If you are a more formal, traditional person, or if you are in the mood for elegance, try hosting a classic tea party. If a dinner party is too fussy, and brunch is too early in the day, the classic tea may be perfect for a bridal or baby shower, a birthday party, an anniversary, or even something called a wedding album party (more about that below). Traditional tea was served as a light meal between lunch and a late dinner, usually around 4 p.m.
But the Mad Hatter, Alice and the Rabbit, as well as the Cheshire Cat are not really part of the scene (though they would make for a perfect children’s book tea party!)
To stay sane, you can set things up as a buffet, much as you would for a book party or cocktail party, and have little pots of tea kept at the correct temperature on hot plates, while the water boils on Sterno fueled platforms. (There are also hot plates that are two burner gas stoves operating on cans of propane that will keep your water hot). You may want to present a selection of international teas that come from exotic places, or offer a selection of spice and fruit teas that don’t contain caffeine. Some come are tea bags wrapped in foil packets, and others come as loose tea leaves.
On the side prepare half and half or a pareve substitute, milk, skim, lemon, lime and orange slices, sugar substitutes, sugar cubes, honey, and different types of granulated sugars.
A WORD ABOUT
Some teapots, like those found at Asian markets, are made for loose tea leaves and contain strainers and baskets. Some shops also offer porcelain tea cups with interior tea baskets and lids to allow you to brew your own cup exactly as you like it. Also available are little chained objects called tea balls, that allow you to place the tea in a round metal basket that snaps shut and allows you to dunk it like a tea bag.
HINTS FOR THE
PERFECT POT OF TEA
Warm up your ceramic teapot with hot tap water.
Boil a kettle of water on the stove.
When the kettle whistle begins to blow, pour the hot water out of the ceramic pot, and add one teaspoon of tea leaves for each cup of tea you will serve, plus one for the pot. If the pot has a strainer, put the tea leaves in the strainer and pour the boiling water over the leaves. Let the pot steep for at least three minutes and up to seven minutes, depending on how strong you like your tea. If you let it steep too long, it will become too bitter.
You may also want to set up a coffee bar for those who think tea is for people who have colds.
The Tea Party/
Coffee Bar Set Up
As usual, you will need to prepare in advance, or order in from your favorite caterer or pastry shop.
To do it right, forget the paper goods. Put out your best china cups, and understand that they don’t need to match. Use your fanciest platters, crystal plates and flatware. Everything should be as pretty as you can make it. You can buy printed napkins or use linens, decorate with fresh flowers and present a platter of fresh sliced fruits in season. (There is art for this.)
The coffee bar consists of a huge urn of freshly brewed Columbian or French Roast coffee, surrounding by cinnamon sticks, peppermint sticks, chocolate covered spoons, vanilla, flavored liquors – amaretto, Sabra, Curacao, chocolate, coffee, vanilla, and raspberry are great coffee enhancers.
Don’t forget a huge bowl of whipped cream—and if you provide steamed milk, so much the better. Even the Queen of Hearts would approve. She can afford it, and if you can, hire a chamber orchestra or a harpist. If not, that’s what CDs are for!
Good quality bread baked fresh at your favorite bakery is the best for tea sandwiches. Have your baker slice the bread extra thin if he can, then spread a thin layer of butter or margarine on the bread slices to prevent them from getting soggy. Make sure the butter is at room temperature and soft before you try to spread it, or you will tear the bread.
Once you spread the slices with the spreads you’ve prepared, cut off the crusts and cut each sandwich into four triangles or use a cookie cutter to create unusual shapes.
Egg Salad Spread
8 eggs, hard boiled
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon mustard
3 tablespoons pickle relish
1 tablespoon chopped onion
Boil the eggs, plunge them into ice water and then shell them and mash them. Mix in mayo, relish and onion. Mix well, and spread on the buttered bread slices.
Soft Cheese and Watercress Tea Sandwiches (from ask.com)
2 logs soft fresh cheese (approx. 5.5 oz. each—such as Montrachet or farmer cheese) at room temperature
1/2 cup chopped watercress leaves
16 thin slices cinnamon-raisin, date or whole wheat sandwich bread, crusts trimmed
5 tablespoons (about) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup finely chopped toasted pecans Watercress sprigs (for garnish)
Mix cheese and chopped watercress in medium bowl. Season with salt. Spread mixture evenly over 8 bread slices. Top with remaining bread. Butter edges of sandwiches. Cut sandwiches diagonally in half. Place pecans on plate. Dip buttered edges of sandwiches into pecans. Arrange sandwiches on platter. Garnish with watercress sprigs. (Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover sandwiches tightly; chill.)
Makes 8 servings.
Tuna Salad Spread
1-6 oz. can albacore tuna, packed in oil
1-1/2 tsp lemon juice
2 to 3 tbsp chopped fresh chives
3 tbsp mayonnaise
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
1 tsp dried thyme
salt & pepper to taste
Sprigs of fresh thyme
Combine tuna, mayonnaise and lemon juice. Mix well. Stir in celery, chives and thyme. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread on buttered bread slices. Remove the crusts and cut into triangles or other shapes.
Herbed Cream Cheese Spread
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup lightly packed finely chopped fresh herb leaves (parsley, watercress, basil, chervil, chives or any combination)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Dash hot pepper sauce
In a mixing bowl combine cream cheese, herbs, lemon juice and hot pepper sauce. Mix well and spread on buttered bread slices. Remove the crusts and cut into triangles or other shapes.
By Jeanette Friedman