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Proper Tea Party for Fifteen, Would Love Suggestions

Hi Y'all!! My darling daughter turns 26 this year and would like me to throw a "proper" tea for her special day. I've got a few suggestions already and am on track, but would love any different or unusual ideas you may have that still stay within the realm of "proper" tea. Thanks!

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  1. Hiho Mama... For one thing, don't forget the proper tea was poured into a proper bone china teacup from a lovely bone china teapot or a silver teapot (using china or silver creamer and sugar pot as well).. Mismatched was fine and sometimes desired. Linen napkins and silver utensils complete the service. Bouquet of flowers for the serving table. Candles not lit til after 4:00PM.

    My mother and her friends usually had all the typical sweet and savory tea sandwiches and pastries but always included petit fours. They're so lovely and decorative. The only things that were bought instead of home made... There was a local bakery that made beautiful baked ones to order plus the very thin pinwheel sandwich bread of various colors. Happy 26th to your daughter.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Gio

      Gio, this is great advice. We are planning it for late afternoon, and luckily enough I do have a tea service that I scored at a flea market, so no worries there. It's a garden party, even that late, but we can expect good weather. I LOVE the petit fours idea. I actually make them, and they never ever came to mind, but several pastel petits topped with edible flowers is a gorgeous addition, so thank you, and I'll pass your salutations on to daughter!!

      1. re: mamachef

        Every Easter I make petit fours with cardamom and rose flavored cake enrobed with white chocolate and garnished with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and Aleppo pepper. Quite good with a strong cup of Assam.

        1. re: JungMann

          Hey, I was thinking of Assam. Even people who don't enjoy tea can enjoy that.
          I HAVE to have your recipe if you don't mind sharing, please?

          1. re: mamachef

            Basically I take a regular sponge cake recipe and add about a tsp. each of lemon rind and rosewater as well as 1/2 tsp. of cardamom. The squares of finished cake get dipped in white chocolate dyed pink and dry on a rack. While they are still sticky, I add a pinch of sesame seed and a pinch of Aleppo pepper atop each petit four, although candied rose petals would also be good and highlight the rose flavor.

            1. re: JungMann

              Done and done. Beautiful. I'll be playing with this one. Edible flowers have been on my mind a LOT lately. Thank you!!

    2. We did it for mine when she was two (tea for two), but I'd LOVE it if she still wanted a tea party at twenty-six! You need scones and crumpets (recipes abound) with cream and strawberry jam and lemon curd ( not hard to make, and you can refrigerate it for months...so you can make it ahead of time). There are lots of crumpet recipes online, you grill them on top of the stove with a non-stick grill pan...they are very english-muffin-y (my limey husband says "No, they are NOT" but they are, kind of...) If you can't find crumpet rings, small cans with both top & bottom cut off (think tuna or pineapple) work just fine, just spray them with lots (lots & lots) of non-stick spray. I just did a quick google search & someone recommended Mason jar rings, which sounds like it would work. Clotted cream is not hard to make, but I find that mascarpone makes an admirable substitute if I"m feeling lazy or don't have time. Also, of course, finger sandwiches (cucumber, watercress, curried chicken salad, egg salad, shaved ham) with the crusts cut off all fancy. Sticky toffee pudding (google the Schlafly Tap Room recipe, it is foolproof) or a trifle. And remember, you're setting out a 'cream tea' which is not a 'high' tea (which, at least in my in-laws' part of the world means 'with meat' or 'what we call supper when we are putting on the dog'.) I bought a bunch of teapots at Goodwill and Salvation army and used them to hold flowers & rolled-up napkins and utensils and everyone had to wear a hat. We had a lot of fun, and the pictures were priceless. In England, every cream tea requires one of those three-tier serving pieces for the finger sandwiches or for petits fours, the silver ones with the handle on top...(I scored on at Salvation Army). As I recall, we even found some heart-shaped sugar cubes, although as an adult, I would prefer the rough-looking cubes of demerara, if you can find them. Two-year-olds like the heart shaped cubes so much, they tend to sneak the whole bowl BEFORE the guests arrive...can you guess what she was like during the actual party?

