New This Month

Host an Unstuffy Tea Party

Say good-bye to the tutus and tiaras, and say hello to a different kind of tea party -- one that's simply steeping in rustic, grown-up glamour. Think: all the spunk of Eloise, sans the fussiness of the Plaza. Brew up your guest list, then get planning with our very best ideas, recipes, decor, and more.

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Photography by: John Kernick

THE RULES

China, India, Japan, America, England...when it comes to tea, each place seems to have its own traditions, customs, and preferred style. In some parts of the world, drinking tea is a solemn occasion; in others, it's a ceremonial event. And in others still, it's an unquestioned universal pastime. So, when it comes to the "rules" of your own tea party, you might as well forge your own path. Our suggestions may align most closely with the English style, but we still encourage you to call a few of the shots yourself.

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Photography by: John Kernick

Emily Post, the famous etiquette expert, writes in her 1922 book, "Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics, and at Home," that there are a few "must-serve" items when it comes to tea time, and one of those is the classic tea sandwich. We'd agree. She also reminds us that "the hostess who, providing no individual tables, expects her guest to balance knife, fork, jam, cream cake, plate and cup and saucer, all on her knees, should choose her friends in the circus rather than in society." Simply put, there's to be no negotiating when it comes to the table setting, either. Even if you're going for a more casual, unbuttoned feel, each teacup should have a saucer, and there should be separate butter knives for each guest if there are jams and spreads involved. 

 

Other than that, we think you should go ahead and do your own thing. Rules are made to be broken -- especially in the case of the unstuffy tea party.

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The Scene

This is your time to be original, make bold choices, and think way outside the box. Teacups, for one thing, can do more than just hold tea; they can also be used to decorate your table. Make "tea party baskets," filling the cups with tea bags, petits fours, small candies, and other fun trinkets. Or have them hold plants ("tree" cups, anyone?), see a second life as candle votives, and act as dainty favors.

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Photography by: John Kernick

The Menu

Something scone-esque: The food complementing your tea doesn’t have to be scones, per se. Feel free to choose another baked good with similar texture or crumbly appeal, like biscotti bites or tea cookies. But you may as well scroll through our scone recipes to see if anything there tickles your fancy. (Spoiler alert: Something will.)

Get Our Fast Raspberry Scones Recipe

Get Our Cream Scones with Currants Recipe

Get Our Blueberry-Buttermilk Scones Recipe

Get Our Cheddar-Chive Scones Recipe

 

Something savory: Remember those must-have tea sandwiches? Whether your preference is hard-cooked egg, smoked salmon, prosciutto, or a selection of all three, your party’s bound to hit a high note with these beauties in tow. While you're at it, be sure to check out these botanical canapés with salmon-caviar “blossoms,” and these fresh ricotta-cherry-lemon crostinis.

Get Our Favorite Tea Sandwich Recipes

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Something unexpected: Serve something surprising to further distance yourself from the traditional tea party, like a platter of smoked fish. Paired with juniper salt, sorrel-red onion butter, and a selection black and brown breads, this dish is an Instagram-worthy masterpiece that takes little effort to throw together.

Get Our Smoked Fish with Juniper Salt and Sorrell-Red Onion Butter Recipe 

  

Something sweet: From decadent poached apricots with a ripe triple-creme cheese and understated chocolate pots de crème with mahleb, to dreamy jasmine shortbread sandwiches with grapefruit curd and a jaw-dropping iced raspberry loaf cake, we’ve got you covered in the “over-the-top desserts” department.

See More of Our Favorite Tea Party Dessert Ideas

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Photography by: John Kernick

The Tea

Exhilirate your senses (and impress your guests) by creating your very own tea mixes. Loose tea coupled with a few simple household ingredients and supermarket spices just might be the ultimate DIY -- and no one will suspect that it's actually a cinch to throw together. Choose from our favorite tea "remixes" below:

 

Get Our Modern Chai No. 1 Mix Recipe

Get Our Vanilla Rooibos Mix Recipe

Get Our Fennel Mint Green Mix Recipe

 

First time tea-partier? Think your brewing technique isn't up to par? Check out our handy tea companion, and watch the video below to find out Martha's favorite beneficial tea varieties.