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Tea parties steeped in fun and elegance
Author£ºColourful Tea    Time£º2007-6-9    Hits£º895
A tea party can be many things, from a white-gloved affair in a drawing room to a little girl's dress up party on the lawn. No matter what type of tea party you prefer, the basic idea is the same: Eat, drink and celebrate with a nod to tradition and a focus on aesthetics.

"The key to a tea is the details, says Linda Reid, owner of The First Ladies Tea Room in Canton, Ohio.

When it comes to a tea, she says, presentation is paramount.

"I've become known for the details that I do," Reid said. "It's all about being grand and beautiful. The tables have a gold teapot with a tea warmer, and we always make sure there are doilies under the cups. And we have hats and gloves and things like that to play with, things you can put on while having tea."

Finger sandwiches, soup, quiche and salad are standard fare, as well as scones, cookies and pastries. Staff members enlighten patrons to the tea rituals and styles.

Guests need not be intimidated about protocol. A tea is meant to be sensory and pleasurable, not poised and stuffy, Reid said.

"Forget the extended pinky finger," Reid said with a laugh. "I'm not even really sure where that came from."

If you plan to host your own tea party, follow the advice of Tracy Stern, author of the newly released book "Tea Party: 20 Themed Tea Parties with Recipes for Every Occasion, from Fabulous Showers to Intimate Gatherings" (Clarkson Potter, $27.50).

"It should be all about fun, not about fuss," said Stern, who has been featured on the Food Network and is currently working on her own pilot show, "Steeped in Style."

There is endless room for interpretation in a tea, Stern said. For instance, don't worry if you don't have fancy china dishes and tea cups.

"Glass is beautiful," she said. "It is inexpensive and it shows the color of the tea. Glass plates work beautifully as well, and you can get glass plates for $1 each at (dollar) stores. For each place setting, get two plates and sandwich in a photo, a palm frond, a pressed flower, whatever you like." Not a fan of cucumber sandwiches? Then get creative with your favorite sandwich.

"Try it in miniature. Cut them into pretty shapes with cookie cutters. Think hearts, flowers, circles and diamonds."

Stacking and garnishing are other ways to make sandwiches special for a tea.

"If one layer tastes delicious, add another one or two layers of filling and bread for a tea sandwich with serious height," she said. "Spread a tiny bit of mayonnaise or butter along the edge of a tea sandwich, then dip the edge into a plate of chopped dill, chives, lavender or other dried herbs or mild spices. The herbs adhere to the bread and give it a dash of color."

It is those little touches that elevate the gathering from ordinary to memorable, and they need not be elaborate or expensive.

Some of Stern's favorite touches are using lollipops for stirrers for drinks, using madeleines as shells for dainty ice cream sandwiches, and cutting sliced canned beats into shapes with a cookie cutter and serving them on a cracker with a bit of cheese.

Think along the same lines for table decor. Stamp plain or colored paper napkins with guests' initials. Fill martini glasses with water and drop in a big flower, such as a peony or rose.

"If there is an object around your house that you love," Stern said, "think about how you could incorporate into a party's decor."

Above all, don't stress, she said.

"The idea of it isn't to take a lot of planning," she said. "It's about bringing people together."


- Tea. Supermarkets and specialty stores offer an endless array of teas, loose leaf and in tea bags, along with tea balls and diffusers. Follow package directions, or visit www.firstladiestearoom.com for brewing instructions.

Tracy Stern's Web site, www.salontea.com, offers products and accessories.

- Tea sandwiches. Small sandwiches are ideal. Consider flavor combinations such as cream cheese and prosciutto, mozzarella and tomato, or ham and apple; tuna or chicken salad are perfect as well.

To make, spread a thin coat of mayonnaise, butter, or cream cheese on each bread surface to keep it from getting soggy. Add the filling, then cut off the crust with a serrated knife. Cut with a cookie cutter for special shapes, or cut into squares or triangles.

- Sweets and treats. Scones are traditional tea party basic and are simple to make. They are traditionally served warm, split open and topped with butter, jam or preserves, clotted cream, and/or lemon curd. Any and all cookies, cakes, tarts, petits fours are suitable.


3 large nectarines

3 cups cooked chicken, cut into small bits

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

1/3 cup store-bought poppy seed dressing

5 cups mixed greens, chopped

1/2 cups chopped walnuts, toasted

3 large pitas, quartered, or bread of choice

Yields 6 to 8 servings.

Cut nectarine into 1/2-inch dice and place in bowl. Add chicken and onion. Toss with about 1/2 the dressing, enough to coat. Cover and chill for at least 15 minutes and up to 2 hours.

When ready to serve, add greens and walnuts to chicken salad and toss to coat, adding remaining dressing. Just before serving, spoon salad into pita quarters or on bread. If desired, slice off crusts and cut into shapes with cookie cutters.

- Adapted from "Tea Party" by Tracy Stern.


2 (11-ounce) cans refrigerated soft bread sticks

3 tablespoons butter, melted

Topping, such as chopped fresh rosemary, chopped fresh chives, sea salt, grated Parmesan cheese, garlic or onion powder, sesame seeds, minced tea leaves

Yields 16 bread sticks.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

Separate dough and shape into 8 long bread sticks per can for 16 bread sticks total. Brush with butter and sprinkle with toppings of your choice. Twist and shape dough into initials and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake in batches for 14 to 18 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Place bread sticks at each table setting before your guests arrive.



2 heads bibb lettuce, leaves separated

2 avocados, peeled, pitted, and diced

2 green apples, peeled, cored and chopped

Sesame-Green Tea Vinaigrette:

2 teaspoons lime juice

2 teaspoons sesame oil

2 teaspoons sesame seeds

A few drops soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon chopped green tea leaves (see note)

1/3 cup olive oil

Yields 8 servings.

Arrange a bed of lettuce on each of 8 plates. Layer avocados and apples on top and drizzle with vinaigrette.

To make vinaigrette: In small bowl, combine lime juice, sesame seeds, soy sauce, ginger and tea leaves. Whisk in oil until mixture is blended.

Note: Use loose tea leaves or use tea from tea bag.


2 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sugar (divided use)

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 stick unsalted butter, chilled, cut into pieces

1 large egg

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon light cream or half-and-half (divided use)

Yields 6 to 8 scones.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Combine flour, 3 tablespoons of the sugar, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Cut in butter with pastry blender or fork.

In small bowl, whisk together egg and 1/2 cup of the cream. Add egg mixture to dry mixture and stir until just moistened.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Knead until just smooth (10 to 12 strokes only). Roll out dough to about 1/2-inch thickness and cut out 3-inch circles or other shapes. Place cutouts on ungreased baking sheet. Brush tops with remaining 1 tablespoon cream and sprinkle with remaining 2 teaspoons sugar.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until golden. Cool on wire rack for at least 5 minutes. Serve warm if possible, or at room temperature.

- "Tea Party" by Tracy Stern 
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