      4 Replies
      1. re: tonifi

        Edit ... Never mind, found my answer in your post!

        1. re: blue room

          Oh yes, Hats and dresses are required. Luckily this gang just gave a "Run for the Roses" party, so the hats should be no problem. We do have a tiered stand and a cake stand, so that department is okay.
          Heart-shaped cubes? Awesome! Do you have any idea where you found them?
          That kid must've been on the ceiling after a bowl of cubes......... :)

        2. re: tonifi

          great suggestions on what to have and what not to have, and what a great idea to celebrate a birthday!

          just a note on crumpets: I really was not successful with mason jar rings, as the batter stuck to the part of the ring that fits on top of the jar. I personally would not recommend using these.

          in terms of foods, I really enjoy having a few pieces of fruit with tea (strawberries and the like) - it gives a nice reprieve from all that starch :)

          good luck!

          1. re: pâté chinois

            Chocolate-covered strawberries and a few sugared fruits just hit the list.

        3. mamachef, thre's a cute little book I have -- see it here --

          http://www.amazon.com/London-Ritz-Boo...

          might be fun to look through. I've never had the "proper" experience myself!

          5 Replies
          1. re: blue room

            I've had it twice; the best was a tearoom in Ghiradelli Square. Of course I remember everything we had, and I'm just trying to replicate, but a little differently. Roxlet and others have reminded me about the cream biscuits, and I can source the double or clotted cream locally. I'm also considering several other bars and bites. I am going to serve savories, which may take it out of the realm of "totally proper" but I'm really excited about it.

            1. re: mamachef

              The little book I mentioned has these listed for sandwiches and 'savouries' -- Cucumber sandwiches ("peel and slice ... into transparencies..."
              Egg salad sandwiches
              Potted shrimp
              Scotch woodcock (an anchovy spread, no birds involved!)
              Welsh rarebit
              Tomato sandwiches
              Devilled ham sandwiches
              Watercress sandwiches
              Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon on toast
              Alice B. Toklas sandwiches (Cooked mushrooms mashed with butter, lemon, salt & pepper, a little cayenne) spread on toast
              Martha Stewart is no doubt good at this sort of thing -- here is a link to her tea sandwiches-- http://www.marthastewart.com/search/a...

              1. re: blue room

                Thank you!! Between this and some other buddies, I have a GREAT start now!! I'm stuck on cream biscuits with clotted cream and homemade strawberry jam, petit fours, mini lemon pound cakes with lemon glaze, brownies (probably Nick Malgieri's Supernaturals) because there must always be chocolate. The birthday girl has made a special request of dates stuffed with chevre, wrapped in bacon and baked so I need to do that even if it's untraditional. She has also requested alcohol in the form of Mimosas, so I'll do that too. When she made the request, I asked her if she wouldn't rather just call it an hors dourves party, but she wasn't having it - a tea she wants and a tea it shall be, even if it's weird. That's kinda how we roll anyhoo.

                1. re: mamachef

                  We always have champagne at our tea parties...I've seen a lot of tea houses offer it as well. That's something you can't do with kiddie tea parties. :)

              2. re: mamachef

                I've had afternoon tea many times, incl. at Fortnum & Mason in London, and little savouries were always served. At F&M, which was the fanciest, or "most proper," there were tiny sandwiches, a little scone with clotted cream and strawberry preserves, and petit fours. In other tearooms, there have been little sandwiches always (my favourite part), often a savoury scone as well as a plain one w/ cream and curd &/or jam, teeny-tiny quiches, and always some sort of sweet finish - shortbread, perhaps, or a truffle, etc.

                At my own tea parties, I've served gougeres, which were hugely popular, tiny crab cakes, or other miniature savouries. The fancy sandwiches are always nice, but I like to include something hot besides the scones.

                You're going to have so much fun, and everybody will love it.

