It's high time for tea

(Credit: Urbanite)

Tracy Stern is a big fan of tea. She argues that tea parties can be a fun, casual and less expensive alternative to dinner parties.

By Lucy Cohen Blatter

If you’re looking for a new way to entertain friends, you might want to take a cue from 19th century British high society and throw a tea party.

“Dinner parties are common; sharing tea with someone is a special ritual,” said Tracy Stern, owner of Tracy Stern SalonTea Tea Bar on the Upper East Side and author of “Tea for You,” a book about custom-blending tea and “Tea Party,” a book about throwing tea parties.

A tea party is also a less expensive alternative to a dinner party.To make it as economical as possible, Stern suggested substituting fresh-cut (and pricey) flowers, with creative, budget-friendly decorations.

She suggested filling a martini glass with colored sand, lentils and aquarium salt, or buying a green topiary tree, which will last forever.

Sometimes, she said, she’ll use a single rose and scatter rose petals around the table. “The main idea is to be imaginative.”

Oftentimes, Stern allows food to take center stage, stacking an array of sandwiches, macaroons and scones on a three-tiered tray that doubles as an elegant centerpiece.

When it comes to her tea party food staples, Stern suggested white bread, cucumber and mint sandwiches (with salted butter). She also serves petite quiches (either homemade or store-bought frozen ones) and scones (which can be made from scratch or bought), served with double Devonshire cream and jam. (Tip: To make it even more elegant, she suggests sprinkling Smucker’s jam with lavender.)

“You can gourmet everything up as much as you like,” she said.

In terms of the tea itself, Stern suggested using loose leaves, and letting them steep for 3 to 6 minutes. “That’ll give you an opportunity to talk,” she said.

12 tips for a successful tea party

1. Calm host with an organized plan

2. Invitations: Make sure to include the theme on the invites

3. Food items that are simple and can be pre-made

4. D├ęcor: Theme is everything, even if it’s a color

5. Setting the table: Make it colorful and fun, something unusual and creative

6. Music: Use CDs, iPods, high school cello player, piano, harp, or DJ

7. Create a signature drink for guests

8. Party favors: They’re a great way for guests to remember the fun they had

9. Guest list: Eclectic and fun mix of people, guests will meet new people

10. Entertainment: Hire a tea leaf reader, fortune teller

11. Pictures: Have disposable cameras on hand or rent a photo booth for an over-the-top addition.

12. Thank you notes: Send to each guest after the party along with photo

Items To Always Have On-Hand

1. High quality loose tea

2. Tea pot and cups

3. Fancy sugar cubes (Rock amber sugar cubes)

4. Sugar cookie dough (pre-made and store in the freezer so cookies can easily be made)

5. Unique toppings for sugar cookies such as lavender, ginger crystals, or tea leaves

6. Scones with raisins, ginger, currants, bananas or chocolate chips (pre-made and store in the freezer)

7. Tea sandwiches: combine white or wheat bread with cucumbers and cut with fun cookie cutter shapes

8. Alouette cheese, butter, salmon, egg sandwiches, honey mustard, and assorted jams

City tea spots

Amanzi Tea

TriBeCa’s five-month old tea bar and shop offers more than 100 custom blend teas such as Rooibos and Yerba Mate as well as tea smoothies, frappes, and lattes, sparkling tea, and bubble tea.

166 Chambers St., 212-227-2744

T Salon of Chelsea Market

T Salon’s three-story tea lover’s paradise in Chelsea Market will open an outdoor patio for the summer months.

75 Ninth Avenue, 212-243-0432

Radiance Tea House and Books

This tea house offers snacks, light meals, books, in addition to a large assortment of teas. Special tea tasting events regularly occur.

158 W. 55th St., 212-217-0442

Tags: tea party , tracy stern

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