If, as a child, you longed to grow up and throw your very own tea party just like the one Alice attends in Wonderland (well, perhaps not just like that one), fear not. Your time has come! We tell you how to plan and execute a delightful get-together with hot drinks aplenty, and not a drunken mouse in sight.
Tea parties, of course, are a very English affair and the term conjures up images of Victorian ladies in big hats eating tiny sandwiches. This kind of gathering is, contrary to popular belief, referred to as Low, and not high, Tea. Tea didn't make an appearance in England until the 1600s and, because it was imported from China by a rather lengthy route, it was fairly expensive, hence its association with the upper classes. High tea was in fact enjoyed by the working classes and denotes a more substantial evening meal.
If you like the sound of Victorian low tea, splendid. It is not difficult to recreate and is a perfect excuse for you and your friends to raid your wardrobes. Pretty dresses, straw hats with ribbons, gloves. Remember 'feminine' and 'elegant' are the buzz words at a party like this.
It should go without saying but I will say it anyway - you need to buy some tea. You will want a few varieties, but don't break the bank over it. Ask your guests to bring a tea each. That way everybody can try a bit of everything. Low tea is normally in the afternoon between lunch and dinner, so you won't need a huge amount of food. Scones with jam are perfect, and if you like to bake you could provide some pretty cakes or biscuits.
It is important to set the right tone at your classy shindig, so you should prepare an appropriate playlist. Just imagine sitting around a table, sipping Early Gray and discussing the British Empire (that is what Victorian ladies talked about, right?) - low key, relaxing music is what the doctor ordered here. Maybe some Mozart, or opera if you like that sort of thing. As a rule of thumb, play nothing that would offend or shock the Queen. That is probably harder than it sounds.
Of course you can use whichever crockery you choose, but for a real, authentic tea party, try to get hold of some pretty china cups and saucers and lay the table like you mean it. If the weather is good, sit outside.
I know what some of you are thinking, this is not what I had in mind when I watched the Mad Hatter spreading jam onto the White Rabbit's clock! I thought tea parties were supposed to be wild! Well they can be my dear, they can be! If playing dress up and sipping politely does not float your boat, you can throw a tea party with a twist. Perhaps you want to play games, listen to loud music, dance - that's fine. As long as you have tea, anything goes.
Just make sure your guests know what to expect. Nobody wants to turn up to a rave in a frilly dress and a bonnet.