Spilling the Tea…on Tea Parties!

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Georgia and I had the most fun recently hosting a mother-daughter tea for our close friends. Of course, I love any excuse to set a pretty table and sourced these beautiful linens from Flying Sheep Country, one of my favorite tabletop brands. Remember to use code Southern25 for 25% off – it’s the perfect excuse to stock up on hostess, birthday, and shower gifts.

As for the food and tea itself, I worked with a great new vendor here in Nashville called Pretty Lovely Teas. Owner Meagan Benson comes to your house with all the components of a proper afternoon tea (food, linens, dishware, teacups, etc.), sets everything up, and serves you and your guests. It’s the ultimate in delegating and an ideal way to celebrate birthdays, baby/bridal showers, and holiday parties. The experience (and menu) can be totally customized; for example, I wanted to set my own table, so Meagan just took care of the food. She offers full sit-down service, buffet service, and even food drop-off for more casual events. Prices range from $35-$125/head. Inquiries can be sent via DM or email (prettylovelyteas@gmail.com).

Meagan was kind enough to share some of her best tips for hosting your own afternoon tea at home. It’s really such a darling way to entertain. Happy reading, and as always, happy hostessing!

Setting the Scene

  • I used several different linens on the table, and you should also feel free to mix and match your plates and teacups. Borrow from friends if you don’t have enough – a “shabby chic” or “antique store” vibe, with bits and pieces pulled from different collections, is always charming. Keep everything in a similar color palette and it’ll be great.
  • A girl after my own heart, Meagan sometimes uses paper pieces from Hester & Cook to set her tables. The “sweet garden,” “peony,” “lemon,” and “china blue” collections are great options for a tea table.
  • For serving food, tiered stands are ideal. There’s a lot to fit on the table or buffet, so taking advantage of vertical space is key. You can even stack cake stands in graduating sizes.

The Food

  • A proper afternoon tea includes tea sandwiches, savory and sweet scones (plus clotted cream, jams, and curds), and mini desserts.
  • Plan to serve 4 tea sandwiches, 2 scones, and 4 desserts per person.
  • Classic tea sandwich “flavors” include English Cucumber, Ham & English Mustard, Coronation Chicken (basically, curry chicken salad), and Egg Salad. If you want to make your own, Meagan suggests the following:
    • Butter both the top and bottom slice of bread (she loves Kerry Gold butter).
    • Don’t overfill – remember, tea sandwiches should be thin and dainty.
    • Use a serrated knife to cut off the crusts, and it’s traditional to serve sandwiches as rectangles, NOT triangles.
    • To prep in advance, store sandwiches in an airtight container under a piece of parchment paper. Lay a damp cloth or paper towel on top of the parchment. Eat within 24 hours.
  • Be creative! In addition to the sandwiches, Meagan also offered Caprese skewers, salmon mousse rounds, and chicken salad cups for those who don’t eat bread.
  • When it comes to dessert, the key is having a little something for everyone. For our tea, Meagan brought petit fours, decorated sugar cookies, chocolate mousse cups, and a berry cake. Different flavors, colors, and presentations (e.g., mini cups for the mousse) kept the spread gorgeous and interesting.   

The Tea

  • Tea is categorized as Black, Green, White, or Herbal.
    • Black Tea is typically taken with milk and sugar;
    • Green, White, and Herbal teas are taken alone or with a slice lemon.
  • Meagan’s preference is loose tea, which should be prepped in an infuser teapot. For the best flavor, use 1 teaspoon of loose tea per person, plus an extra teaspoon “for the pot.”
  • If you’re using teabags, follow the same formula: 1 teabag per person, plus an extra for the pot.
  • Steep all tea (whether loose or bags) for 3-6 minutes.

Fun Fact

It’s said that the 7th Duchess of Bedford, Anna Maria Russell, invented afternoon tea in the 1840s at Woburn Abbey, England. The Duchess expressed having a “sinking feeling” between noon and evening dinner. She started to request bread and butter with her cup of tea in the afternoon and soon the concept took off, becoming quite the fashion for the Victorian age. Tea cakes, among other sweets, were added and aristocrats made it into the social occasion we know and love today.

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