Years ago, I decided to share my glorious wisteria with all of my girlfriends because it was so fragrant and lovely. A tea seemed the perfect way to do just that. The weather’s almost always perfect–both warm enough and cool enough to sit outdoors under the blossoms. Since then I have started catering teas, although I must admit, because it is so labor intensive, I much prefer to do tea for friends with Laurie’s help.
This year, my eighth annual Wisteria Tea, we had an abundance of help. My sweet sister Hellen did all the floral shopping at the mart and made the stunning centerpieces, ably assisted by our niece Norah. I’ll devote a whole blog post to their amazing work. My centerpieces are generally beautiful; Hellen’s are works of art.
Norah’s mom, my sister Margy, tore herself away from the Fairfield Downtown Business Association to also join us, and her help was very much appreciated. She was our go-to girl for the day – always good to have!
Because of the tea catering, I have many, many pieces of one-of-a-kind china. Rose patterns are my favorite, but most of my porcelain is covered in ultra-feminine floral designs. I never try to match china for 20 to 30 guests, so I use a mash-up of flower patterns, the more the merrier. My friends and sisters have given me lots of china, but most of it has been purchased on eBay. (The Party Know-it-alls are almost always thrifty.)
My Wisteria Tea has become a potluck event, with guests invited to bring their favorite tea item, which makes it a great way to entertain a large group without totally killing yourself or your budget–you know, our theme. We always make sure we’ve got the essentials handled: a number of tea sandwiches, scones, several desserts. It’s fun to see what people bring. Non-cooks offer to purchase clotted cream and jams and exotic teas. Our friend Barbara always brings incredible strawberries. One year a guest brought a polka-dot cake from a local patisserie that we’re still talking about. We always have wonderful concoctions that are demolished by the “starving” ladies who attend.
Maybe you’ve got a lovely garden you’d like to share with your friends but you find yourself under-equipped to serve tea for 20. Ask each guest to bring her own tea cup too. Almost every woman’s grandmother or aunt gave her china, even if the recipient said, “I’m not the kind who will ever use this.” But here’s your chance – take it to the party and remember the sweet story about the relative who gave it to you. Not my grandma, of course, but she did give me some kickin’ champagne glasses!
We’re going to post some tea sandwich recipes in the next few days. Laurie and I brainstorm for weeks about this tea. At the beginning we usually have 20 sandwiches in mind, but as crunch time rolls around, we narrow it down to, oh, 10 or so. Stick around; you’re gonna love our afternoon tea!