If you and your friends frequent tea rooms why not go one step further and plan your own tea event? You may wait for a special occasion like a marriage, anniversary, retirement, birthday, holiday, but a “just because” gathering with friends is reason enough.
Follow the steps below for planning a memorable tea experience:
Preplan a budget
Although the friends you invite and the congenial social setting you encourage are priceless you do need to think about how much you will spend.
One way you might figure a reasonable budget is to fold a piece of notebook paper in half and list everything you need and want on one side of the paper with matching costs on the other. Then you can go back and circle the musts, cross out the unnecessary, and keep the few items that you think are worth the extra dollars. Play with the items and figures until the balance is what you can afford.
Set a date for your tea
Give yourself time to gather the supplies, thumb through recipes, decide on your menu, go shopping and to send out advance invitations.
Decide on a theme
The tea itself is a theme, but if you’re planning the tea around a special occasion such as, shower tea or birthday, it’s fun to match the games, gifts, center table pieces, food and ambiance to a theme. A few suggestions for themes: a world of teas (if you want to sample teas from different cultures), a season, a special occasion, an era in history.
Create or buy invitations
Directions for making inexpensive invitations can be found at scrap booking, fabric and craft stores, or you may opt for commercial invitations.
Name, address, and send invitations
Give your guests enough advance warning to schedule your tea into their planner and request RSVP so you can prepare your settings and menu to accommodate all who are coming.
Decide on the location
Serving in your own home is usually the most convenient, but there are other options if you need a larger space to accommodate the number of guests you are inviting. A friend or family member may offer her home or you might consider a church fellowship hall, community center, local grange, apartment complex common room or an outside garden area (if the weather permits).
If you are using any place other than your own be sure and schedule the time on their calendar. A kitchen for last-minute warming of foods, final preparations and touch-ups is desirable.
Arrange for enough tables and chairs
Once the RSVPs have been returned, and you have the number of guests coming, count your tables and match the number of people who can comfortably fit around each one.
Gather your tea pots, cups and saucers
Are you using porcelain, bone china or ceramic cups? It will depend on what you have, what you can round up and which ones match your theme, style of table setting and tea foods. Eclectic cups and saucers make for interesting table conversation and shouldn’t detour from the social celebration unless you make excuses for the mixture.
If you need tea pots, tea cups and saucers frequent garage sales, thrift stores, antique stores or ask “Auntie” or a friend during your planning months. If you have to transport them from one place to another be sure to wrap them in bubble rap, newspaper, or recyclable packing peanuts which can be obtained at UPS stores. You won’t want to break one of yours or anyone else’s collectible tea cups.
One tea pot per table is usually enough for one round of tea for four people. If you have enough tea pots to have one for two people you will be spending less time refilling tea pots with hot water. Hot water reserves left on the stove simmering will take less time to bring to boiling than cold water, and you can keep everyone happily sipping hot tea.
There are pump style thermos or newer, more expensive models for keeping water boiling and ready for immediate use. If they are not in your budget use the simmering water method. Tea cozies help tea pots hold heat, too.
Prepare the table settings
Use your favorite matching dishes or use eclectic dishware with contrasting colors to create colorful, inviting table settings. Select a table cloth that ties the colors and patterns together and match centerpieces to your theme.
Plan your tea foods
Plan your favorite tea foods. They may range from a sorbet to ready the palate, to scones and clotted cream and jam, salad, tea sandwiches, and desserts. Menu suggestions abound online, in tea books, and from you favorite recipe collection.
Allow yourself time to enjoy this final step before guests arrive. You may choose to set the table at your leisure the night before or early in the morning.
Prepare foods that can be made ahead of time. This allows more time for the foods that should be cooked the day of the tea. Balance your menu to minimize hectic on-the-spot preparations. You’ll be more relaxed as you bring your planning to fruition.