Host a meat or high tea party for friends to celebrate an important occasion such as a birthday, anniversary, bridal or baby shower, or simply use it as a reason to catch up on the latest events around town with close friends or family. Plan the menu carefully because this British tradition consists of a substantial meal served late in the afternoon or early evening, preferably to substitute supper. Use your finest tableware to set the buffet table and include delicacies to please every palate.
Select a theme for the high tea party for added fun. Choose a Victorian theme so the guests dress in large ruffled dresses, corsets and hats, or a modern theme so guests wear streamlined dresses, matching accessories and stiletto shoes. You can also set a single colour as the theme, incorporating it in the decorations and refreshments. Ask the guests to wear clothing or accessories in the selected colour.
Decorate the venue with plenty of fresh flowers, balloons and streamers. Use seasonal, scented flowers to dress up the tea table, mantle piece, entrance and other strategic spots in your house. Use flowers that complement the linen and china for the centrepiece arrangement.
Decide whether you plan to serve the meal on the table or as a buffet. If the gathering is small, arrange it on the table itself so guests can eat at ease while chatting.
Although the traditional high tea is actually a working man's supper with nothing in relation to Victorian ladies sipping tea from delicate cups of china, you can use the opportunity to create a welcoming table decorated with pretty tableware and cutlery so it stands out. Consider the patterns on the china to select linen colours. Use plain but lacy linen to complement floral china, and conversely, a brightly coloured tablecloth if the tea set is plain.
Place a candle stand with long, scented candles near the centrepiece floral arrangement. Alternatively, add strawberries and raspberries to a crystal bowl garnished with mint leaves at top and use as a centrepiece.
Tie a helium balloon in the colour that complements the linen behind each chair, and bunch balloons to liven up empty spots.
Prepare refreshments beforehand so you don't have to worry when guests arrive. Make different types of meat, poultry and fish dishes and savoury desserts. Include round or flower-shaped sandwiches stuffed with watercress and goats cheese or cold meats; scotch woodcock; Cornish pastries; Welsh rabbit; freshly baked plain or raisin scones; crumpets; homemade jams; butter arranged in attractive curls, whipped or flavoured; custard tarts; biscuits and cupcakes. Include different types of teas to please every palate, such as green, black, flavoured and oolong. Arrange for different types of milk including evaporated, coconut, pouring cream and sweetened condensed, and an assortment of sugars, such as cubes, brown, rock sugar, artificial sweeteners and molasses and sugar syrup. Spices such as ground nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom pods that take tea to a whole new experience are essentials for a high tea party.
Keep the guests entertained while you serve the tea. Include traditional games such as badminton and croquet for guests who want to step outside for fresh air, or enjoy a round of dumb charades for plenty of laughs. You can also place baskets with knitting needles, coloured wool and different patterns for guests to begin and take back home.
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