Planning A Tea Party

How to host a hugely successful traditional British tea party of any sort for any occasion, complete instructions for every facet included.

Where British tea customs began.

Set tea times began in the early 1800's in Great Britain. As a matter of necessity and to serve the purpose that lunch now serves today of sating hunger pains in the middle of the day, Anne a British Royal requested tea, light sandwiches and dessert to be served to her in private in the middle of the day. As it became her custom so it became that of others with also the inviting of friends to enjoy tea and a light meal with you. Some fifty odd or more years later the tradition of the tea party was made permanent by Victoria herself.


Throwing a British tea party means scheduling a month in advance for 4pm in the afternoon when everyone invited (ladies) can make it. Formal invitations are sent and formal attire including dresses and gloves are expected. Properly brewed tea served with small finger sandwiches, biscuits, scones or other dainties that allow one to snack in a lady like fashion are suitable.

The highest celebration of the tea party is traditionally on Valentine's Day. A big affair with fine china and silver along with the most fanciful of table coverings and settings, the Valentine's tea is the big event of it's kind and one of few where men are welcomed, for obvious reasons. There is no overdoing it. Doilies on everything that doesn't move, hand crafted decorations and hearts everywhere, bows and ribbons, confetti and string, anything you might think of an more are welcome to heighten the stimulating milieu.

Alcohol of appropriate tastes and measures is also welcome. Highly formal music such as the great Classics of old of the gentlest kinds such as violin concertos or small ensembles, recorded or even live at the highest of dos. Small door gift remembrances of the event on entering and exiting are also not uncommon.

Inviting your guests

Formal written invitations all by mail should include at the very least all of the following information. The names of the individual, family or organized entity throwing the tea party including contact information of every kind. What or who is the tea party in honor of? When and where will it be hosted and exactly how does one get there? When and how to respond RSVP? What is the dress code? May people bring guests? Use your best judgment in sending invitations with plenty of time to spare.

Tea choices and selection

The tea plant is a bush like plant the leaves of which are pressed into three types of tea. Green tea, Black tea and Oolong tea are the only existent brands or flavors.

Just how should tea be brewed?

You will first want to warm up your teapot with hot water before actual brewing. Once the teapot has had a sufficient chance to adjust its temperature, remove this water. Now fill the pot with fresh, cool (filtered and possibly spring) water. Boil the water naturally on the stove; do not microwave. Use fresh tealeaves and pour the water out and back in again onto the tealeaves. Some will use a separate container for stovetop boiling and pour in on the leaves in the pot precisely just after removing previous pot warming liquid. Let tea and water stand 6 minutes bare minimum to get any real flavor from the leaves. 8 to 9 minutes maximum before you begin to serve. Strain tea out directly into cups to avoid guests choking on tea leaves.

Just what dainty treats are suited to such a social affair?

As the tea and the social gathering surrounding it are the center of attention, no snacks should be served that would overshadow or overwhelm the flavor of the tea. Tuna salad or chicken salad, or deviled ham tamed by cream cheese is recommended spreads for quarter slice sized finger sandwiches. The fewer you serve, the more you will get the message across that it is not lady like to scarf down more than one or two throughout the event per guest. The real pigging out should be saved for those late night T-shirt parties with buckets of ice cream crying over lost love.


There are many events that a tea party can and should be thrown for other than Valentine's Day. These include showers, engagement parties, birthdays, various landmark life events, reunions, graduations and coming out parties and retirement parties too. Each with an appropriate theme and set of decorative protocols all their own.


Traditionally a gathering for ladies the traditional tea party was always an event of sharing gossip. Though strict etiquette would say no to gossip altogether the fact remains that as much as one could get away with and save one's own reputation, these events were filled with storytelling. Both false and true gossip, though hopefully always believed to be accurate and of course, in the best interest of the parties involved, supposedly were fair game for open or veiled conversation.

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