            2. https://www.google.com/search?q=3-tie...

              tiered servers like these are very traditional for tea service in hotels and make a lovely presentation for small pastries and petits fours.

              1 Reply
              1. re: hotoynoodle

                Thank you! Fortunately, we've got one. It's one less thing I have to run around looking for.

              2. I just threw a tea party for twelve a few weeks ago!

                We started off with some scones (really like this recipe from epicurious): http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                Then we had 3 kinds of tea sandwiches: cucumber sandwiches on white bread (cut into rectangles), smoked salmon sandwiches on pumpernickel (cut into rounds using a biscuit cutter), and curry chicken sandwiches on wheat bread (cut into triangles). I really like the contrast between the different types of breads and shapes, they all looked great!

                For desserts, we had 3 different kinds of macarons (been on a macaron kick lately). Chow.com actually has a great recipe that I use as a base: http://www.chow.com/recipes/28339-fre.... I made the chocolate macarons w/ chocolate ganache, green tea macarons w/ white chocolate buttercream (substitute matcha powder for the cocoa in the same recipe), and earl grey macarons with honey buttercream (substitute loose-leaf earl grey tea for the cocoa in the same recipe). Just adored how dainty these looked and the girls loved them! I found that I preferred to petit-fours (which I usually find too sweet), even though they're not traditionally part of british tea.

                By the way, Amazon.com sells lemon curd and clotted cream (or double devon cream which I actually prefer) if you can't find it in stores in your area.

                Here are some pics, hopefully it'll give you some good ideas! http://arleneandulysses.smugmug.com/P...

                3 Replies
                1. re: arlenemae

                  Thanks, arlenmae! I'm loving the idea of the differently-shaped tea sandwiches. What a good idea for contrast!! I'm also playing with the idea of a checkerboard loaf, but that's so much trouble. And I recently saw a pretty cool deconstructed "Loaf sandwich" made of finger sandwiches. Hmmm....

                  1. re: arlenemae

                    Oh, my, arlenemae, I wish I could attend one of your tea parties. The one you described above sounds heavenly, especially as I am mad for macarons as well.

                    1. re: shygirl

                      Me too.

                  2. Have you seen shaped bread tubes? I have them for hearts and flowers and they make fun shaped bread for tea sandwiches or quick breads (although it takes fooling around so the batter doesn't spill). They're like this:

                    http://www.ebay.com/itm/One-Pampered-...

                    I must have been to much more casual tea places in England as a student because most teas were just scones, clotted cream, whipped cream and jam with tea. For me, it was more of an excuse to eat clotted cream. I've only had the three tier holders in nicer places and ironically, the most formal have been in the US. I personally don't like loose tea in the pot because the last cup is too strong--I'd use a tea ball even if it doesn't infuse the water as well as loose tea. I love financiers as part of tea, too, not too sweet, perfect small bite.

                    I don't know if Americans are much more into the tradition of a proper afternoon but ones I went to in England, even at the college president's house (he was a Lord) weren't that traditional. I remember having apple pie and cheddar cheese, definitely not traditional fare. Oh, and if you can get Pimm's No. 1 cup w/ sparkling lemonade, that was the highpoint (although it could be because we were in college). For non-alcoholic, there was Rose's grenadine or lime syrup. And, I think because they wanted to torture the American (me), they always had marmite. All this talk makes me want to go punting.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: chowser

                      Yo, Chowser!! What great ideas!! I mentioned JUST now that she's requested Mimosas, but that was just because she wants booze and that was the only remotely acceptable remedy we could think of. But Pimms! Certainly, I can get that. I remember having a Pimm's cup and it was garnished with a cucumber spear, a lemon slice, maybe a few grapes, and something else. It was delicious, and such an adventure going after the fruits when the drink was gone. :)
                      Thank you! Excellent!
                      Your last line had me falling out of my chair laughing.

                      1. re: chowser

                        Hi, Chowser....have you ever seen tea filters? http://www.finum.com/permanent-tea-fi...

