Sunday, April 14, 2013

Afternoon Tea Party - Tips and Recipes

Hey There:

Last year as part of the Geek Girls of San Diego Meetup group, a co-organizer and I decided to throw an Afternoon Tea Party and the date we choose turned out to be the hottest day in August. I know for most cities/countries August would be a definite no-no for this type of event, but we live in San Diego! It should have been fine, the weather betrayed us!

After that minor disaster, we tried again, this time in what San Diego considers freezing weather - under 60 F - so this time with a fire in the chimney and only 10 people allowed to RSVP, it felt just right.


I've never considered myself a tea person, but somehow all the following were in my cupboard:

PG Tips - A popular British tea, some British people I know tell me that's not the best, but what do I know? I like it, I drink this instead of coffee, really gives a caffeine kick!
Barry's - Irish tea, also gives a great kick and from what my Irish friends have told me, Dublin drinks Lyons, the country drinks Barry's.
Mary Queen of Scots - A blend I bought at Shakespeare's Corner Shoppe. It combines black tea with lavender and lemongrass. It is very fragrant and delicate, this was one of the favorites of the afternoon.
Mighty Leaf - I'm not much of a herbal tea drinker, but I can never resist these ones. They are gourmet blends and a very nice treat.
Chamomile - A must have in my house, take it hot with honey and it calms down an upset stomach (I used to make this for my sister when she was a baby). It is also great for puffy eyes!
Flowering Tea - Have you seen the movie Marie Antoinette? There is a scene where the Queen is talking to her brother, they drop a small ball into their tea cups, it opens into a small flower and it brews as tea. Fancy, right? We'll we had that too! I have the special pot and used up my very last flower. I waited until all the guests had arrived in order to drop the ball in the teapot and we all just watched the flower expand. I found the tea in Target - of all places! - in case I can't find it there again, I will be ordering online. The flavor and fragrance are very delicate and it's better to drink without adding sugar or anything to it.

How to brew tea:

  • Warm the pot
  • Empty the water
  • Add 2 tbsp of loose leaf tea per teapot
  • Add boiling water
  • Brew for 5 minutes
  • Serve
When teapot is 3/4 empty, add more boiling water and let sit for another 5 minutes. 3 pots can be made from 2 tablespoons.

How to serve it:

  •  Drop 1 or 2 lumps of sugar in your tea cup (optional)
  • Add milk (optional) 
  • Put a tea strainer on top of your tea cup
  • Pour the tea and remove strainer
  • Mix everything with a tea spoon and enjoy
The milk is added before the tea to protect the delicate tea cup from the hot water. The strainer captures the loose leaf tea.


The ladies brought in all sorts of goodies: cookies, creme brulee, fruit tart, scones, etc. I was worried we would only have sweet items, so I asked one of the guests to bring something savory - she made quiche - and I made little sandwiches...including the famous cucumber one!
There are so many recipes online, I went for the more traditional and economical ones. They were very fast to make, it took me 30 minutes to make 3 types of sandwiches - tuna, egg and cucumber.

Tips for your own event:

  • For our event, I used a kettle to boil the water in order to brew the loose leaf teas and refill the pots. For those who wanted to try the various tea-bags we had an electric kettle on the side with enough water so they can just get the hot water they need.
  • We had a selection of half-half and Lactaid.
  • We're American, so I don't think we understand the concept of using lemon in our teas. I had some, just in case - nobody even asked.
  • We had sugar cubes (available in major grocery stores) which made it easy to add sugar, didn't leave a mess of sprinkled sugar all over the countertop and we all felt dainty using the little silver tongs.
  • It's hard to keep up with everyone's dietary restrictions (vegan, raw-vegan, non-gluten, non-dairy, etc.) so having the event as a potluck will ensure that people will bring what they can eat.
  • While it is nice to have a very nice tea set, mismatched sets are even better. They bring an Alice in Wonderland feel to the event. We had 6 different styles of tea cups, everyone had fun looking and choosing their favorite.
  • Tea events are such a lovely way to spend an afternoon, you should try it too! And maybe even watch an episode or two of Downton Abbey while you're at it!