I started out serving tea to friends in my tiny dorm room at college. Back then, I’d take a sturdy box, set it open-side-down on the floor, and cover it with a little tablecloth I’d borrowed from my mother during my last trip home. Pillows piled on the floor served as seats. It wasn’t fancy, but it worked.
Nowadays, I do things in a slightly more sophisticated style — no more cardboard boxes — and you probably do, too. But what if your home is small? Is it still possible to keep things classy? Of course! Here are my tried and true tips for serving tea in tiny spaces.
Look around your home. Where do you have the most room for entertaining? Is it inside or out? Kitchen, living room, or even your home office? Or perhaps you have a back yard, porch, or rooftop that is more conducive to gathering. Critically evaluate your space and be realistic about how many people you can fit. We’ve mentioned before that guests should have at least 24 inches on either side to be comfortable, but for an intimate gathering of friends over tea, you can probably reduce that just a bit.
You’ll want to plan your menu for your space, too. If you don’t have a lot of room, you might not want to host an elaborate, multi-course shindig! Seriously, where are you going to put all that food? Pick a few items that are easy to serve and eat so you and your guests have less to juggle. Items that can be eaten with the fingers are ideal.
Prep the Space
Now that you’ve decided where to hold your party and how many friends you can fit, it’s time to get creative with your space. Don’t be afraid to rearrange the furniture! You can always move it back later.
Pull matching end tables together and cover them with a cloth to create a low table for eating or serving — or top them with cushions for bench-style seating. Turn an ottoman into a tea table by placing a tray on top, or temporarily move your television to another room and use the stand as a table. Gain extra seating by pulling your couch up to your dining table.
Or, take it down — to the floor, that is. Use pillows and cushions as floor seating around a low coffee table. This is perfect if you want to lend more of a Middle Eastern or Asian flair to your party. If you’re going outside, spread some quilts on the ground and make it a picnic! A few well-placed trays will keep your tea treats from toppling over.
Set Up Tea and Nibbles
If it’s just a simple pot of tea you’re serving, you can set everything out on your tea table. But I doubt you’re that basic; you probably have homemade scones and organic fruit salad and adorable sandwiches. If this is the case, it’s best to serve your guests buffet-style — and that means setting up a serving station.
First, you’ll need to find some surface area, preferably in the same location as the party. A cart, sideboard, counter, bookcase, or that television stand you cleared off earlier would all do the trick. I’ve even seen folks use an old ironing board covered with a cute tablecloth.
For best use of your space, think in layers; cake stands, lazy susans, and small shelving units can sit atop your serving area to hold various goodies and food items. If you’re using a bookcase or cart that has shelves, don’t forget to put them to work holding plates, cups, napkins, and silverware.
Now, just add some finishing touches, like small bouquets of wildflowers, and get ready to enjoy tea with your guests!
Photos Credits: author, blj09a0, Antranias, author, and author