                        They changed my life! I'd tried virtually every means of steeping my loose tea and this is the best because it allows much better infusion and can be used "forever." They're easy to clean and can fit in a mug or teapot.

                        I also love my glass teapot and warmer. In addition to being the best teapot I have ever had (lightweight, no drips), it lets the tea be seen in all its glory, especially beautiful with the candlelight glowing through it. http://www.davidsonstea.com/glass_tea...

                        But now you have me wanting to make flower-shaped bread! I've always cut my little sandwiches in different shapes but did not know there were special bread tubes. I am agog. Isn't it bad enough I already have not one but two madeleine pans? And neither fits into my (large) toaster oven. Sigh.

                        1. re: shygirl

                          I've used one of those Finum filters, but I have this one I like even better (seems to fit more and bigger mugs): http://www.swissgold.com/e/t_produkt0...

                          It makes brewing loose tea a breeze, as you say.

                          1. re: shygirl

                            Nice--I rarely make a pot of tea anymore but that would come in handy. When I left England, my friends gave me a tea cozy.

                            The bread tubes were an impulse buy when I was at a Sur La Table, years ago. I don't know if I'd buy them again but I do appreciate them for occasions like these. LOL, I also have two madeleine pans but they are unitaskers for me, never mind that I rarely make madeleines anyway.

                        2. In the realm of 'unusual' tea party ideas, maybe something with a tropical twist? Small curry puffs and pineapple tarts would be features of a South-East Asian tea. When I had tea at the Cadogan a few years ago I had the most delicious meringue with passionfruit curd.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: limoen

                            Yum! now you've got me thinking about mini Pavlovas. Oh no.

                            1. re: mamachef

                              Me, too! Too bad everyone here can't get together and have the mother of all tea parties.

                              1. re: shygirl

                                Right? We'd DEFINITELLY have to have a "stronger than tea" option for the crowd, but what fun it would be, and I was planning to serve one anyway. :) along with all the other goodies. I'm betting the young ladies will opt for the Pimm's Cups and Mimosas before they'll head for the tea but that's just how they roll.

                              2. re: mamachef

                                Mini pavlovas are lovely! Though I think I had a tiny meringue basket which is beautiful. Might be a bit ambitious to do that at home, though.

                            2. I can't add anything to the wonderful ideas already suggested, mamachef, but I do love the idea of a formal tea party, and may do something like that myself for some upcoming occasion.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: sunflwrsdh

                                Isn't it fun? I was delighted when she asked me to do it and I'm so excited. Now to find a dress...

                                1. re: mamachef

                                  It does sound like so very much fun, and as you mentioned downthread, being beautiful is a huge part of the fun. The dress? Something flowing and flowery...Laura Ashley-ish, is what I'd be looking for:) Enjoy, and please post pictures...

                                  1. re: sunflwrsdh

                                    I adore Laura Ashley!! And there are a few other designers who do the look too. Even Eileen Fisher might be okay but I got a pair of strappy pumps on a great heel today, and that might be too plain. Pictures coming after March 31st, which is the date.

                                    1. re: mamachef

                                      Looking forward to the pictures!

                              2. My mom and I have been hosting a tea party every year for about a decade. The first one seemed very overwhelming, but we now have it down to a science!
                                You for sure need scones, clotted cream and jam. The king arthur flour scone recipe is a good one. It sounds like you have the sweets covered. Everyones favorite sandwich is always one with stilton, walnut, sliced pear and watercress. I don't know how traditional it is, but it's delicious. Here is the recipe http://www.food.com/recipe/stilton-pe... I always leave out the tarragon as not everyone likes it. The other thing we do is lamb sausage wrapped in puff pastry. Again, I don't think it's traditional - but is a fun, fancy pigs in a blanket. I always follow Ina Gartens' recipe - but you really can just wing it. Good luck - do as much as you can in advance. But be prepared, there is always a lot of last minute prep to do!

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: JennyHunter

                                  Love this, Jenny. Those puffs might fit the bill beautifully. I'm going to send those poor girls home stuffed to the gills, but I guess then my job as a Jewish mother will be achieved.

