Anytime Tea party
After owning a tea shop for many years and maintaining a website, I have come up with a few short cuts that allow me to do an almost instant tea party. This is great for those friend and family members who tend to drop by unexpected or with little notice. They are often amazed at what can be thrown together in a very short time.
Decorations I start by going to my "tea party" storage closet and pick out a few items to decorate the table. It is filled with special items I have bought on sale at end of the season or after holiday sales. I will often make note of things I would like to add to my closet and then go back when sales begin. I try not to absolutely want something, so will not pay to much for an item that will be used only on occasion.
On one shelf is a large selection of table cloths in a variety of colors and patterns that are made of cloth, plastic, and disposable. Party stores are a great place to stock up on tablecloths especially after major celebrations like halloween, Christmas, and New Years. Most are disposable, but are great for single uses. Discount stores sell plastic re-usable tablecloths related to seasons and holidays. They can be marked down between 50%-75% at the close of the season. Department stores are a good place to find quality tablecloths. These can still be a little expensive even on sale, so I try to buy neutral colors that will go with a lot of different colors and patterns.
The next shelf contains a collection of paper plates and napkins. Like the tablecloths, they are in many different colors and motifs. They can be purchased on sale at most party stores and discount stores. My favorite place for pretty plates and napkins are craft stores. They also run seasonal sales. I try to find the plates that are waxed, so they are more durable and will not get wet if serving salads.
A few seasonal items like small bird houses, silk flower arrangements in differing colors, and floating candles makes it easy to create a centerpiece. Clear vases filled with fruit or colored marbles, pretty fruit bowl with fresh fruit and pitchers with coordinating silk flowers also are inexpensive and make nice centerpieces. I usually make small finds at second hand stores that sometimes have unexpected and inexpensive items perfect for a tea table. I found my favorite frog jar for 5.00 at a vintage clothing store.
Even though this is a simple, impromptu tea party, I still use bone china cups and saucers to serve tea.
MenuChoosing what to serve at my impromptu tea party is as easy as going to my fridge. My biggest secret is that I always have on hand crescent rolls, french loaf, and pizza crust. These handy "can" breads make the perfect vessel for almost any tea sandwich or dessert you may want to make. Simply combine whatever cheese, vegees, meats, and of course leftovers to make the filling for the tea sandwiches. I usually do one hot tea sandwich and a variety of cold tea sandwiches. Following are three basic recipes that can be used in a variety of ways with whatever is in your fridge or cupboard. I usually bake the base for the open faced tea sandwiches and the jam breads first. While these are baking I prepare the baked tea sandwich and get it ready for the oven. I prepare the open face tea sandwiches and jam fillings while the sandwich is baking and then cooling enough to eat.
Baked Tea Sandwich
Open Faced Tea Sandwiches
The tea I would serve would be a light black tea or an oolong, since I am not serving in courses, but placing all the food on one platter. One of the emerging trends in formal teas is to treat the occasion as you would a wine pairing dinner. Since, this is a small group of friends and family I would just serve one tea brewed in a teapot that compliments this menu. Blends of Ceylon and Darjeeling teas tend to go really well with most menus.
Mint Green is a nice tea for the end of the lunch