Indulge Your Friends With A Summertime Tea

When I travel, one of my favorite things to discover at each destination is the best tea room in the area. Whether I'm sightseeing, visiting museums or shopping, taking an afternoon break by indulging in a pot of tea with a sampling of sandwiches and pastries is just what I need to recharge myself.

But you don't have to leave the house to enjoy this luxury. You can create the same feeling at home by bringing out your favorite china, tablecloth and napkins and serving your friends a selection of your favorite tea time recipes.

Afternoon tea, an English tradition, comes in several forms. Light tea consists of a selection of finger sandwiches and scones. Full tea is a complete four-course tea service that includes finger sandwiches, scones, pastries and dessert. The ultimate tea service is high tea, which is full tea with additional meats and cheeses. High tea is served around 6 o'clock and subsititutes as a light supper or before-theater meal.

Naturally, high-quality, fragrant teas are in order for your party. To brew the perfect pot of tea, use one heaping teaspoon of tea for each cup of water plus one extra teaspoon "for the pot." Rinse your teapot with hot water, add the appropriate amount of tea, then pour in boiling water and allow the tea to steep for 3 to 5 minutes. Stir once to maximize the tea infusion. You can then pour directly into teacups using a tea strainer to catch any leaves.

Here are some tips for creating a delightful afternoon tea for your friends:

  • Plan your menu with a variety of light sandwiches. Cucumber, watercress, chicken salad and egg salad served on thinly sliced bread are traditional choices, but you can vary your menu with your own creative combinations.
  • Sweets can range from fruit and nut breads, such as Apricot-Almond Tea Bread or Blueberry-Lemon Bread, to delicate tartlets and petit fours. Make your favorite recipes, then supplement with other treats from your local bakery or pastry shop.
  • Include a truffle or chocolate-dipped strawberry as a special indulgence.
  • If you serve tea in your living room or family room, make sure guests have a place to set their teacups and plates. You may want to arrange chairs around the coffee table or add another table.

  • Warm scones, slathered with lemon curd or clotted cream, are delicious with tea. Scones are simply biscuits with flavorful additions such as Almond Crunch Scones or Almond-Ginger-Pear Scones. And for a delightful finish, try Prune Financiers. These classic French teacakes contain a delicate almond-meringue base and are topped with a sweet, plump prune.

Hosting an afternoon tea is a delightful option for bridal or baby showers or birthday parties. But you don't need a special occasion to plan a tea party. Getting together with friends to enjoy a pot of tea, delicious treats and engaging conversation is reason enough to host a tea party.

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