Are tea parties the new happy hour?
As many Aussies back away from booze, more are turning to a well-brewed cuppa tea. So what’s the appeal, and how do you host a fabulous tea party?
It’s no secret that Aussies love a cuppa with nearly three quarters of all Australians drinking hot beverages every week.
And while the majority of Aussies prefer coffee, tea consumption is on the up – so much so that unwinding over a cup of tea with mates is becoming increasingly popular, while numbers reaching for something a little stiffer have been slowly, but steadily falling.
As tea continues to win favour, searches for high tea, vintage tea parties and tea party aesthetics also on the increase on Pinterest.
But what is it about holding tea parties that we find so appealing?
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Why is tea so enticing?
Tea sommelier and founder of Melbourne tea emporium Impala + Peacock Sarah de Witt says historically, tea is a social symbol of hospitality and generosity.
“To offer someone a cup of tea and provide a warm environment for conversation has been practised and perfected for thousands of years in China before it became a thing in the West,” Sarah explains.
She says getting together with friends over a cuppa is the perfect way to embrace your shared connection – and brewing a pot can be a satisfying self-care ritual too.
“I like how tea connects you back into your senses,” she says.
“I also love the connective side to tea – everything seems better over a cuppa tea with a good friend.”
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How afternoon tea tradition started
According to the British Museum, we have the seventh Duchess of Bedford, Anna Maria Russell, to thank for the invention of afternoon tea sometime around 1840.
Traditionally, afternoon tea was served on a low table with scones, sandwiches and cakes.
A fancier variation is known as high tea, served with more substantial morsels slightly later in the day, and served on a high table.
Sarah says in modern times, both afternoon and high tea are great ways for families and friends to connect.
“The ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ as people walk into tea parties filled with colour, flowers, freshly brewed tea, crockery, fancy glassware, and delicious treats make it all enchanting,” she says.
How to host a tea party
High Tea Society founder and director Michelle Milton says hosting a tea party is an opportunity to take a break, put the phone away and spend time talking with friends.
Both experts agree you don’t have to go all out to impress.
“The joy in tea parties is having care-free time to enjoy with your loved ones, not stressing out about icing or your meringue consistency – leave that to the experts,” Sarah says.
Michelle agrees: “A high tea at home can be whatever you want it to be.
“We have a collection of high tea recipes that have been provided to us from well-known chefs.”
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Theme ideas for your tea party
The theme for your afternoon tea can be anything you want it to be, and Sarah says there are no hard and fast rules about tableware.
“I love the classic vintage tea ware and crockery contrasted against modern glassware – I think when it comes to tea parties you can be bold and creative.”
But should you ditch the grandma’s doilies, or give them pride of place?
“Doilies can add a bit of fun to the presentation,” Michelle says.
“You can buy teaware from an op shop or teaware from the latest Wedgwood range, and go to the effort to dress up.”
What kind of tea should you serve?
There are so many different tea varieties out there, how do you know which to choose?
“The classics – a breakfast tea or earl grey are always winners,” Sarah says.
“Another favourite is our lemon myrtle and ginger blend which pairs as a beautiful refresher alongside sweet treats.
“If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, coconut mint has a great sweet aftertaste for those sweet tooths amongst us.”
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Hints for a successful tea party
No tea bags: “More people are becoming aware of the not-so-nice health implications of drinking bleached paper or plastics,” Sarah says.
Milk in first: “As you pour hot water into the milk you gradually warm the milk up from chilled to warm,” Sarah explains.
“If you pour milk directly into boiling water the milk is heated so rapidly that the proteins are denatured negatively impacting the taste and texture.”
Save time: “Make the scones and finger sandwiches yourself, then visit your favourite patisserie to buy a few special items to feature on your high tea stand,” Michelle says.
Written by Andrea Beattie.