Addressing Invitations
Setting a Table
Brewing and Serving Tea
Writing Letters
Relaxing Outdoors

How to Brew and Serve Tea

A Victorian hostess always knew how to brew a proper pot of tea, as the serving of tea was itself nearly an institution during the 19th century. A tea party is can be a sit-down formal affair or a casual gathering served buffet style, depending on your preference. If it is a relaxed (yet elegant) buffet, you need to set a sideboard (or buffet table) with the tea service, cups, saucers, spoons, dessert items, dessert plates, forks (if needed) and the napkins (cloth is preferred, but certainly not necessary. You can purchase attractive paper napkins too.). Allow each guest to serve themselves.

If, on the other hand, you intend to have a formal seated affair, then the table should be set much as you would for a dinner party, without dinner dishes and extra silver. Of course, a dessert fork, knife, and teaspoon must be set on the table. The dessert plate is set in the lead spot with the saucer and teacup on top.

On a buffet table or sideboard, lay out your tea. (You may also want to serve coffee or some other beverage as an alternative. You will need a full service of each type of beverage with a tray.) Beginning in the center of your table set your cookies and petit fours, etc. Now going in both directions on the buffet table place the eating utensils, the napkins, a bowl of lemon wedges, sugar, creamer, and finally your tea or coffee service with cups and saucers on or next to it.

As for making tea, boil water in a tea kettle and pour it into a ceramic teapot. A metal teapot can affect the taste of tea and will cool the water more quickly, so a ceramic teapot is preferable. Swirl the water around to warm up the teapot. This warms the pot prior to adding the tea leaves and water for the tea. Pour out water before adding tea leaves. Next, fill the tea kettle with fresh, cold, non-distilled water. Place the kettle on the stove and bring to a boil. Then, add one teaspoon of tea leaves per cup to the teapot, plus an additional teaspoon "for the pot". Remove the kettle from heat right after it comes to a boil, and pour six ounces per cup into teapot. Finally, let the tea steep 3-7 minutes, depending on desired strength.

If your tea party is an intimate affair, then the hostess may serve the tea from her seat. If, however, it is a large gathering, serve tea by standing to the right of each person when pouring. When serving, ask guests how many "lumps" (sugar cubes or spoons of sugar) they would like. Place the sugar into the cup prior to pouring tea, using a spoon or serving tongs (never use your fingers to reach for sugar cubes). Next, pour the tea into the teacup using a strainer to catch loose leaves. Lemon and cold, whole milk can also be added to tea. The teapot can be kept warm using a "tea cozy," a padded covering for the pot or by setting it on a tea warmer, lit by a votive candle, for the duration of your tea party.