Did you ever wish to recreate the perfect world of Bertie Wooster where Jeeves would be planning an elaborate soiree for his master?
If your answer is yes, then we suggest you take a cup of tea, park yourself in the cosiest spot of your house and get ready to prepare for an ‘Afternoon Tea Party’.
“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea” Henry James quoted and we agree completely.
The tradition of afternoon tea party started in 1800 in England.
Afternoon tea was introduced in England by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in the year 1840. The Duchess would become hungry around four o’clock in the aftern oon. The evening meal in her household was served fashionably late at eight o’clock, thus leaving a long period of time between lunch and dinner. The Duchess asked tha t a tray of tea, bread and butter and cake be brought to her room during the late afternoon. This became a habit of hers and she began inviting friends to join her.
This break for tea became a fashionable social event. During the 1880’s upper-class and society women would change into long gowns, gloves and hats for their afternoon tea which was usually served in the drawing room between four and five o’clock.
Since then, we have been reading about ‘Afternoon tea parties’ not only in cultural magazines but also as a part of lifestyle in classic books.
So how will you host an afternoon Tea Party?
Let’s get the basics right first, shall we?
If the atmosphere is pleasant enough, opt for garden or a terrace party rather than sticking to indoors. However the choice is totally dependent on your comfort and weather. Do pay attention to the decor and associated paraphernalia in any sort of setting that you decide to opt for.
Quaint setting in the balcony or an elaborate setup in the drawing room – Take a pick.
2. Decor ideas
Table, chairs, runner, cake stand, doilies, table-mats, centre-piece, china-ware, tea-pots and strainer are the key essentials for the afternoon tea party decor.
The silver and the chinaware lend the tea-party an imperial touch reminiscent of the colonial era. Noritake is the brand to check out for the luxury china ware. Those looking to try some mix and match can opt for quirky tea-coffee ware from brands like Good earth, Jaypore, Cyahi and India Circus.
As far as the table runners go, one could opt for the chintz fabric from the local market or get ready made table cloths in different prints and fabrics. You can customize the table cloth as per the mood of the decor – Indian fabrics like block prints and Tie and dye, Victorian designs like floral prints, Parsi traditional checkered prints or classic linens in colours. Add doilies, an interesting British element, to perk up the decor of the table.
A two tiered cake-stand forms the perfect centre piece for serving the savouries and sweets. Alternatively, you can decorate the table with a floral centre-piece and serve the savouries and cakes in serving plates.
The idea is to use your imagination to mix and match the entire set-up, be it completely vintage or with a hint of rustic Indian charm.
Once you have decided the venue and figured out the decor, you need to focus on the teas. What good an afternoon tea party is without an enviable selection of teas? Choose from wide variety of tea options that are now available in market- Earl Grey, Peppermint, Chamomile, Green herbal tea, Tisanes and of course classic English Breakfast Tea to serve at your afternoon tea party.
Keep the sugar cubes and milk/ creamer ready in separate pots along with few lemon slices on the side for those who like their tea a little weak.
Though it’s a tea party, do keep an option of coffee pot as well for the ones who love their coffee.
4. Savouries & Sweets
Afternoon tea is all about bite sized sweet and savoury treats. You might like to serve your baked goodies on a three-tiered tea platter. A classic afternoon tea contains a layer of sandwiches, cakes, scones and teacakes. However to add to some razzle dazzle at the party, you could add pastries and biscuits.
The lower platter is perfect for placing small sandwiches and savoury bits and pieces, the middle platter is ideal for scones, pastries and biscuits and the high platter fits fresh fruits and sweets.
Classic scones with jam and clotted cream, orange and coriander drizzle cake, Moroccan orange & cardamom cake, banana custard éclairs, summer sandwiches, lemon cheese cake, marble cake, carrot & raisin cake are few of the delectable options to add to your afternoon tea party menu.
Once you are set with venue, decor, teas and savouries all you need is some music to keep the conversations going on. In case you are wondering on where to buy the crockery, tea ware, linen and cake stands from, do have a look at the latest range from Good Earth, Nicobar, The Summer House, The Label Life and Cyahi for a contemporary chic range whereas check Jaypore and Gaatha Handicrafts for a traditional rustic Indian feel.
So when are you hosting your Afternoon Tea party?