Tea and Hospitality

Tea – a hot drink that is made by steeping the dried leaves of tea plants in boiling water.

Hospitality – the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests.

Put these two together and what do you get?

The Afternoon Tea Party

Even though I love coffee and drink coffee all through the day when the afternoon rolls around it’s time for tea. There’s something about the tea ceremony that is just too civilized and gracious not to be enjoyed daily, but to host an afternoon tea is especially wonderful because it’s a way to visit with old friends, encourage friendship with the new people you meet while also enjoying your own afternoon tea.

To host an afternoon tea all you really need is the tea and a friend, but of course you can add as much to the occasion as you like. Because I enjoy working with food I usually serve three things at my teas – a sandwich of some kind, scones, and a dessert,

The sandwiches at my last tea were cucumber

Cucumber, butter, salt and pepper on white bread

The scones served were one of my favorites – Cream scones with orange butter.

The Cream Scone recipe – 2 c, flour, 1/3c. sugar, 1 Tbsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. salt, 1/2c. currants, 1 c. heavy cream. Process: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Stir together the first 5 ingredients. Gradually stir in the cream. Gather the dough together and knead lightly on floured board. Pat to 1/2 inch thick. Cut with 2 inch cutter dipped in flour. Arrange on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes. You can glaze the scones with a creamy mixture of 1/2 c. powdered sugar, 1 tsp. orange zest and about 1 Tpsp. of frsh o.j.

Orange butter is easy to make. Beat together 1 stick of unsalted butter (softened), 2 Tbsp. frozen o.j. concentrate, with the zest of 1/2 orange, 1/4 plus 1 Tbsp. powdered sugar. Smooth into ramekin and smooth top.

Yum

For dessert at this tea I whipped up a plate of creme puffs. I like to fill them with coconut creme pudding mixed with whipped cream.

Of course you could invite friends over and simply serve a cup of tea with a smile and friendly conversation. Sometimes I do just that. Food is not always necessary. It’s opening your home to friendship that’s most important and it’s good to know that serving tea is healthful as well as good-tasting. It’s a gormet bargain. Most teas cost only four or five cents a cup, and even the very rarest varieties are only about fifty cents – so go ahead and buy the best.

You can serve your tea at the sofa, on a little tray between two easy chairs, or at a table – anything goes. Whatever works in your home is the perfect thing for you. I like to serve in different rooms each month, use different china, different linen, different everything for each of my teas. I try to fully utilize my spaces and enjoy using all the things I’ve collected over time.

My Autumn tea was larger than usual. I invited five guests, all neighbors. I usually keep my tea parties small – one, two or three guests, but occasionally I’ll host up to five guests and I’m the sixth. Larger teas need larger tables.

A centerpiece is often flowers or something from nature. For this tea I chose Autumn leaves.

I used a favorite set of china from France. How I love French things. The napkins were old and delicate to co-ordinate with the cutwork placemats. It’s all art, putting a table together.

Each place setting welcomes my guests.

My guests arrived one by one and until they all were here we sat in the library and chatted.

Once the last guest arrived the tea party began. We went to the table and the rest was history. Afternoon tea is a pleasantly nostalgic and remarkably enduring custom. An hour whiled away with tea treats, music, conversation, and late afternoon light is a wonderful way to slow the pace of our busy world and recapture the sense of well-being that we need to carry on with the rest of our days.

Afternoon tea is also a great way to enrich our old friendships and cultivate new ones.

Take a break each day for your own afternoon tea and partake in the age old Art of Hospitality inviting others into your home now and then too.

It’s wonderful fun. Take it from me . . .