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 “taking tea” is the beautiful ceremony of the event, which is what makes hosting a tea party so wonderful! Whether your afternoon tea is a formal affair or served casually amongst the flowers in the garden, several key 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. (You’ve got to trust me on this.) Some hostesses use a different cup and saucer for each guest. And, a mismatched set of china can be charming. (Click to learn how to successfully mix china patterns.)
Next, no afternoon tea would be complete without cake. Investing in an elegant cake plate (or two!) is absolutely worthwhile. A simple but beautiful cake plate is extremely versatile and can be used for any occasion – from holiday extravaganzas to more casual entertaining. I am drawn to a pedestal version, or a tiered tray, which elevates the status of even a humble cake or pile of cookies. (Bonus! Lovely cake stands and tiered trays help make easy seasonal decor. Click to learn how to decorate using cake stands and tiered trays.)
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. Yorkshire Tea is one of my faves and is available on Amazon.
And, unless you plan on reading the leaves, for loose tea you’ll need a tea ball.
If you would rather have someone else brew your tea for you, many of the finest hotels and restaurants around the country have adopted the high tea custom, offering afternoon tea with regional flair.
In the MidAtlantic, the Willard InterContinental in Washinton, DC is the premier venue for afternoon tea. Named among the “Top 10 Places to Do Afternoon Tea like a Royal” by the Travel Channel, guests are seated amidst the grandeur of the famous Peacock Alley. The traditional afternoon tea includes a selection of the fine loose leaf teas by the J’enwey Tea Company, savory finger sandwiches, decadent pastries, and of course, freshly baked scones.
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 taking tea 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… milk in second and pinkies in!
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Susan Said… WHAT?! is your guide to a life filled with style and was named one of the Top 50 Beauty Blogs in the World by RebateZone.com. You’ll find everything from fashion, jewelry, beauty and accessories, to gorgeous gardens and stunning interiors and DIY projects, plus the latest ideas events of all kinds. Susan Conforte McNeill is an author, entrepreneur, and co-founder of the literacy organization Success Won’t Wait!