We’re not suggesting you actually host a modern tea party today, but rather enjoy the beautiful images of this traditional celebratory ritual and embrace hope for the future when we can return to entertaining in our homes. We partnered with The Phoenician, a luxury resort in Scottsdale, to showcase the most elegant way to host a modern tea par-ty. In fact, their restyled afternoon tea room is the perfect venue with modern artwork, geometrically patterned Wedgwood china and on-point neutral linens and sleek place-settings—not your grandmother’s tea party. Guests can enjoy this English tradition with finger sandwiches, scones with Devonshire cream and preserves, pastries and a selection of fine blends offering guests personalization of their tea, while classic and contemporary music by renowned pianist Alan Comyns has been providing a charming backdrop for this unforgettable experience for 30 years.
Guests can enjoy this English tradition with finger sandwiches, scones with Devonshire cream and preserves, pastries and a selection of fine blends.
SET THE SCENE
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, who we talked with about modern tea party ideas.
To get the look, Silard recommends paying close attention to your china selection. “In-stead of using traditional teapots, source really beautiful pottery or ceramic plates to give things a more modern, tailored feel,” she says. “Incorporate metallic pieces, differ-ent textures and patterns.”
If you’re having a seated lunch, place cards and printed menus are both practical and pretty. “I’m a huge fan of calligraphy and personalizing paper goods,” Silard says. “Some nice signage for the different teas that you’re going to serve and tasting notes are also a great idea.”
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KEEP IT SEASONAL
Speaking of tasting notes, what exactly should you serve? Michelle Gonzales, director of food and beverage at The Phoenician, where we’ve done several photoshoots, rec-ommends 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 important to your modern tea party 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. Green tea, for example, typically steeps for three minutes while a white tea only needs one to three minutes.
Gonzales also adds that, seasonally, people tend to gravitate toward teas that are light-er 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.”
“People come to tea for the experience, but really take it as a way to commemorate an occasion or moment in time.”
ENHANCE THE EXPERIENCE
For any soirée, entertainment is key. A modern tea party lends itself well to live music to enhance the ambiance, which will also help set the tone for the party. For an educa-tional 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. And when the time is right, you can travel to enjoy high tea for two.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a tea party without a little bubbly. Gonzales says they offer it as soon as guests sit down to get the celebration started. “People come to tea for the experience, but really take it as a way to commemorate an occasion or moment in time.”
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TREAT YOUR GUESTS
One modern 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, fresh scones and lem-on curd, or miniature desserts are all nice, too.”
All in all, the modern tea party is about enjoying a relaxed, yet sophisticated affair. And you don’t need a particular occasion to host one. “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.”