Setting the Mood
Tea is all about being a break in the day, having a nosh in the afternoon to hold you over until dinner (which was about 8-9pm), but also a respite from the stress of the day. A break for the spirit, if you will, to renourish, and then, back in the fray! So to that end, you can not have a proper tea in the middle of chaos with things scattered everywhere, or for a perfect picture, one of my daughter’s room’ when they were unkempt teenagers. Clothes scattered everywhere, books tossed about in an organized manner only known to them, empty glasses held hostage from the kitchen… See? Not the relaxing, soul refreshing environment for a proper high tea.
A clean, bright space, for me, is a wonderful way to have high tea. Clean, kept, the chairs empty, with pillows fluffled, just waiting for your guests to sit in. For some reason cheerful plants or fresh flowers always add to the feeling of tea. When I’m really awake I always think it’s fun to have a plant of lavender out when serving tea with lavender as an ingredient.
Music, softly playing, is just another layer in high tea. Now the type of music is a bit key. Somehow rap does not qualify. I always suggest for tea picking music that is not highly lyrical; your mind often wonders listening to the lyrics instead of the conversation or the wanderings of your own mind ( at least for me). Some of my favorite choices: Enya, Keiko Matsu, Yanni, and Wynton Marsala. My advise: anything that lowers your blood pressure or heart rate!
How to properly serve the tea.
Now that all your food is prepared, your scones are warm in the oven or wrapped in a towel, mini quiches are about to finish cooking in the oven, and the hour to serve tea has arrived. You have two routes you can go. If you wish and have many pots for hot water, brew the tea in each individually (which is how it is done in swanky High Teas), or you can be a little uncouth and use one pot of hot water and put tea bags in everyone’s cup and brew it there. Generally I choose the latter, as I don’t have a plethora of tea kettles, so just ensure there is an extra plate on the table for the tea bags when it is time to take them out; then remove the plate. However, like the food, having a selection of teas to choose from, in my opinion, rules the day. I always like to include a selection of offerings that are caffeinated and decaf, more fruity and sweet, or more earthy and herby. In the spirit of accommodating your guests, it’s wonderful to have the tea selection with descriptions on an individual menu card,which can double as your guests’ ‘tea favor’. Another tip: for those new to ‘tea drinking’ – young and old alike-, hot chocolate is a wonderful alternative offering (as coffee is simply not to be had).
When pouring the hot water, always pour for your guests, standing on their right side. All tea drinkers have their preference of what they like with their tea, ranging from warmed milk or cream, lemon or sugar, so having this range already prepared and on the table is an option, or serve these items on a round tray after the tea is poured; this makes your guests feel thought of and cared. And that is precisely what tea is about!
Now, all that is left is to sit back (well, sitting mostly straight), and enjoy! It’s a delightful time of conversation and friendship. Enjoy your cups of tea, perhaps trying a different tea with each course- whatever you choose. Enjoy the natural un-rushed pace of tea; it is one of life’s little luxuries and you’ll find you don’t have to leave home to find it!