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Tea in the garden

by Debbie Rodgers
Perhaps nothing says “garden party” like having afternoon tea outdoors. It’s a charming reminder of bygone days and outdoor spaces of all kinds, including balconies, can be successfully adapted to a tea party.

Tea parties span generations and can be enjoyed by most all your friends from every walk of life.

What makes a fun and exciting tea party? Look at these factors.

Flowers: Plan to hold your tea party when your garden is in its fullest bloom — perhaps it’s lilac, rose, or peony season. Be sure to cut some of the blooms for the tea table vases. If you don’t have a garden, buy an armful of flowers at a farmers’ market, or stop by a country ditch to pick bunches of wild daisies and Queen Anne’s lace.

Invitations: Send handwritten notes by snail mail. Make sure your guests know the theme for the event — elegant or mad! Typically, tea is held around 4 p.m. — perfect for day-blooming flowers.
Table setting: The more elegant, the better. Stash the paper table covering and the plastic glasses just for today. Instead, use a crisp linen tablecloth, pressed cloth napkins and your best bone china cups and saucers. Try to have adequate seating for everyone. Consider setting your straight-back indoor dining chairs outdoors. They can add an elegant touch, whether left unadorned or covered with flowered chintz.

Hats: Encourage all of your guests to wear hats — from retro, mid-20th century, high fashion and big-brimmed, floppy and flowered to chapeaus, high hats and fedoras.

Food: Other than teaspoons, no cutlery should be required at tea. All sandwiches and sweets should be dainty finger-food. Try sandwiches of watercress, cucumber, or egg with the crusts removed and cut in quarters. Sugar cookies and petit fours are traditional sweets. You can substitute mini-cupcakes or tiny tarts.

Tea: One of the first things that I learned in seventh grade home economics class was how to brew a proper pot of hot tea.

At a minimum, offer your guests a traditional tea and a caffeine-free herbal choice. Have milk (not cream!), sugar and fresh lemon wedges available.

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