Saturday, March 12, 2005

Afternoon Tea

Since the late 70's and early 1980's, the custom of Afternoon Tea has swept across America. There is hardly
a town that does not have a place to have a proper tea. What has been the reason for this surge in interest in Afternoon Tea? One only has to attend one, in order to know they want to continue this custom. If you'd like to start the custom of tea in your own home, then start by attending as many teas as you can, both commercially and at the homes of other people. From this, you can get an idea of how to make your own custom of tea a unique experience that is custom made to your own preferences.

Separate your planning into three areas: food, settings, and decor.

Food: - Generally, three things will do, but when you are wanting to go all out and provide a "big bash" for someone, a high tea allows many different things. Crustless sandwiches, scones, and a special sweet such as a high quality chocolate or gourmet cookie, will suffice for a regular afternoon tea. For other menus, check here:http://www.swannteas.com/planningtps.html

If you are interested in the history of tea, go here:

http://www.panix.com/~kendra/tea/afternoon_tea.html and here http://www.theteahouse.com/topics.htm.

For the correct manner in which to eat a scone, go here http://www.catteacorner.com/teadigest2.htm and scroll down to "other misconceptions about Tea."

For the setting, consider using every tea cup and saucer you have in the house, rather than going out and buying new ones. If you can afford it, than go to it and buy the best you can and the style that inspires and delights you the most. The guests will be thoroughly uplifted and pleased when presented with dainty cups of your choice. Part of the attraction of Afternoon Tea is the way it is presented on the table, with the choice of cups, serving pieces and utinsels.

Now is the time to use all those things that are not used daily, such as the cake server, the over-the-cup tea strainers, and the thin tea cups your grandmother left you. When I was a little girl, these cups and things were only used for "show" in a glass cabinet, and I never heard of anyone using them. It is good to see so many beautiful pieces on the market now. For a look at different tea sets, go here: http://www.someplaceintime.com/ You can also sign up for their seasonal newsletter which usually includes a tea menu. This site has some interesting things about tea parties http://www.nanapearls.com/teaparties.php This one has a tea service, and can actually send a box of foods and tea things to help you put on a tea yourself. I think that is a great idea for the frazzled lady who just has too much going on! This would be a good enterprise and ministry for some of the older homeschool families, particularly the girls. My sons did serve tea when they were teenagers, though, and enjoyed it very much!

Decor requires special touches that make people feel festive. Things like streamers, balloons, flowers, and candles can help create the kind of atmosphere you want. A small indoor fountain, battery operated is nice on a side table, as the sound of a gurgling brook is very therapeutic and relaxing.

The most important thing is that you get that water to a boil, and make sure it is hot enough to "cook" the tea bag and make the tea leaves expand so that the flavor comes out. There is nothing worse than a poorly made, tepid cup of tea. Allow tea to sit in the teapot and "steep" for five minutes before pouring. (The metal tea "kettle" is the thing you use to boil the water. You then pour it into the tea "pot" --in case you were confused.) The kettle is the one that whistles when the water boils, but sometimes you can get tea pots that play a tune when you pour them.

Guests should be greeted with smiles and enthusiasm and then made to sit comfortably at the place you choose for them or the place of their choice, if that is what you, the hostess, arranges.

The Tea Ceremony has an amazing atmosphere of both formality and friendliness. Usually, people talk a lot and enjoy each other's company at Tea more than any other time. One joy in the matter is that the hostess is using her best china and accessories for an ordinary occasion. In doing so, she is treating her family or guests like royalty. Children who experience Tea often while they are growing up, gain appreciation and refinement in their lives. Most people say they lack friends to have over for tea, but if they'll just look at what they do have, they'll find good company in their own children.

All you have to do in order to see how popular tea parties are, is type in various words like "tea, tea party, tea and scones, " on the web and you'll be astonished at how many sites appear. I hope this trend truly stays put for awhile, and not disappears like it did in the middle of the 20th century, because it brings families close together and provides hospitality for church friends and relatives that is easily put together. I remember a time when all that fine china was kept behind glass doors, and no one used it. Since these people, now passed on, couldn't take it with them, these items ended up in estate sales and antique shops. Happily, many people are rescuing these lovely vessels and serving hot teas and herbal tea infusions in them.

2 comments:

Hausfrau Cheri said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Hausfrau Cheri said...

Ohh, I love tea parties! Every two weeks a group of ladies at our church here get together for the afternoon and have tea and baked goods and we talk for hours. It is truly one of the highlights on my schedule. Sometimes we meet at church and use the church's tea service (that gets used an average of 2 1/2 times a week!), or now we are meeting at the apartment of the church 'grandma' since she has trouble getting out and it is more comfortable (and beautiful) at her place.
I love how the cerimony and beauty both contributes to just enjoying each other's company, and also helps provide a comfortable environment to discuss the more serious aspects of the Christian life. We spontaniously (or with just nudge of encouragement from the pastor's wife) turn from how the children are doing and the safety of using ETMs to how one can actually love one's enemies and turn the other cheek, or learn to turn to God in daily sorrows.

When I was 9 my parents had a special tea service made for us by a potter in Alaska. For several years these times of family, tea, and scones were a regular part of our lives. Unfortunately because we only had a setting for 4 those times slipped away in the bustle as our family grew in size. I did have a (what would one call it at 2pm, but with hearty dishes like High Tea?) tea party for my 17th birthday that I prepared myself. It is one of the more memorable b.days in my life and was an opportunity for me to reach out to some of the girls at my church.
Then, as soon as my brother and sisters were old enough, teas were a way to share a love of beauty with them and make them feel special.
Now it won't be too long before my own daughter is old enough to introduce to this lovely pastime!

For about 6 months prior to meeting my dh, I ran a virtual tea shop on a secular message board. It was really amazing how people were attracted to the civility and comfort offered even just by 'pretending' to have tea time. I was able to create an environment of caring and decency where I wasn't being attacked or exposed to the filth of the world. This gave me several opportunities to share my faith in a heartfelt and winsome way (this was around the time of Sep. 11, 01). I don't have that kind of time now, but I still miss some of the people who were 'regulars' there and pray that my little light may have planted seeds in people who live in dark corners of our world.

I for one don't intend to let tea time die out where I'm concerned, both for family time and ministry.

PS Thanks for the etiquette link. What a facinating resource!

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