how to host a friend for tea

Did you grow up having tea parties? I think most little girls did. My mom had a few books about tea parties with decorating ideas and recipes, and all of us girls had a ball with that. A tea party can be a bit overwhelming, I think. Especially when you really want it done right. The clotted cream. The scones. The lemon curd and jam. The tiered plates with tiny cucumber sandwiches and miniature cookies. The teacups.

I do love a good tea party done right.

However, when one just has a friend over for tea, it can be as simple as tea and an edible. The edible is an essential part of having a friend for tea.
NB: If someone uses the phrase, “drop by,” that is a completely different thing from having someone for tea. That means sipping tea or coffee from mugs while sitting at your kitchen table, catching up. No edibles necessary.

Here’s how to have someone for tea:

  1. Make sure your house is tidy. That does not necessarily mean scrubbing the floors on your hands and knees, but things should be straightened, dishes dried and put away, counters wiped up, blankets folded in the living room. Make sure the bathroom is perfectly clean – if you’re drinking tea, you’ll need the bathroom to look nice. 🙂
  2. Bake a quick batch of cookies. If you make it a habit to have people for tea, may I recommend making a batch of cookies and freezing them in individual scoops, to be cooked at a later date? Make once, bake many times. This past week, I made a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies and put almost all unbaked scoops of batter in the freezer. An ideal number of cookies to have for two people is probably four. It provides the option of two per person, looks like plenty, and means you won’t overeat. Remember that tea is traditionally at 4:00pm, but nowadays done anytime in the afternoon, and we don’t want to spoil our appetites.
  3. If you choose to make cookies, fresh or frozen, preheat your oven one hour in advance of your company. If she’s arriving at 2:00pm, preheat the oven at 1:00pm. This way, you will have the cookies baked and cooled, the pan washed and put away, and the house smelling like heaven – just in time for your guest!
  4. Set out your tea service:
    – The teapot
    – The choices of tea (if you’re providing choices – you could just pick one yourself)
    – Milk/lemon/sugar (optional – I knew my guest wouldn’t take anything in her tea)
    – Cups (mugs are totally fine, but if you happen to have teacups…)
    – Plates & napkins for cookies (if you have cute little napkins or vintage linens, that’s great – it all depends on the kind of mood you want to set)
  5. If it’s a cold day, light your fireplace! If you don’t have a fireplace, make sure the heat is keeping things nice and toasty. You don’t want your guest hugging her mug for warmth.
  6. Adjust your lighting so that things are cozy and inviting. The lightbulbs on the ceiling fan may be a little harsh for an afternoon tea. The indirect, soft light of a side table lamp with the backlighting from another room might be perfect. Switch things on and off until you find your sweet spot (and remember it for next time, so you don’t have to test it again!).
  7. Heat up the water. I like to do this about 5 minutes before I expect company. I have an electric kettle, so it’s pretty snappy. Boiling water on the stovetop would take longer, and you can adjust your timing to meet your needs. If your guest is habitually late, wait to turn on the kettle until you get her text saying she’s running late and is right around the corner.
  8. Smooth your hair and fix your dress! Or, rather, make sure you look like you’ve been relaxing all morning and the house cleaned itself and the tea was made by magic fairies.

It’s not like I’m an expert or anything. Read this post as encouragement to have a friend over every now and then to enjoy each other’s company! Tea with a friend is like an oasis in time. It’s really delightful. I like to aim for one a week, if I can, but it’s probably more like one every two weeks, and sometimes one of those turns into sipping mochas at Starbucks. Inviting someone into your home, though – even if it’s more work – is definitely more rewarding.

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5 thoughts on “how to host a friend for tea

  1. Love #8! SO TRUE. :)) I hosted a few friends for a casual pancake breakfast this morning, and as I dried the last dish and put it away right before they walked in, that’s exactly what I was thinking of – magic fairies!

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