Probably the most famous tea party in American pop culture is Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, published as a book in 1865. It was made into a silent film in 1903, followed by several other film adaptations, an animated one by Disney in 1951, and countless adaptations on stage, with children’s books, toys, and all the accompanying trappings that go with a story gone mad. My favorite is Tim Burton’s version starring Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter:
Tea has been a major commodity around the world for centuries and has been the cause of wars and political unrest in many places. In the US, the Boston Tea Party helped move the US towards independence from England. Wikipedia:
“The Boston Tea Party (initially referred to by John Adams as “the Destruction of the Tea in Boston“) was a political protest by the Sons of Liberty in Boston, on December 16, 1773. The demonstrators, some disguised as American Indians, destroyed an entire shipment of tea sent by the East India Company, in defiance of the Tea Act of May 10, 1773. They boarded the ships and threw the chests of tea into Boston Harbor, ruining the tea. The British government responded harshly and the episode escalated into the American Revolution.”
There are loads of sites dedicated to the history of tea and how different cultures use it. There are many beneficial health properties in different teas so aside from the social enjoyment of sharing it, healthy living sites also promote it. The Chinese have an ancient history with growing and exporting tea. Their tea houses have been replicated around the world and continue to enjoy popularity.
The Japanese got tea from China and developed elaborate ceremonies around its usage. La Vie Sirene has a nice overiew of its history and how the Tea Ceremony grew in Japan. One interesting thing that I learned a long time ago is that there are no handles on Chinese or Japanese cups. Why? If it’s too hot for your hands, it’s also too hot for your mouth and stomach.
Tea is served as a sign of hospitality in many of the Arabic and African countries. A common saying says that two cups need to be drunk and on the third, it is time to go. One of our Artizan Made shops, Afghan Tribal Arts, has had vintage samovars from Afghanistan in its inventory. (Contact him for availability.) These are gorgeous brass pots imported from Russia to Afghanistan in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. They are still widely in use at tea houses today. Stefan Sontagg took the photo below during one of his travels. He has been helping populate Google Maps with photos of the region and can be found on Panoramio.
My favorite tea is the tea I grew up with in Brazil, Cha Matte Leão. It’s delicious and refreshing, hot or cold. It can be ordered from specialty shops online. Here’s a fun teacup commercial, basically saying, “How many stories can you hold in a cup?”
All of this is just background story for the fun tea parties that were made popular by Victorian and Edwardian England. From Period Living:
“Afternoon tea as we now know it didn’t appear until the 19th century, and we have the Duchess of Bedford – who lived at Woburn Abbey – to thank for starting the trend. In the previous century it was common for dinner to be taken in the afternoon, usually between four and five o’ clock, but by the 1850s it had moved to around 7pm, which meant a long gap between luncheon and dinner. Suffering from a mid-afternoon ‘sinking feeling’, the Duchess called for tea and sandwiches to be served. Soon she was inviting friends to share in her new habit. Cake was added to the offering (scones came later, in the 20th century), making it such a delightful ritual that Henry James famously commented: ‘There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.’ Cucumber sandwiches were introduced by the Victorians but became particularly popular in the Edwardian era, when cucumbers were grown all year round for the first time.
Queen Victoria enjoyed taking tea more than any other monarch before her. This certainly helped to establish it as a habit that, by the 1860s, had become widespread among the rich and which, by the end of the century, was also common among the middle classes.”
It’s great fun to explore the tea parties from that period as they lugged fine china and treats to the outdoors. This practice has crossed on over to the US where friends will gather together for a tea party. You HAVE TO dress up, wear big hats, gauzy dresses, and it’s an opportunity to show off your garden, your china, and your tea accessories.
Why not have one with a handmade theme? Everybody has to wear something handmade and all of the linens, platters, teapots, cups and decorations are also made by hand. Wouldn’t that be fun?
Tea Party Etiquette from Teavana:
Just like the royalty and upper class did in the original tea parties, it is important to use proper etiquette when attending a formal tea party. Here are a few tea party etiquette tips to remember:
If you like to have milk in your tea, add it to the teacup before the tea is poured. Also, do not use lemon in your tea if you are also using milk to avoid curdling of the milk.
Hold the handle of the teacup using your thumb and your first one or two fingers. There is no need to stick out your pinky; this is an exaggeration of how people sometimes tilt their pinky upwards to balance the cup. Do not loop your fingers through the teacup handle or cradle the side or bottom of the cup with your hands.
Take small, quiet sips of your tea. Do not blow on the tea if it is too hot.
When you are not drinking tea, place the cup on the saucer.
Make sure to place the napkin in your lap and never on the table; if you leave the table put the napkin in your seat.
It is fine to eat most of the foods with your fingers, taking small bites; however, use a fork when trying to eat messy foods.
A perfect recipe for your event:
(Click to visit)
Have you ever had a tea party? If so, how did you organize it? Tell us how it all went as we would love to hear about it! And, if you have photos online of your event, feel free to leave a link so that we can check it out.
Fantastic Teapots from Artizan Made