Even if you haven’t hosted a tea party since you were 9 and have since given up your dolls, this full-on-frills fête is a cinch to pull together. Set tables with china and fresh flowers for an instantly festive look. Our tea menu is much easier to manage than a plated multi-course luncheon. “Tea” foods are essentially lots of small (but satisfying) appetizers and tiny, scrumptious sweets. You can make most of them in advance and just heat or add final touches as the party starts.
Bonus: Catering to individual tastes and dietary restrictions is a breeze at tea time. Low-carb dieters, gluten-free guests, vegetarians—you’ve got ’em covered.
The Setting: Beg, Borrow and (Pick Things Up for a) Steal
Don’t have a tea service for 25? Who does?! A little scavenging is part of the fun: Ask friends if you can borrow a few cups and saucers; check your mom’s cupboards for teapots; scour flea markets for plates without mates. Do the same for serving platters, cake plates and tablecloths. It doesn’t matter if the table is mismatched—a mix of patterns only adds to the charm.
Tea sandwiches and sweets make the biggest splash when piled on tiered serving trays. If you’re not up for the investment, you can get the same look by stacking cake stands in graduated sizes.
Go for the Bloom
Fresh flowers are really the only other decoration you need:
Set out one large arrangement on each table or slim vases with a single stem at each plate.
Florist-shop blooms eating up your party budget? Pick some wildflowers in the yard or sub tissue-paper blooms for the real thing. You can even pick up some oversized paper flowers at a party store and hang them like lanterns.
Savory Bites and Sips
You’ll want to plan for six to eight non-sweet offerings per guest, since this is the heart of the meal. You can put simple sammies together early and broil the cheese ones right before serving—watch how fast they go! Include some non-bread picks, like light canapés and mini cups of soup.
The Sweets Course
It wouldn’t be a tea party without pretty pastries and scones. Set out little dishes of butter, jam and clotted cream, and your Anglophile guests will swoon.
Lighten things up with fruit salad.
No One Leaves without a Favor!
- Collect mismatched teacups and fill them with candies or bite-size tea cookies.
- Fill clear cellophane bags or jelly jars with a favorite loose-tea blend.
- Set out small boxes of chocolates at each plate—some fine chocolatiers even make tea-infused chocolates for a surprisingly yummy nod to the theme.