This week, a very special cookbook has come into the world: A LITERARY TEA PARTY, by Alison Walsh, founder and cook at Alison’s Wonderland Recipes. Yes, it’s exactly what you think – a collection of recipes inspired by classic novels and perfect for afternoon teas. Alison and I have been following each other’s blogs for some time; and after she invited me to write the introduction for the cookbook, I knew I wanted to have her stop in for a guest post. So here is Alison, with her tips on planning a fun and delectable tea party.
Tea has been my drink of choice since before I was old enough to work the tea kettle, so it’s no surprise that tea parties are my favorite way to socialize. Four years ago, my bachelorette party was a quiet Irish-themed tea party held with a few friends at my mom’s house, and it’s still one of my fondest memories. I’ve hosted a few teas of my own (and a hot chocolate party!) and even wrote a literary-themed cookbook on the subject.
What is it about tea parties that charms me so? For one thing, I love that they’re designed to facilitate rather than impede meaningful socialization. It’s so much easier to talk in someone’s living room over a cup of tea than in a noisy, crowded bar or restaurant. I also love how, despite having a reputation for formality, tea parties can be as fancy or informal as you want (think high tea in an English manor versus a child’s imaginary tea party with plastic cups and teddy bear guests).
And let’s not forget that tea parties give you a pass to drink hot, delicious tea ‘til you burst… and usually try some new flavors!
Still, actually planning a tea party can feel intimidating. What kind of food should I make? How many teas should I serve? Does it have to involve painstakingly hand-decorated petit fours, or can I heat up frozen cocktail appetizers that I grabbed at the grocery store?
Luckily, a successful tea party can be boiled down to a handful of simple rules. Here are my five tips to simplify the tea party planning process.
Tip #1: Plan with Your Guests in Mind
One of the first rules of writing applies to party planning as well: Know your audience. Think of who will be attending your tea, and plan accordingly. A children’s birthday tea will fare better with peanut butter sandwiches and a juice option for those who don’t like tea, while a Mother’s Day tea will allow you to plan for more diverse palates. It’s also a good idea to make note of food sensitivities and known food likes / dislikes. For example, I often have coffee available at tea parties (or sometimes hot chocolate) for those who prefer it.
Tip #2: Have a Theme
This one isn’t a rule so much as a suggestion, but it does make things a lot easier. Sometimes the sheer volume of options can make decision-making difficult, so I like to have a theme to guide my choices. Again, keep your guests in mind to ensure you choose something they’ll enjoy. Here are a few theme options:
- Alice’s Mad Tea Party
- A Charles Dickens Christmas Tea
- An Autumn Harvest Tea
Tip #3: Stick to Finger Food
Finger food is a reliable standby for tea parties, since it allows you to cut down on plates and utensils while also keeping a free hand for your teacup. Tea time finger foods tend to fall into three categories: breads / muffins, savories, and sweets. Exactly what you serve and how much you make will be determined by how many people attend. For five people or less, I stick to one item from each category and make enough for everyone to have two or three of everything, depending on the portion size. For six people or more, I make two items from each category. A sample menu for a party of 10 might look like this:
- Banana bread slices and scones
- Egg salad sandwiches and meat pasties
- Cupcakes and cookies
Tip #4: The Rule of Three (Teas)
I like to serve two to three teas at a party. Sometimes I have a teapot dedicated to each flavor. Other times, I set out the teas with a teapot full of hot water and let guests choose and brew the tea in their own teacups. I almost always stick with black teas, since they’re my favorite. The first tea should be something basic and familiar like Earl Grey or Irish Breakfast. For the second, you can offer something more unique like a nut or spice tea. For the third, I like to serve a sweet flavor like chocolate or blackberry. You can serve milder varieties like green or white tea, but make sure you pair them with delicate foods (like cucumber sandwiches) to avoid overpowering the tea.
Tip #5: Work Smarter, Not Harder
When planning a party—especially a large one—avoid stress where you can. Think about how much time you can and want to spend on the food, and plan accordingly. If you’re excited about throwing a party but don’t want to cook, many grocery stores sell frozen cocktail appetizers like mini quiches, cheese puffs, and mini sausage rolls (and everyone loves a good quality cookie, even if it comes from a tin). If you want to wow your guests with homemade jams and intricately decorated cupcakes, make sure most items can be made and stored a couple days ahead of time to avoid last-minute stress. I like to do a mix of the two. For example, I might serve homemade eclairs and from-scratch egg salad sandwiches alongside my favorite freezer-section mini quiches and scones I ordered from the local bakery.
So the next time you have a chance to throw a tea party, these rules can help make the planning process smooth and enjoyable. However, we should remember that the most important thing about tea time isn’t following the rules. In the end, what matters most is that everyone has a great time—including you! 😊
A Literary Tea Party: Blends and Treats for Alice, Bilbo, Dorothy,
Jo, and Book Lovers Everywhere
by Alison Walsh
Genre: Cookbooks, Food & Drink
Release Date: June 5, 2018
Tea and books: the perfect pairing. There’s nothing quite like sitting down to a good book on a lovely afternoon with a steaming cup of tea beside you, as you fall down the rabbit hole into the imaginative worlds of Alice in Wonderland, The Hobbit, and Sherlock Holmes.
Fire up your literary fancies and nibble your way through delicate sweets and savories with A Literary Tea Party, which brings food from classic books to life with a teatime twist. Featuring fifty-five perfectly portioned recipes for an afternoon getaway, including custom homemade tea blends and beverages, you will have everything you need to plan an elaborate tea party. Cook up and enjoy:
- Turkish Delight while sipping on the White Witch’s Hot Chocolate from The Chronicles of Narnia
- Drink Me Tea with the Queen of Hearts’s Painted Rose Cupcakes from Alice in Wonderland
- Eeyore’s “Hipy Bthuthday” Cake with Hundred Acre Hot Chocolate from Winnie the Pooh
- Hannah’s Sweet Potato Bacon Pastries and Jo’s Gingerbread from Little Women
- Tom Sawyer’s Whitewashed Jelly Doughnuts from Tom Sawyer
- And more!
Accompanied with photographs and book quotes, these recipes, inspired by the great works of literature, will complement any good book for teatime reading and eating.
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ABOUT ALISON WALSH
Alison Walsh, founder of Alison’s Wonderland Recipes and author of A Literary Tea Party, is waiting for the day when reading Agatha Christie and drinking tea is accepted as an Olympic sport. Until then, she chases her toddler, writes about food, and watches Star Trek with her husband. You can follow Alison on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and Bloglovin’.