The Tea Table
In many parts of the world, tea time is an honored tradition of refinement and elegance. When you're planning a tea party -- whether for a shower, graduation, birthday, or just for fun -- adorn your table with your best china, silver, and linens. These add polish and grace to the occasion, and in our "paper cup" world they remind us fondly of earlier times.
Tea may be served from a dining table, coffee table, sideboard, cart, or tray. Cloth napkins are a must. A variety of serving pieces in different heights, shapes and materials will add visual interest to your table. Don’t fret if you haven’t got a matched tea set. Assemble these elements, mixing patterns and materials, to create a unique and stylish setting.
Centerpiece – Keep fresh flowers or plants small and below eye level or airy and “see-through.” Do not light candles unless it is dark enough to need them.
Clotted cream bowl and spoon; jam jar and spoon; butter dish and knife – Shallow glass or ceramic bowls, compote dishes, and even saucer champagne glasses add sparkle.
Cozy – This colorful padded or quilted fabric covers your teapot to keep the contents piping hot.
Creamer or pitcher – Used for serving milk, this piece usually matches the sugar bowl.
Lemon plate and fork – Any small plate may be used; place a two-pronged fork atop thinly sliced lemon.
Pedestal cake stand – Line the surface with a napkin or doily.
Sandwichplate – This rectangular or square plate may also be used for sweets.
Strainer and stand – Use these to remove loose tea and to prevent drips from staining the tablecloth.
Sugar bowl – The lid is removed and a spoon, tongs, or sugar shell is placed inside. If serving honey, use a small pitcher.
Teacups, saucers, and plates – Pieces need not match as long as they complement each other and share common colors.
Teapot – Silver is the queen of metals, but a ceramic pot, pottery, or bone china holds heat better. Use a pot large enough to pour each guest one cup of tea, but not too heavy to lift easily. Add a second, smaller pot filled with hot water for diluting strong tea.
Tiered server – Stack, from the top down, with scones, sandwiches, and pastries.
Tray – Choose one to reflect the formal or informal nature of your party. The tray should be big enough to hold “inedible necessities.”
Waste bowl – This is any small, wide-mouthed bowl in which the cold tea dregs may be dumped.