If this is to be a casual gathering, buffet is the proper serving style. For your casual buffet you need to set a buffet table (or similar) with the tea service - cups, saucers, spoons, dessert plates, forks and the napkins. You will want to provide cookies, scones (can be found at Teaporia), tea sandwiches, cakes such as cupcakes (try a red velvet cupcake mix from Teaporia) or petit fours. Allow each guest to serve themselves.
On a buffet table or sideboard, lay out your tea. (You may also want to serve coffee or some other beverage as an alternative. You will need a full service of each type of beverage with a tray.) Beginning in the center of your table set your cookies, petit fours, scones, etc. Now going in both directions on the buffet table place the eating utensils, the napkins, a bowl of lemon wedges, sugar, creamer, and finally your tea or coffee service with cups and saucers on or next to it.
If you intend to have a formal affair, then your guests will be seated at a properly set table similar to a dinner party. A formal tea setting has a dessert fork, knife, and teaspoon must be set on the table. The dessert plate is set in the lead spot with the saucer and teacup on top. During a small intimate party, the hostess will serve the tea from her seat. During a large formal gathering, tea will be served by standing to the right of each person when pouring. When serving, ask guests how many "lumps" (sugar cubes or spoons of sugar) they would like. Place the sugar into the cup prior to pouring tea, using a spoon or serving tongs (never use your fingers to reach for sugar cubes). Next, pour the tea into the teacup using a strainer to catch loose leaves. The teapot can be kept warm using a "tea cozy," a padded covering for the pot or by setting it on a tea warmer, lit by a votive candle, for the duration of your tea party.
There is an order in which tea party foods are to be eaten. First, scones or muffins, then sandwiches, and lastly, sweets. These need to be served or arrange accordingly. If serving on a 3-tiered server, place the scones on the top tier, savories and sandwiches on the middle tier, and
desserts on the bottom.
When choosing a teapot, pay special attention to the spout. The top of the spout should come up to the same level as the top of the pot so the pot can be filled without tea spilling out of the spout. Also look at the spout opening. More elongated ones are less likely to drip. Round pots are the easiest to clean out. When selecting one, run your fingers up the inside of the pot. Avoid pots with a prominent ridge on the inside as the wet leaves will catch there when you try to scoop them out.
When making tea, boil water in a tea kettle and pour it into a ceramic or porcelain teapot. Tea should not be steeped in a tea kettle as this is only for boiling water. Also I caution against a metal teapot. This can affect the taste of tea, will cool the water more quickly, and lead to improper steeping of your tea. This is why a ceramic teapot is to be used. Use fresh, cold, non-distilled water in your teapot for optimal flavor. Swirl hot water around the teapot to warm up the the ceramic. This warms the pot prior to adding the tea leaves and water for the tea. Pour out the hot water used for warming the pot before adding tea leaves. Add one teaspoon of tea leaves per cup into the ceramic teapot, plus an additional teaspoon "for the pot". Remove the kettle from heat right after it comes to a boil, and pour six ounces per cup into teapot. Use a tea strainer such as an Empress Tea Strainer from Teaporia to catch tea leaves. All tea to steep per recommends for tea type. You can refer to Brewing Tips for recommended times and water temperature. If serving more than 1 tea flavor make sure to use a tea valet to identify the tea flavor for hostess or guests.
Casual or intimate tea parties require a invitation. This sets the tone for your gathering. Be sure to indicate the type of tea party you are hosting on your invitations. This way your guests are properly prepared to attend your special gathering. Have an RSVP date on the invitation and follow up with those who have not contacted you. Even with a proper RSVP plan to have unexpected guests. Our lives are busy and situations change. Because of this guests may forget to inform you of their change.
Whether this is your first or tenth party, planning ahead will make for a stress free and memorable party for everyone.
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Teaporia by Tea Time with Liv