SET THE TABLE
First things first, think about the kind of party you’d like to have and the mood of the event. This will dictate all your design decisions and the level of formality. “There was this trend where tea parties made people think of mismatched china and kitschy stuff like what you’d find at grandma’s house, but now there’s an interest in a more modern get-together, something sleek and sophisticated,” says Rachael Silard, founder of event planning company Ruby & Rose.
To get the look, Silard recommends paying close attention to your china selection. “Instead of using traditional teapots, source really beautiful pottery or ceramic plates to give things a more modern, tailored feel,” she says.
KEEP IT SEASONAL
Michelle Gonzales, director of restaurants and bars at The Phoenician, recommends a few black teas, herbal selections, green, and white tea. “Some of the most common herbal teas are peppermint or chamomile; we also do well with teas that have a berry profile,” she says.
But perhaps most importantly is how you serve it—she highly recommends serving loose leaf teas. “The option will make a difference in the flavoring of the tea, allowing the tea buds to open up and really provide a strong flavor or more pronounced flavor in the tea.” Steeping—and knowing how long to do so—is just as important.
Gonzales also adds that, seasonally, people tend to gravitate toward teas that are lighter in color in the summer and darker in the winter. Flavor-wise, chais and rich black teas trend toward the fall, while white and fruit-forward teas are more popular in the spring. Regardless of the season, offering a variety is key. “We always recommend that people order a few different options to share and further think about what they really enjoy and don’t.”
ENHANCE THE EXPERIENCE
For any soirée, entertainment is key. A backyard tea party lends itself well to live music to enhance the ambiance, which will also help set the tone for the party. For an educational element, bring in a tea expert who can talk to guests about how to brew tea, the different types of tea, and other fun facts. Or, consider structuring your event like a tea tasting. It’ll get the crowd chatting and is a fun and modern twist on the traditional tea party.
TREAT YOUR GUESTS
One tea party tradition that we’re still embracing is treating guests with a thank-you in the form of a party favor. This is a great opportunity to set up a display station with teas or treats to go. They can be pre-packaged in cute containers with pretty ribbon or a selection of loose leaf teas and sachets for guests to fill themselves. “Edible favors also go over well,” Silard adds. “Something small like macarons and fresh scones, lemon curd, or miniatures desserts are all nice, too.”
All in all, the modern tea party is about enjoying a relaxed, yet sophisticated affair. “You don’t have to have an occasion to celebrate. I saw a father bring his six-year-old daughter to tea, couples come a lot, and obviously the women with hats are fun to see. But it doesn’t have to be stuffy or for a reason. Just enjoy the day.”