As the great author Henry James exclaimed, “There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” We agree with Mr. James. If you’ve ever fancied a cup of tea, you’d agree too. Tea events are quite the treat, oozes sophistication and can be bloody fun to host. With these tips from Messina’s Catering and Events, your tea themed catering event will be absolutely brilliant.
Types of Tea Service
First, decide on what type of tea service want to host. The most common is known as the Afternoon Tea, also known as Low Tea. This tea service consists of light fare such as finger sandwiches, scones and sweets and served mid-afternoon at about 4:00pm. Historically, Afternoon Tea was mostly a ladies’ social event served on low tables. High tea, which was served on high tables, was historically served after the workday between 5 – 7pm with heavier foods including meats, vegetables, baked beans and casseroles. Finally, Cream tea is tea served with scones and clotted cream.
You can’t have a tea without, well, tea. Each guest should have their own pot of choice, or tea may be served individually from a larger shared teapot on the table. The key is having a variety of teas available for your guests. Include black teas like Earl Grey, Assam, Ceylon, Darjeeling and English Breakfast. Lighter green teas can include Tropical Citrus, Gunpowder and White Green Tea. Make sure to also have caffeine free herbal varieties like Lavender, Mint, Chamomile and Ginger. Traditional accompaniments are milk, lemon, sugar cubes and sweeteners.
Back in 1840, when the first Afternoon Teas became fashionable in England, its primary reason was to stave off hunger during the long gap between lunch at noon and dinner at 8pm. Food was quintessential. If you choose to have a first course for your tea, go for a soup like a bisque. Messina’s features rich bisques such as Corn & Crab, Wild Mushroom, Roasted Tomato or Lobster. Salads are a good alternative as a first course as well. The main food focus is on the tiered stands at each table, which are a must. Each tier holds a specific set of pleasant finger foods.
Starting on the bottom tier are finger sandwiches. These are small, triangle shaped delicacies served on thin bread that are crust-free. Assorted sandwiches are featured like cucumber, curried chicken salad, boursin, smoked salmon, egg salad and roast beef. For a more upscale type, include watercress and buttered radish sandwiches along with mini quiche.
The second tier are where the scones are housed. Scones are like soft, dense biscuits. Speak to your caterer about having them served hot alongside Devonshire or clotted cream, homemade fruit preserves, lemon curds and herbed butter.
The top tier is for the sweets. An assortment of desserts like shortbreads, petit fours, mini eclairs, cream puffs, fruit tartes, canapes, macarons, sponge cake and cupcakes make for a sweet ending to a fabulous tea. Speak to your caterer about local dessert favorites that you can add as well.
Tea has already been established as the star of the show. For those occasions where libations are in order like with a bridal or baby shower, include champagne for toasting. Separate Mimosa or Bloody Mary bars serve as viable co-stars as well.
The right tableware is imperative. Decide on whether you want a posh, garden or country style. For table linens, opt for a crisp white cloth for the formal look, a floral pattern for garden, or lace for country. Coordinate cloth napkins. Porcelain, bone china and sliver should be part of your pots, teacups, saucers and plates. Make sure to have coordinating creamers, sugar basins and sugar tube tongs to go alongside. To keep teapots hot, have cozies for covering and strainers available for loose tea.
The beauty with Afternoon Teas is that they can be held at your favorite venue, indoors or outdoors. Hosting at home is another, more intimate option. Set the tone by ensuring that fresh flowers are on each table. Popular today are large teapot floral centerpieces, or smaller teacup versions. Forgo the electronic route and send paper invitations with a wax seal to set the tone. Encourage guests to wear their favorite Victorian hats or best fascinator (think of Princess Kate, Duchess of Windsor) and crocheted gloves. Or embark on a Mad Hatter theme as guests channel Alice in Wonderland characters.
Speak to your caterer on planning the perfect afternoon event. Messina’s Catering and Events has been providing full-service catering to the New Orleans community since 1961. We are family owned and love working with clients to host any type of event. And remember, contrary to popular belief, never extend the pinkie while sipping tea. It’s quite rude.