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Tea Parties - Holidays and Special Connections
Tea Parties Remembered
What comes to mind when you hear the words "Tea Party?" Little girls often think about making a tea party with their dolls and, if lucky, a parent. I recently read that Johnny Depp enjoys playing tea party with his daughter. In the world of electronic games and gadgets, the sharing of tea with miniature dishes seems very old fashion. Lately though, tea shops, and restaurants with teas for mother, daughters, and friends are helping us connect with friends and family that have grown apart in the teenage years.
Teas go back 5000 years. A Chinese Emperor wanted his water boiled for sanity reasons. A leaf was dropped into his tea accidentally, and when the Emperor drank it, he thought the taste very refreshing.
Thousands of years ago tea was steamed and later it was roasted. Now we have all varieties of teas from black, green, white, and oolong. Teas are processed in different ways, but come from the same plant.
Tea leaves were introduced to the English in the mid 1600's. By the 1800's, teas and tea parties were a common practice in England. The English still have tea dances today.
The popular teas in American are the English type teas, but the precise and meaning attached to the Japanese Tea Ceremony is something that is a story in itself and provides a unique insight into the Japanese culture.
Occasions for Teas
Teas provide a chance to relax and take an afternoon away from our hectic lives. Lately these teas are also used to recognize Cancer survivors or to raise funds for research. Grandmothers tell of sharing an afternoon with beloved grandchildren. Often these are made into annual events during the Holiday Season. Some brides-to-be are opting to have their wedding showers in the tea format. I would much rather go to a baby shower that is set up as a tea than to play silly games.
Teas can be simple, A few desserts, breads, or scones served with tea. Or, it can be elaborate, reminding us of the British with their rules of etiquette. We have all seen movies portraying tea drinkers holding their pinkies daintily away from the cup handle. Whatever the reason, there are a few things that you will want to keep in mind.
Good Menu Options
Of course, the first thing people expect to find are scones. Modern scones are made similar to leaven bread with raisins, currants, or other ingredients. The butter used in making the scone allows it to be flakier than a biscuit. Some scones are savory with onions or cheese. Jams, jelly, and unique seasonal options like apple butter, or pumpkin butter are expected.
Scones are most often served with clotted cream. Clotted cream is made with full cream from the cow and is processed slowly with steam. Clotted cream makes the scones worth eating in my opinion. A menu listing all foods being served allows the participants to ask for their favorite recipe. If there has been more than one cook it might be nice to include the name of the person preparing the food. After all, a lot of time and effort went in to making just the right dish.
The hostess can also serve small sandwiches with any ingredients from chicken salad to hummus. Use a melon baller to serve a variety of fruits in unique ways.
What about the Tea?
How to prepare the tea and teapot.
Warming the teapot is important. Warm water should be put in the ceramic pot and left to warm while the tea water is heated to boiling on the stove. A large coffee urn can be used if the area you are in doesn't have enough burners to get the first servings of tea on the table. This will depend on the number of participants. I recently attended a tea for sixty people, so we had to heat the water in an urn.
When the water is boiling and ready to go, pour the warming water out of the pot, put a teaspoon of tea in the pot with an extra teaspoon for the pot followed by the boiling tea. The tea should steep about 6 minutes to release the full flavor. Remember when the tea is over to rinse the pot out, but don't use dish soap of any kind.
Serve the tea holding a drip cloth under the pot to assure that there will be no drips. Milk is not served as a cream, but lemons are essential and should be served sliced rather than in wedges.
Planning the Setup
For a large tea party, the tiered tea service makes for a beautiful presentation. The bottom tier will have a simple, small appetizer, the middle layer can contain small savory dishes, or sandwiches, and the top will display the desserts, cookies, or scones. Simple teas may only require minimal plates and utensils.
A friend told me she had recently been to a tea where a table of four to six people was responsible for decorating their own "tea" table. This allows for creativity, and a point of conversation as everyone admires the tables of others. It also allows the hostess to concentrate on the food.
Books on Tea Parties
A Glorious Afternoon
The teas allow down time and a feeling of connection that is often not felt in our everyday life. I often leave a tea feeling as if I had been to relaxing spa. If you haven't been to a tea lately, try to entice a friend to join you for tea. Check in your area for restaurants or tea shops that have this options.