Thursday, May 5, 2011

How to Host a Tea-Tasting Party (Guest Post)

Tea is taking the world by storm. The Brits, as you know, are already famous for their fabulous teas and tea parties. But, tea's invading far-flung shores too, not least because of its relaxing and healing properties. It's delightful, flavorful and super-chic. So, what about hosting a tea-tasting party?

English Tea Party

It's easy to do: just get all the girls together for a night of guy-free fun. Queue up some good conversation and gossip! And since no tea party's complete without cakes and sandwiches, be sure to whip up some feminine finger foods to complement the star beverage. Just dish up small vegan sandwiches or your celebrated tuna salad, some crudités and a few cute sweets.

Picking the Perfect Brews

As you know, tea comes in many flavors. The most common variety of tea is basic black –  this accounts for almost 90% of tea we drink in the US.  Black tea might seem a little humdrum, but it actually comes in a world of exotic flavors, ranging from stiff-upper-lip Earl Gray to the malty and dark Assam varieties from Northern India. For a tea-tasting, set out a handful of black teas, and invite your guests to dress them up with fruit infusions, flavored honey, aromatic spices and cream. Enhance the fun by labeling each tea with its history and high points – then pass around scorecards and read each other's comments.

Planning to unleash your tea party at a baby shower? Instead of hopping up the guests with caffeine, try a revved-down mix of green teas (after all … any cake you eat with green tea is calorie-free, right?), or even herbal teas. Think "herbal" equates to "boring?" Think again:  herbals can be found in bewitching flavors like lemon grass, blood orange, wild strawberry and more, not to mention the refreshing mints.  Don't forget to dress them up with cream and honey!

Tea and Biscotti

Suited to a "Tea": How to Set the Theme

It's easy to blend your tea-tasting into the party or shower theme, making both even more delightful. For example, an eco-friendly baby shower calls for organic cotton onesies, post-consumer invites … and a sampler of organic Oolong teas. Or if you're hosting an Asian-theme shower, awe your guests with visually stunning blooming teas (or "display teas") served in clear glass cups and saucers: they unfurl just like flowers when submerged in hot water. Bloom teas also make sensational party favors!

Presiding over a book club? Tea's the perfect beverage for those chilly nights.  Serve some aromatic Jasmine teas to ladies curled up in front of the fire. Inform them that Jasmines are actually a luxurious Chinese green tea, scented with flowers from the Jasmine vine. Aromatic and lovely to look at, it's no surprise that in northern China, Jasmine tea is practically synonymous with hospitality.

If you're having a very special tea-tasting event, take a page from today's love of vintage, and scavenge some thrift or antique stores for lovely set-pieces like vintage wooden tea crates, rose china, and handsome antique books to stack on your tables and top with a simple vase or mason jar of flowers.

Who knew tea could be so rich and multi-dimensional? There's as many different ways to stage a tea-tasting party as your imagination can dream up. You and your girlfriends will love setting off together to forge new adventures in tea … and memories to last long after the cups and saucers are tucked back on the shelf.

Elin Coats writes for FavorIdeas.  Drop by today for more themes, inspirations and elegant favors for your next tea party, baby or bridal shower.