Hello, and thank you for visiting with me today. This month, I have been blogging all about tea to celebrate National Hot Tea Month. Today I will address some steps to take when preparing for a tea event.
After your invitations have been mailed, you should begin to prepare for the day of your event. Will you be hosting a tea in your parlor for 1-4 guests, or maybe a formal, seated tea at the dining room table for 3-7 guests? If you are planning a large event in your home, a buffet-style tea would be the best way to serve tea.
Whatever choice you make, remember that the tea food may and should be prepared in advance. Don't feel like you need to serve only homemade tea foods. Purchasing scones and sweets from a bakery will save you a lot of time and you will feel less stress when your guests arrive. For an afternoon tea, you should serve savories, scones, and sweets. These foods may be placed on a tiered tray at a seated tea, with the savories on the bottom, the scones on the middle tray, and the sweets on the top tray. If you are having a buffet-style tea, you may use tiered trays, silver trays, or other beautiful trays that you may have to hold the tea foods. For tea in the parlor, any type of appropriate teaware may be used.
Depending on the size of your guest list, you may use teapots for a small group or you might use a tea urn for a large group. To serve loose, steeped tea to a small group of guests, first, heat the teapot with hot water. Then pour out that water into a waste bowl and place one teaspoon per cup of loose tea into the pot, adding "one for the pot." Allow the tea to steep. Place a tea strainer over the teacup. Ask your guest, "Would you like tea? ...Would you like your tea weak or strong?" If the guest prefers weak tea, pour only a half cup of the steeped tea into the cup, then add hot water to the tea, no more than 3/4 cup full. Now you would ask, "Would you like sugar, lemon/milk?" If the guest requests sugar, ask, "One lump or two?" (Always use sugar cubes at teatime). Cream is never served with tea, as it is too rich for the delicate tea flavor, so if guests request milk, remember that the milk always goes in last, and ask "A spot or a dash?" Gently stir the tea with a teaspoon and then place the teaspoon behind the handle of the teacup.
To serve tea to a large group of guests using an electric urn (coffee maker), clean the urn with vinegar and fill it with cold water. Allow three cups of tea per guests. A 50-cup urn will need 25 teabags. Put in the center post and basket, place the teabags into the basket, and turn the urn on. Leave the teabags in the basket until you need to steep more tea; then remove the used teabags and add more cold water and teabags. Pour the steeped tea into the teacups. If you are using an urn to just heat the water, place three teabags inside each five-six cup teapot and pour the water from the urn into the teapots to steep the tea.
Before your guests arrive, your table should be set and ready, with all the tea accoutrements available. A tablecloth should always be used to cover the table at afternoon tea. Centerpieces should be kept at a low height for a seated tea, but may be dramatic for a buffet-style tea. Remember to practice proper candle etiquette and draw the draperies shut when you burn candles at afternoon tea.
Thank you again for stopping by today; tomorrow I will explain the service used at each type of tea: A formal seated tea, a buffet-style tea, and a tea in the parlor.