A tea party is really an excellent option for holiday entertaining because it can be tailored to meet your needs, energy level, and schedule. Plan a two-person tea party for your Secret Santa, bring a tea party to an ailing family member, or invite a friend born in December for a birthday tea party that's all about them.
Take It Easy
Holiday teas are all about creativity, fun, and simplicity.
Instead of a proper pot of pre-brewed English tea, provide an array of loose teas and additives for your guests to mix and match and create their own special blend. Alongside tea leaves in black, red, green, and white, serve bowls of dried fruits such as apples, strawberries, dates, and peaches. Offer a selection of edible flowers -- lavender, calendula, hibiscus -- and a variety of chopped nuts and whole spices such as cinnamon, star anise, and cloves. Encourage your guests to mix and brew and taste, and provide small cellophane bags for them to take home a sample of their handmade tea.
Get creative with the sweeteners you serve with your holiday tea. Let your guests choose from dark brown sugar, honey, real maple syrup, and quintessential sugar lumps.
Skip the delicate bone china tea cups and pull out all those brightly colored Christmas mugs that have been gathering dust at the back of the cupboard. Nothing needs to match at a holiday tea party. Keep the decorations simple but colorful: an embroidered table cloth or runner, a glass bowl filled with shimmering Christmas balls, streamers dangling higgledy-piggledy from the chandelier.
Don't worry about slaving over a hot stove baking cookies and cakes and scones. Now is the time to make a beeline for a well-stocked international shop and your favorite top notch bakery. Indulge yourself and spoil your guests with a variety of delicacies: chocolates from Italy, Parisian raspberry tarts, pretty little petit fours, perhaps some Danish pastries or a stunning layered cake. For savory elements, offer a tray of interesting cheeses and charcuterie along with a nice crusty loaf of bread.
With simple decorations, interactive tea brewing, and tempting morsels already made, once your guests arrive there's nothing left to be done but keep the kettle hot and try your hand at your own tea brew.
All photos courtesy of the author except raspberry tart by Quinn Dombrowski.