Monday, June 09, 2014
Although I have never before hosted an afternoon tea at home, I do love the thought of doing so. There is something about this type of entertaining that is so gracious and elegant, not to mention practical, too. First, you don't have to be a cook nor employ a cook to host a tea. Breads, scones, and cookies can be purchased at a bakery, while tea sandwiches require little more than spreading and cutting. Second, afternoon entertaining means that your guests are out of your house by early evening, ensuring that you have plenty of time to clean up before bedtime. And finally, because weekday jobs are often a hindrance to afternoon entertaining, there is always the option of hosting tea on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.
Someone else who appreciated tea was the late Jean Howard, still revered as one of old Hollywood's most accomplished hostesses. Howard often hosted teas, once telling a House & Garden writer, "Tea is the most civilized way to talk to people. You don't have to worry about who sits where or whether you have the right number of men and women. Moreover, if two people who disagree would just sit down with a nice cup of tea instead of a martini, they could work out their differences without saying a lot of things they'd regret later." Good point.
Françoise de la Renta was also a fan of inviting guests to tea. She once wrote, "Nothing is more welcoming than a delicious tea: The hour is perfect, after work, before theater, the ingredients are your choice, from simple bread and butter to the abundant tea of Nicolas Nabokov's childhood (Bagazh, The Memoirs of a Russian Cosmopolitan)." I have shown a photo of de la Renta's Nabokov-inspired tea on my blog before, but I'm showing it again because I think it is supremely elegant.
If you're still not convinced that afternoon teas are worth the fuss, then take a look at the photo at the top of this post, which shows Jean Howard presiding over her tea table. The pretty china, the trays of delectables, the elegant background. Can you imagine a more lovely way to entertain?