If, like me, you are suffering a turn in the weather and are having to stay inside, its time to think about planning a summer tea party for when the sun comes out again! Here are my top tips for planning a great tea party:-
1. Bake your own cakes and buy in your sandwiches. A perfect party needs a perfect host so time needs to be organised well. A home baked cake absolutely can’t be beaten for taste (even if it doesn’t look quite perfect), but I find sandwiches can be fiddly, time consuming and messy so I buy them in. Many supermarkets offer sandwiches to order for parties and I’ve found them to be delicious with lots of filling choices, and perfectly neatly made. Most cakes can be baked in advance allowing the much needed time on the party day for setting up. Cupcakes and sponge cakes can be baked one day ahead and kept sealed in an airtight container. Carrot cakes, fruit cakes and chocolate cakes keep well for a few days and the flavour is often better. Just remember that cream or cream cheese can only be added at the last minute as it can only safely be out of the fridge for a short time. Here is Mary Berry’s Victoria Sponge recipe – it’s easy but totally scrumptious and you can add fresh strawberries or raspberries and lashings of whipped double cream to create a stunning showstopper!
2. Decorate your party space. The garden or a gazebo can look pretty with just a few pieces of vintage china, for example cups or teapots filled with flowers. Mix and match patterns and add doilies on the plates. Complete the look with jam jars tied with lace and twine, filled with sugar and a teaspoon in the top or tied into the twine, to serve with tea. Making bunting needn’t mean getting out the sewing machine and cutting perfect triangles. Strips of prettily patterned fabric tied onto a length of twine (knot at the middle so that both ends flap freely) look gorgeous hung around a gazebo or from a tree.
3. Serve delicious drinks. Alcohol is wonderful at a party but on a hot day not everyone wants to drink it all afternoon so I serve some deliciously refreshing slightly alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks too. Jasmine Delight is a lovely light drink which sounds odd but is absolutely gorgeous and is always really popular.
Jasmine Delight:- 5 green Jasmine tea bags, 4 tbsp sugar, or to taste, 750ml champagne or prosecco. Brew the tea for 1 minute in 200ml hot water, then remove the bags, stir in the sugar and add 500ml cold water. Cool in the fridge. To serve – fill half a teacup with the tea, and then top up with the bubbly. (I found some lovely Organic Green Tea with Jasmine infusion tea bags at Marks & Spencer.)
For other summery drinks, I make fruit syrups by simmering equal amounts of fruit and sugar and water. (This can be made well in advance and stored in the fridge.)When the fruit is cooked well and pulpy, strain it to remove any fruit pulp, seeds etc. and then bring the remaining liquid to boil for a few minutes until it starts to thicken a little. When cooled, the syrup can be added to sparkling water for a non- alcoholic drink or can be added to prosecco or vodka for a delicious alcoholic version. Strawberries, raspberries and blackcurrants are perfect to use. I serve drinks with a slice of lemon too and, if I’ve had time, home-made ice cubes containing a little edible petal or herb flower.