January is National Hot Tea Month and we’ve rounded up some fabulous tea party ideas so you can celebrate this cozy beverage in style. If you’re planning a wedding or baby shower, an afternoon tea party is perfectly lovely. It’s also a great excuse to get your girlfriends together for a little conversation and light refreshments in front of a roaring fire. Socializing over afternoon tea reportedly dates back to the 1830s when Anna, the Duchess of Bedford found her energy flagging in the afternoon and requested tea and snacks to hold her over until dinner. And, of course, there’s our own Boston Tea Party—a different sort of social event.
The beauty of this gathering is that there are no rules for how to have a tea party. You can make it as elegantly formal or as low-key casual as you want. It’s all about relaxing and enjoying each other’s company while sipping on something warm and flavorful. As tea expert Bruce Richardson says, “Tea is the universal beverage that brings people together. There is no better way to show hospitality than to share a pot of tea on a cold day in January!”
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There are tons of fun tea party ideas to mull over while planning your get-together. You could make it a tasting—with a selection of loose teas—or go the traditional route with a white linen tablecloth and classics like Earl Grey, Assam and Darjeeling. Once you’ve settled on the tone, you can start thinking about décor. Keep it simple with fresh flowers, a pretty tablecloth and comfy chairs. Then it’s time to send out invitations! Paperless Post has a great selection of beautifully designed online invites.
If you happen to own a set, this is the ideal opportunity to dust off your fine china. However, if your cupboards contain only chipped coffee mugs and the closest thing you have to saucers are salad plates, you may need to get a little creative with your tea party ideas. And it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Perfectly mismatched teacups and saucers are totally chic and most thrift stores are overflowing with them. Choose a color scheme or pattern (floral, stripes, etc.) to be the common thread keeping your dishes cohesive. Etsy also has tons of fantastic, reasonably priced vintage and handmade tea sets. You’ll also need a good kettle, an extra teapot with hot water, a creamer, sugar bowl, spoons and a plate for lemon wedges.
Dainty finger foods rule for your afternoon tea, so you’ll only need small plates and napkins. You can go the thrift route for serving dishes too and get fancy with tiered cake stands or a midcentury modern lazy Susan or two. Make your menu a mix of sweet and savory—scones, biscotti, little sandwiches. Whip up some tasty Tea Cakes, colorful macaroons are almost too pretty to eat and there is an almost endless variety of Tea Sandwiches at your fingertips. Finally, consider offering one or two tea alternatives, like coffee or lemonade, for those rare birds who just won’t drink tea in any form.
If you need more tea party ideas and inspiration, London-based vintage hostess extraordinaire, Angel Adoree’s The Vintage Tea Party Book has everything from recipes to place settings to hair and makeup tips.