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Hosting a Tea Party – Summer’s Here

Hosting a Tea Party – Summer’s Here
As the days warm up we look forward to enjoying our celebrations outside. Whilst the boys might want to bring out the barbie, the girls are bringing out the vintage crockery and cake stands for afternoon tea. Afternoon tea is a lovely way to enjoy a special occasion and it is not just for the 80th birthday parties and golden weddings – tea parties are being chosen as hen parties and even for wedding receptions. Tea parties date back around 200 years when Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, started having tea and a sandwich to fill in the gap between lunch (at about 1pm) and dinner at 8. It soon became a fashion for ladies to meet “at home” for afternoon tea as part of the social scene. From the late 19th Century to the mid-20th tea rooms and tea gardens were a popular meeting place – the famous Grantchester Tea Gardens opened in 1897 and Betty’s of Yorkshire in 1919. From the 1950s, however, afternoon tea became less popular as the British turned to the more informal coffee shops and working patterns changed. But, in the last decade there has been a huge increase in popularity, as Elaine Lemm writes in “Ironically, it is the economic downturn which began around 2008 that is credited for this revival. The return to more traditional values and homely pursuits is more prevalent when money is tight, it seems.” Whether it be the effect of the recession, the Great British Bake Off , the trend for vintage or the Golden Jubilee, afternoon tea is well and truly on the menu. Large hotels and tea rooms/coffee shops now offer an afternoon tea and business is brisk. But a tea party is so easy to host that you don’t need to book an hotel. And you don’t need a special occasion as an excuse – a bank holiday weekend is a lovely time to have some friends round and treat yourself. So, what do you need? 1 A large tea pot – preferably not metal 2 Some vintage china – raid your Gran’s or the local charity shop – it doesn’t have to match. 3 Table linen -especially if holding it outside – it will make the garden furniture look classy! 4 If you want to dress it up a bit, you need bunting, some cut flowers and cake stands – but none of these are necessary. What ‘s on the menu? 1 Sandwiches – my favourite is fresh cucumber soaked in vinegar on buttered brown bread – cut into triangles with the crusts cut off. Other traditional sandwiches are: smoked salmon, roast ham and mustard, cheese and pickle. 2 Scones – if they are fruit or plain scones you will need butter, cream and jam and if strawberries are in season you could serve them too. Cheese scones can be served and you can experiment with scones – we recently had ginger beer scones – yum. 3 Cake – either one or two large cakes such as a Victoria sandwich and a chocolate cake or a selection of cup cakes and fairy cakes. To drink you need tea, preferably made from leaves: warm the pot first and then add a teaspoon of tea leaves for each person (and one for the pot if you like it strong). Pour on boiling water and allow it to brew for a couple of minutes. I prefer milk in my cup first and then add the tea. You might also like to supply some soft drinks, such as elderflower cordial. To make it even more simple ask everyone to bake for it on your tea party invitation, and have your own bake off as part of the party.