How to Host a Tea Party

Tea parties aren't just for little girls.
Tea parties aren't just for little girls.

You may spend your summers slinging grub for your brood out on the deck using a grill, a mountain of hamburgers (with cheese) and a fat roll of paper towels. While your home theater system is blaring someone's agonizing effort to hit the high notes of the national anthem, you're working the condiments like a madwoman in a dash to get everything on the table before the game starts -- or the announcer yells "start your engines" -- or someone in the kitchen or the family room shouts "Where's the food?" in that plaintive bellow you've come to love -- and hate -- in equal measure. It's tradition; it's family life; and it's usually just perfect.

Every once in a while, though, the fine china whispers to you from its zippered case, or a filigree of perfectly spaced stitches in a lace tablecloth makes you long for an afternoon on the Orient Express or in the lush, green depths of a formal garden. It may be girly and hopelessly romantic, but sometimes the idea of turning back the calendar to a more leisurely time seems almost irresistible. Tea is more than a collection of blended and dried plant parts. Tea is also a notion, a nostalgic ideal of what it is to live a refined and gracious existence.

If you've been eyeing your tea service with longing lately, harvest some fresh flowers, polish the silver and have a tea party. The real star of these occasions is your imagination. Tea is the party beverage, sure, but it's also a state of mind.

On the next page, let's look at some gracious, nostalgic and imaginative ways to host a tea party. We have some suggestions for tea parties for the younger set as well as ways to make a relaxing cup of tea a decadent pleasure you won't soon forget. We request the honor of your presence.