We have talked before at length (some might even say ad nauseam) about our great love for tea here at the Heatley Cliff. We make tea when its raining, we make tea when its sunny, when we are having a little breakdown, when things couldn’t be better. We have tea first thing in the morning, and it’s the last thing we drink at night. We love tea. Obvs.
Because of this great love, we have taken the time to research the history of tea and all the types of tea there are. It was interesting to find that all tea comes from virtually the same plant, but how its processed and where determine its actual type. You can read more about that here.
But what we were really curious about was the difference between so called “High” and “Low” tea and how to set a proper tea service for our friends. This is really a perfect example of our motto here at The Heatley Cliff: Modern Manor Living. You might not have a full sterling silver tea set or a full armada of staff to pour and serve it, but you can have a perfectly lovely tea party of your own with minimal effort and that your friends are sure to remember.
First things first. Contrary to popular opinion, the fancier afternoon tea that you see in movies and swanky hotels is actually Low Tea. It’s called this because it all started in the 19th century with the upper classes who served a little snack before their late dinner on the low tables in their sitting rooms. ”High Tea” was practiced by the working class who drank their tea with their meal at the the end of the day on the higher, dining table. So, if you’re planning on having a bunch of people round for High Tea, that really means you’re having them over for dinner.
Having a Low Tea party is a really nice way to have a get together on a totally manageable scale. Here’s a foolproof way to do it:
Sent a hand written invite to your friends. Yes, of course email is easier, but it’s so nice to get something in the mail that isn’t a bill or a catalog. Contribute to keeping that tradition alive!
Low Tea is generally from 3-5 pm. 4pm is the perfect time to ask your guests to arrive. They should not expect to stay past 6pm.
Style your table. Ideally, Low Tea should be served on your coffee table. Guests can use side tables to place their tea cups on, as well. Dress them up accordingly and use tablecloths, doilies, candles and fresh flowers. A patio is also a great place to set the service if the weather permits, but make sure to use Citronella to keep the bugs away.
The actual tea service should be placed on a silver tray. It should consist of a teapot, a pitcher for milk and a bowl for sugar.
Demitasse spoons are an important but often overlooked part of your cutlery arsenal. They are inexpensive but they add mega points in the class department. Think about making the small investment in some cute ones.
You can use plain old plates if you don’t have “dessert” plates, but coffee cups are a no no. Don’t worry about matching your tea cups; in fact, it’s far cooler if they don’t match. We’ve blogged before about china. Anything by Royal Albert will Anglophilize (is that even a word?) your whole vibe. Flea markets, garage sales and old lady stores are great places to acquire them.
Loose leaf tea is always best. PG tips will do in a pinch, but there is nothing yummier than a great loose leaf black tea. You might need to experiment a little beforehand and see how many teaspoons you need to create the perfect cup of tea with YOUR teapot. Many people suggest a lighter tea like Darjeeling or Orange Pekoe for Low Tea, but I am a great lover of English Breakfast, regardless of the time of day.
Charge your teapot before you pour, ladies! (That is, heat it up with hot water before you pour the boiling water in – that way, if your teapot is cold, it won’t cool down the water you’ve just poured in.)
Sweets and or Savories are a must, but you don’t have to go overboard and you don’t have to make anything yourself. Just keep the season in mind. In fall or winter, hearty breads and mincemeat tarts are appropriate, as are heavier cakes or scones with Devonshire cream. In spring and summer, lighter cakes, scones with butter and anything with fresh berries is perfect. Cucumber sandwiches, so often associated with tea time, are also good. But let’s face it, whipping up a batch of chocolate chip cookies either from scratch or a pre made roll is a great way to say to your friends, “Hey I took the time, but I’m no Martha Stewart (unless of course you are actually Martha Stewart, but chances are you aren’t because you hardly need this article.)
Having a tea party may sound hoity toity or super fancy shmancy, but really, it’s just an excellent opportunity to entertain your friends without the overwhelming burden of providing a full meal. No one expects to stay until 2 in the morning and no one gets drunk and starts crying about their ex. For some reason, a tea party just makes people more polite. So unless you’re on the Real Housewives, you can pretty much guarantee that everyone will be on their best behavior. And who doesn’t love that?
Pinkies up ladies! The kettle’s always on for you here at the Heatley Cliff.
Tea party image via ShutterStock