From time to time I like to write about inexpensive party ideas. I've been attending quite a few teas this spring, and it occurred to me that teas are an economical and relaxing way to reconnect with friends. If you go to a tea house, it can cost $25 or more per person, but having your own tea is much more affordable, and lots of fun!
One of your friends probably owns at least one teapot. Someone else most likely has a set of china you can use. As far as teacups go, I think it's a lot more fun to have everyone bring a special teacup and tell its story. The one with the prettiest garden can provide cut flowers for the table.
Those who bake can be responsible for lemon bars, brownies, shortbread or sugar cookies, etc. You must have scones for a tea party, in my opinion, but these are just as good made from a mix. You just add water, drop by spoonfuls on a cookie sheet, and bake. Non-purists could opt for muffins instead.
The habitual tea drinker in the group could provide some loose tea. Teabags are just not the same! You might need to provide some herbal tea as well, for those who are trying to avoid caffeine.
You'll need some jam (I like strawberry or raspberry, but in the fall apple butter or cranberry might be better) and some lemon curd for the scones. There is an easy recipe here http://tinyurl.com/yf6zad6 for lemon curd.
There are lots of recipes for tea sandwiches on line. The best way to make tea sandwiches is to use cheap white or wheat sandwich bread that has a square shape, and to cut the crusts off AFTER you've made the sandwich.
My favorites are egg salad, cucumber and chicken salad. The egg salad is pretty self-explanatory. The trick to the cucumber sandwiches is to slice the cucumbers really thin with a mandoline or food processor, then sprinkle with salt and place in a colander in the sink to drain for awhile. Spread both sides of the bread with cream cheese, layer the cukes on, slap them together and cut the crusts off. My secret chicken salad recipe contains canned chicken, broken up into tiny pieces, dried cranberries chopped small, diced walnuts or pecans, a little celery, and mayonnaise. I don't measure, I just add some of everything until it looks good.
If you want an additional savory item, you can buy some of those mini quiches, or some stuffed mushrooms. I don't think you really need them unless your pals have big appetites! I also like to put a few strawberries or grapes on the tray.
You can have your tea indoors in a pretty room, but if the weather's nice, why not have it in the garden? Real silverware, china and cloth napkins provide a touch of elegance. Tiered serving trays work best, but if you don't know anyone that has any, you can just use pretty plates or platters.
It's fun to have a theme for your tea, such as roses, lavender, fall leaves, etc. Let your imagination run wild decorating in keeping with your theme. It's also fun to wear hats. Have a contest to see who can wear the prettiest or craziest hat. The winner gets a prize.
I hope you have a wonderful afternoon tea! I would love to hear about your tea party experiences, favorite recipes, etc.