Come to Tea:
An Elegant Garden Gathering
nothing says "garden party" like having afternoon tea
outdoors. It's a charming reminder of bygone days and childhood
make-believe. Outdoor spaces of all kinds, including balconies,
can be successfully adapted to a tea party.
span generations and will be enjoyed by your most sophisticated
women friends or all the giggling little girls of your acquaintance.
an elegant tea party? Look at these factors.
Plan to hold your tea party when your garden is in its fullest
bloom -- perhaps it's lilac time, June roses, or peony season.
Be sure to cut some of the blooms for the tea table vases. If
you don't have a garden, buy an armful of flowers at a farmers'
market or stop by a country ditch and pick bunches of wild daisies
and Queen Anne's lace.
Send handwritten notes by snail mail. Your guests will recognize
your party as an elegant affair and dress accordingly! Typically,
tea is held around 4 p.m. -- perfect for day-blooming flowers.
Include an invitation for the little ones to bring along a doll
or teddy friend.
The more elegant your table setting, the better. Stash the paper table covering and
the plastic glasses just for today. Instead, use a crisp linen
tablecloth, pressed cloth napkins and your best bone china cups
and saucers. If it's a little girls' party, you might want to
invest in two or three miniature tea sets.
Try to have
adequate seating for everyone. Consider setting your straight-back
indoor dining chairs outdoors. They can add an elegant touch,
whether left unadorned or covered with flowered chintz.
Encourage all of your guests to wear hats -- big-brimmed, floppy
and flowered. If the party is for little girls, collect old hats,
scarves and silk flowers at a thrift shop, yard sale or discount
store. Make decorating the hats a fun activity at the party. You
can also include a box of flowery cast-offs for dressing up. Include
"grown-up" shoes and old jewellery -- anything that
will make the little ones feel elegant. Tea time is a fun way
to introduce young ones to "elegant party" manners.
Other than teaspoons, no cutlery should be required at tea. All
sandwiches and sweets should be dainty finger-food. Try sandwiches
of watercress, cucumber, or egg with the crusts removed and cut
in quarters. Sugar cookies and petit fours are traditional sweets.
You can substitute mini-cupcakes or tiny tarts.
One of the first things that I learned in seventh grade home economics
class was how to brew a proper pot of hot tea, but that was many
years ago. I suspect that tea-making is becoming a lost art.
Tea is actually
the common name of one plant: Camillia sinesis. The three basic
types of tea -- black, green and oolong -- are distinguished by
the amount of oxidization that the tea leaves have undergone.
The more than 3,000 varieties of tea in the world are all derived
from those three basic types.
Herbal teas -- more properly, tisane or infusion -- are made from a wide variety
of flowers, herbs, barks, berries, fruits and spices.
At a minimum,
offer your guests a traditional tea and a caffeine-free herbal
choice. Have milk (not cream!), sugar and fresh lemon wedges available.
So, dust off
your teacups and your manners and sit down with your girlfriends
for a proper tea party. It's a lovely summer interlude!
Debbie Rodgers, the haven maven, owns and operates Paradise Porch,
and is dedicated to helping people create outdoor living spaces
that nurture and enrich them. Her how-to guide is Attracting
Butterflies to Your Home and Garden.
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