If you’re British, all of the world’s problems can be solved with a cup of tea. And even if you’re not, surmounting financial issues, wrangling with recalcitrant teens, and managing office politics always feels a bit easier to handle after “a cuppa.”
One of the best parts of sitting down to tea is the beautiful ceremony of the event. Whether your afternoon tea is served formally in the drawing room or casually in the garden, several elements are required.
First, a lovely tea set, with delicate, wafer thin cups of fine bone china, is a necessity. Tea simply does not taste the same when drunk from a ceramic mug! (Trust me on this.) Although some hostesses use a different cup and saucer for each guest, I find this looks like a bit of a hodgepodge and prefer one, unified pattern. For example, I love the Royal Albert Rose Confetti Collection, pictured, which I found at Macy’s. In addition to the three-piece tea set shown, the collection also includes cups, saucers and plates for a very proper tea. Retail: $139 for three-piece tea set.
Next, no afternoon tea would be complete without cake. Investing in an elegant cake plate (or two!) is absolutely worthwhile. The Martha Stewart cake plate, shown in white, is extremely versatile and can be used for any occasion – from holiday extravaganzas to more casual entertaining. I was drawn to the square shape, which is just a tad more stylish than the more traditional round, plus the pedestal elevates even a humble cake’s status! Available at Macy’s. Retail: $44.99
Of course, the centerpiece of an afternoon spent sipping tea is… the tea itself! Loose tea from Teavana offers an almost endless array of options, but for afternoon tea, I find that traditional black tea is most appreciated.
Last, unless you plan on reading the leaves, for loose tea you’ll need a tea ball. I found a few adorable ones at Kitchen and Company. The Prodyne Garden Dweller Tea Ball Infusers, pictured below, are crafted from sturdy stainless steel and have adorable pewter charm designs including a dragonfly, ladybug and honey bee. Retail: $7.99
If you would rather have someone else brew your tea for you, many of the finest hotels and restaurants around the country have adopted this custom, offering afternoon tea with regional flair.
In the Mid-Atlantic, the Hotel DuPont in Wilmington, Delaware, provides The Estate Tea Service daily, which includes especially created blends of tea from the neighboring estates, such as world-famous Longwood Gardens, Winterthur Museum and Gardens, and Nemours Mansion and Gardens.
If you live in the South, tea in Dallas at the Historic DeGolyer Estate, Dallas Arboretum, is an afternoon to remember! A three course menu begins with a select soup, followed by a second course of assorted tea sandwiches, and a third course of sweet treats. Also included are scones with clotted cream, jam, and seasonal tea selections.
Those on the West Coast will want to sample afternoon tea at the chic Hotel Bel-Air. Available on Friday and Saturday only, reservations are hard to come by, so call early. The Hotel provides an incredible selection of teas, savories, and sweets and is a time-honored tradition in the area.
Finally, in the North, the ultimate tea party is in Boston! At the Four Seasons your Tea Party is sure to be oh-so-civilized at the Four Season’s Hotel.
However you choose to take your tea, remember… pinkies in!
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Your guide to a life filled with STYLE! Susan Conforte McNeill is a wife, mother, author, entrepreneur, Harper’s BAZAAR Style Ambassador, and the co-founder of the literacy organization Success Won’t Wait! In addition to Susan Said… WHAT?! Susan also writes for It’s how you play the game! the corporate website of the award-winning You’ve been Sentenced! word game.