Monday, July 25, 2011

How To Throw A Proper English Tea Party

You were obsessed with William and Kate’s wedding, you watch Masterpiece Theater, and you have to resist the urge to work “quite” and “nary” into casual conversation. Admit it, you secretly wish you were English, don’t you? Join the club. I’m a cardholding member. 

This Saturday I decided to throw a Tea Party. An English tea party though, nary a Republican in sight. Mad hats, fancy frocks, and scones abound and a drawing room flowing with classical music and conversation.

Traditional Afternoon tea, or “low tea,” is held around 2-5 in the afternoon. I decided to invite a few friends to dress up and indulge in my delusions of grandeur and it was actually easier than I thought. I don’t why I haven’t done this before. I think I was secretly intimidated by the idea but, surprisingly, planning and hosting a traditional English Tea Party is MUCH easier than it sounds.

Assemble your finest china. I've had this dainty little set in the family for years collecting dust—but, if you don’t have a tea set of your own, fear not; you can find a similar set like this in almost any thrift store.

It's all in the details. Little pieces like this crystal, cream and sugar set (top) add a touch of elegance to the table.

Don’t be afraid to break tradition. My friend brought over this gorgeous Chinese tea set. He brewed his own loose leaf tea while I made a more traditional British tea with cream and sugar.

Get to know traditional tea etiquette and decide whether you want to go by the book or switch up some of the recipes and times. Whatever you do, don’t make tea time a brunch.


Some traditions I simply refuse to break. I went somewhere between light tea and full tea: serving homemade scones and clotted cream, pound cake for sweets, and a bacon, cheddar, broccoli quiche for savories.

If you’re going to throw a tea party, you might as well make it fit for the queen. Be firm. This isn’t a brunch or just another get-together. Insist your guests wear hats, dresses, and collared shirts. Gloves too, if you’ve got ‘em! Ask yourself, “what would Kate Middleton do?” That’s right, she’s a casual girl but she never fails to pay homage to the frills. Embrace the frills. They are your friend.

Mmm. Yum! Last tip: Don’t you dare skimp on the calories. Indulgence is the theme here. You want your guests to feel like they're indulging, not only in their lofty English fantasies, but taste wise as well. Make everything rich and from scratch (the night before, if you must) and don’t fear British recipes calling for heaps of butter and heavy cream. Do it! Trust me, you and guests will taste the difference.

I’m serious dah-lings. Don’t even think of substituting homemade butter cream for margarine, heavy cream for half and half, sugar for Spenda—it’s like casting Mr. Darcy with…Keanu Reaves. It’s a slap in the face, I tell you. (I have no idea why my brain went to Keanu-sorry I’ve consumed WAY too many saturated fats this weekend.)
Gotta go; I’m off to go imperialize something…

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