Tea parties are cute. Tea parties are fancy. Tea parties are a great occasion to get dressed up for. Please note, were not discussing the political variety. This is a guide to a time honored afternoon tradition that centers around celebration, delicious delicacies, chic dresses, festive decor and of course, tea. The history of the afternoon tea party can be traced directly to British culture. There’s high tea (which tends to be a heavier affair), and then there’s “low tea” or afternoon tea. According to this in depth history of the celebration by What’s Cooking America, the latter practice dates back to the 19th Century, when the Duchess of Bedford created an afternoon meal at around 5 pm, centering around small cakes, sandwiches and tea with friends. The practice has only grown with popularity through the ages.
I grew up in Trinidad with a mom who loves British history and culture. Every year – especially around the holidays – my mom would host afternoon tea with her best girlfriends. I grew up loving the ceremony of it all, and I grew up always wanting to have tea parties of my own. Tea parties aren’t stuffy affairs (or they don’t HAVE to be). They don’t have to be old fashioned, either. You can throw a fresh, fun, festive afternoon tea for your friends that channels the old and celebrates the new. Here are my top tea party tips!
1. Create a balanced tea party menu. Think “two parts sweet, one part savory.” Traditionally popular tea party items include scones, petit fours, tiny sandwiches and savory pastries like meat pies. Caribbean afternoon tea might include something a bit more spicy, like empanadas or Venezuelan style arepas. For a modern twist, consider crostini, bruschetta, flatbread or mini sliders made with gourmet ingredients as your savory items, and for sweet, think about macarons, cupcakes, cake pops, or mini pies.
2. Not everyone drinks tea, so plan accordingly. Coffee is also super popular at American get togethers (although nobody has an afternoon coffee party). Modern afternoon tea parties have been known to include light cocktails or non alcoholic punch, so consider making champagne cocktails or a pitcher of mojitos.
3. When it comes to decor, think dainty but not necessarily delicate. The days of having to serve afternoon tea on dainty china is over. Feel free to mix and match your own colorful dishes, or purchase cute plastic plates with matching or coordinating napkins.
4. Consider your guest list carefully. You want to curate a group that’s lively and conversational, friends who you know will get along and new folks who you’d like to get to know better.
5. Have a variety of teas and milks and sweetener options at the ready. Nowadays, so many of us are lactose intolerant! Having a little soy milk, almond milk or rice milk available can help your guests with allergies. For dietary concerns, having honey, agave, stevia and brown sugar on hand can cover all the bases.
6. What kind of tea to serve? Have a variety! Think of when you order tea at a fancy restaurant and they bring you that fabulous box of tea with all of those options. There’s typically a black breakfast kind of tea, a green tea variety or two, something fruit based, something mint, and a light floral like jasmine or chrysanthemum. Follow that guideline to develop a well-rounded tea selection of your own.
Contributing Editor, Patrice Grell Yursik is the creator of Afrobella.com, one of the first blogs to celebrate the beauty of natural hair and ladies of all skin tones and sizes. Affectionately called the Godmother of Brown Beauty Blogging, Patrice takes her readers inside unique beauty, fashion and cultural experiences.