Tea Party Decorations & Ideas

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Tea parties have become all the rage in recent years and with good reason. They provide the perfect setting to spend some quality time with friends in an elegant atmosphere while enjoying all the health benefits of tea.

Tea Party Basics

If you're having a tea party, your first decision is what style of tea party you'd like to host. Traditionally tea parties fall into one of these three categories:

  • Afternoon tea: Also known as low tea, this type of event is usually scheduled in the late afternoon, between 3:00 and 5:00 PM. Anna Maria, a wise duchess who lived in Bedford at the turn of the 19th century invented this ritual to counteract that familiar afternoon slump most of us experience. Afternoon teas take place in a comfortable setting and menus include light, elegant fare with both sweet and savory choices.
  • High tea: The most ambitious of the three options, high tea is an evening affair invented by the English working class during the industrial revolution. In addition to delicious teas, a hearty meal and dessert are also served.
  • Cream tea: A cream tea is your most informal option, and the easiest to host. Tea, scones, Devonshire cream and good friends are all you'll need for a cozy, comfortable cream tea.

Don't feel pressured to conform strictly to the standards of a single type of tea party. Mix and match your favorite elements to come up with an event that reflects your unique character and personality.

Tea Party Invitations

You'll need to let your friends know about your upcoming tea party:

  • Keep your tea intimate by inviting only a small group of about six to 10 friends who get along well.
  • Send invitations two to four weeks before your party.
  • Written invitations are your most elegant choice, and they help get guests into a historic tea party spirit.
  • Nowadays, e-mail or telephone invitations are also acceptable, so don't stress if you're pressed for time.
tea party decorations and ideas  tea party decorations and ideas

Supplies For A Tea Party

You'll need at least some of these basic supplies to help your tea party go smoothly and transport your guests to a gentler, more delicate era:

  • Tea (at least three or four varieties)
  • Sugar
  • Honey
  • Agave
  • Sugar-free sweeteners
  • Milk
  • Cream
  • Porcelain or China teapots, teacups and saucers
  • Elegant serving plates and trays
  • Tea strainer
  • Jam
  • Tea spoons and other utensils
  • Salt and pepper shakers
  • Water pitcher
  • Pedestal cake plates.

If you're planning to send guests home with gift bags, you may want to include:

  • A variety of extra tea
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Small, wrapped sweets
  • Pretty gift bags, tissue paper and ribbons.

Creating a Refined Tea Party Atmosphere

Tea party decorations help create an old-fashioned, refined atmosphere where your guests can forget all the pressures and stress of the day. Here are a few ideas to help get your guests in a tea party frame of mind:

  • White linen or lace tablecloths
  • Separate serving and dining tables
  • Using your best serving plates and trays
  • Decorative place cards with guests' names in calligraphy
  • Finely polished silverware and cloth napkins
  • Fresh flower arrangements
  • Soft music
  • Fragrant, fresh rose petals scattered on the table
  • Scented candles
  • Mixing and matching patterns and textures for added charm.

Adding vintage accessories for your guests to wear or play with really adds to the fun. You may want to provide antique or reproduction Victorian:

  • Hats
  • Gloves
  • Scarves
  • Boas.

Understanding Your Tea Options

When it comes to selecting the tea for your party menu, you've got so many wonderful types to choose from! Teas fall into one of these general categories:

  • Black: This traditional tea is made from fully fermented tea leaves, which have been twisted and dried until they turn black and develop their full, rich flavor.
  • Green: Green tea is unfermented. Leaves from the tea plant are steamed, rolled and dried, which results in a mellow, grassy flavor.
  • White: Only the youngest, unfermented leaves go into white tea. They are only minimally processed by steaming and drying, resulting in a light, delicate taste.
  • Semi-fermented (Oolong): A shorter fermentation period gives semi-fermented tea a flavor somewhere between black and green tea.
  • Herbal: Herbal teas are not technically teas, and are not made from tea leaves at all. These delicious, caffeine-free beverages, more accurately called infusions or tisanes are made from fruit, flowers, spices and herbs.
  • Blended: Blended teas are mixtures of various teas, flowers, fruits, herbs and spices.

For an exciting tea party menu, offer at least three to four teas selected from a few of the different tea categories.

Best Tea Party Foods

Unless you're hosting a high tea, tea party food is a between meal snack, so choices should be small and light. These delicious sweet and savory classics are just right for any afternoon tea party menu:

  • Cucumber finger sandwiches with herbed mayonnaise
  • Rich scones in flavors such as raisin, pumpkin, strawberry or blueberry with Devonshire cream
  • Ham and asparagus rolls
  • Roast beef and mustard finger sandwiches on crusty, dark bread
  • Miniature fruit tarts
  • Colorful, frosted petit fours and other small cakes
  • Sweet sugar cookies
  • Egg salad finger sandwiches
  • Fresh fruit in a crystal or china bowl.

Finger sandwiches are easy to prepare in just minutes. And if you don't have time to bake, just pick up a few delicate deserts at your local bakery.

So get ready to travel back in time. Your elegant tea party will gently transport you and your guests to a simpler era where style, friendship and steaming tea fill the hours with warmth and charm.

Last Updated: April 11, 2012
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About Roberta Pescow Roberta Pescow holds a bachelor's degree in communications from City University of New York, Queens College and is a freelance writer and editor in the NJ area. The author of "A Life In The Service" and "A Monster's Tears," she enjoys writing informative articles, personal essays, fiction and music.  Roberta is a proud mother of two. Her other interests include fitness, photography, sculpture and meditation. She is a voracious reader and holds a 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwan Do. Roberta enjoys decorating her hectic, but happy home and garden in original and affordable ways.  

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