget serving spoons or a cake server.
i. Lemon plate and fork–Any small plate may be used; place a fork atop thinly sliced lemon.
j. Table linens–Use a pretty tablecloth, lace or embroidered, if you have one. If not, a piece of pretty plain or floral fabric (or a sheet) that coordinates with your china will look just as nice. Linen or embroidered napkins are nice to use as well, but pretty floral printed paper napkins will work. You can always check out thrift stores or yard sales for tablecloths and napkins.
k. Centerpiece–Use fresh flowers in a nice vase or a lovely potted plant. Keep the centerpiece low so your guests can see over it.
3) Plan your menu. Keep it simple, sweet and light.
If you have time to do everything from scratch, please do so, but remember, the grocery store is your friend and has everything you might need. A simple menu could include chicken salad sandwiches cut into pretty shapes with cookie cutters–freeze the bread, it makes cutting easier–thin sliced lemon poppy seed bread (or mini-muffins), mini-pastry tart shells filled with lemon curd or raspberry jam, fancy cookies (think Pepperidge Farm) and big, fresh strawberries to dip in powdered sugar. Check out the internet for more ideas.
4) Buy tea. I might suggest Lemon Lift or Plantation Mint (Bigelow): both light and refreshing, and perfect for spring. Also good for people who don’t know if they like tea. Check out the grocery store–there is a huge variety. You can also ask your guests what they might prefer. You might want to practice brewing a pot of tea before your party as tea should not be allowed to steep more than five minutes. Instructions for brewing tea below.
On the day of the tea party:
Prepare your goodies and place on their respective serving plates and platters. Be sure you include a serving utensil if one is needed.
Set the tea table up in your garden, patio or inside. Place the tea tray at one end of the table, making sure to leave plenty of room for you. As the hostess, you will be serving the guests their tea. Place the lemon, milk and sugar next to the tea, and the rest of the food at the other end of the table. The guests will serve the food themselves. The centerpiece goes in between.
Dress the part. Don’t be afraid to dress up a bit more than you would for a normal gathering with friends.
Begin boiling the water and setting out the food about 10 minutes before guests are scheduled to arrive. Take this time to put the tea infuser or bags inside the tea pot. Greet your guests as they arrive. When the teakettle is whistling, pour the water into the tea pot and take it to the table, along with your guests.
Serve tea to your guests, asking if they prefer lemon, milk, or sugar. Pass around the goodies, put on your best manners, relax, have fun and enjoy the company of your family or friends.
How to Brew Tea
1. Boil cold, fresh water.
2. Measure tea. You’ll need 1tea bag or 1 teaspoon tea leaves per 1 cup water.
3. Preheat teapot by rinsing with very hot water.
4. Put tea bags or leaves in infuser and then in pot, then pour in boiling water.
5. At the tea table: follow the recommended steeping time for your tea, generally 1-5 minutes.
6. Remove bags or leaves from pot and serve your guests.