                                  1. re: mamachef

                                    Mamachef, I got my heart-shaped sugar cubes at Jay International Grocery here in St. Louis, they had them with the other varietal sugars like palm sugar and maple sugar and demerara. I can't recall the brand and a google search yielded mostly DIY methods. It might be fun to try making your own, though it sounds a bit time-consuming. Sounds like a great party.

                                2. I like a fairly simple afternoon tea (NOT "high tea") with good scones/jam/devonshire cream a few tea sandwiches (smoked salmon, cucumber, prawn marie rose), and a small treat of some sort like an almond cake.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: JudiAU

                                    This is exactly what I was thinking, too. It's more about the chat than the food, although the food is well appreciated. I'd do little scones, finger sandwiches and financiers.

                                  2. I usually start my tea parties off with a cocktail. I went to a bar recently which served a cocktail called a "gardener's tea break" (or something like that) which had cucumber puree/juice, Hendricks gin, I think elderflower cordial, and soda, served in a teapot with a little cucumber sandwich on the side. Quite possibly some mint in there somewhere too. Then move on to tea with the scones and then the cakes.

                                    For sandwiches I usually do cucumber on white bread, smoked salmon on wholemeal bread, and egg and cress, or gentlemans relish with quails eggs. I am coming round to the idea of less traditional savoury things though, and recently did goats cheese and purple basil jam crostini. I have also been making toasted sandwiches, cut into quarters, filled with stilton and pickled walnuts which are quite the best thing I've put into my mouth in 2012.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: gembellina

                                      Lovin' your description, gem. And the cheeses with basil jam and pickled walnuts sound absolutely divine and up the alley of the "different" things I've been looking for.Thank you!

                                    2. You can also ask question on yahoo group teamail-

                                      1. I think the hardest part is narrowing down the choices but you have to have cucumber sandwiches with homemade mayo and dill. Can you buy Pepperidge Farm Very Thin Bread for the tea sandwiches? http://www.pepperidgefarm.com/Product...

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Berheenia

                                          I surely can! Thank you for reminding me of this product!! And to Chowser and Judi, thank you for reminding me that the biggest goal of the party is to get all the girls together and have a good time, and I don't have to be twisting my mind all cuckoobunny to get it together, although I definitely still will. :) I know it will come together and be beautiful, and a good time will be had by all.

                                        2. It just occurred to me that if you want something delicious and out of the ordinary, Sarah Leah Chase has a Scallops que Sarah Sarah that would be great:

                                          http://eat.at/swap/forum1/161448_This...

                                          I don't use melba rounds but have used Pepperidge Farm white bread.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: chowser

                                            Oh hell, chowser. You are driving me right out of my mind. Those are absolutely beautiful, and a friend will be standing by in the kitchen for any last-minute stuff. She could sear those off and we could serve them with picks and and and and.......
                                            As I said. Straight out my mind.

                                          2. One more sweet thought, something I love for a tea service: tiny tartlets or tassies, made in the smallest tins, or mini muffin tins. Could be pecan tassies or the like, or little tart shells filled with lemon curd or pastry cream and berries, or chocolate ganache, or or or...

                                            For lovely, light, proper scones for eating with jam and cream, my favorite recipe is also the simplest to mix up because the only fat is cream. I've posted the recipe before, here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7114...

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                              Oooh, Caitlin. I LOVE Tassies; they taste like mini pecan pies and they are EASY. That might be my final final sweet. I picked up a tray of shells at Public Grocery around Thanksgiving and filled them with Tassie filling; so easy but for the party I'd make the regular crust. Thanks!

                                            2. I went to the Sanderson hotel on Saturday and had their "Mad Hatter's Tea Party" themed tea. Teh sandiwches had very traditional fillings but were made with rainbow breads - egg and cress on spinach bread, ham on saffron bread, smoked salmon on beetroot bread.

                                              I'd still do the stilton and walnut toasties though, or "naughty sandwiches" as the bf calls them...