May 11, 2014

Parisian-Style Tea Party

Fruit tartlets & jasmine financiers; Chantal-Guillon macaroons

This past Sunday, I set out to accomplish "une mission impossible." I attempted to convert "chez moi" into a virtual Parisian salon de thé. My inspiration came from a place that I discovered in Paris called Bread & Roses. Located on the rue Madame, this tea salon has just the ambience that suits a fancy tea party: elegant, delicate and feminine. 

Decor inspired by "Bread & Roses" tea salon in Paris

Bread & Roses is decorated simply with bouquets of fresh roses. The stylish tea salon brings together Parisian bonnes amies, who linger over a pot of tea and cherished tête-à-tête. I aspired to recreate this charming atmosphere, to offer an inviting space where my guests could shares stories while sipping the finest infusions from Mariage Frères.

Mariage Frères Éros Tea (black tea with spicy and floral notes)

When you gather a small group of close female friends for afternoon tea, it is important to set up the correct backdrop for conversation. Fine porcelain teacups and dainty macaroons somehow encourage discussions to flow. Chit-chat begins in high-brow territory and quickly shifts to "girl talk." In accordance with codes of propriety, I will not divulge the details.

Chinese porcelain vase and classic teapot made in England

I will only share an overview: talk of revising resumes; career aspirations & grievances; the virtues of boyfriends; the downside of breakups; confessions of ice cream binges; advice to use cooking as therapy. From how to complete a religious conversion to how to organize a shoe closet, the topics were a reflection of our diverse experiences as women.

Different styles of find china teacups from my grandma

Tea party success is measured by the quality of the company. For this to happen, you must have the right guest list, pleasant atmosphere and the essential refinements. An aristocratic custom originating in England, afternoon tea has an entire set of rules that must be followed. There is the expectation of a special occasion, of luxury and beauty. 

The proper way to serve cream and sugar cubes

Here's how to host the perfect tea party:

1.) Select the date and the time for your event (4 o'clock is traditional for afternoon tea).
2.) Create a guest list. An ideal number of guests is six or seven. You can expect a positive response rate of around 30%-50% so you may want to start by inviting about 12 guests. 
3.) Send an invite or call to invite guests at least a week ahead of time. Request RSVPs at least three days before your event and be absolutely clear that a response is required.
4.) Create a music play list for the party, ideally classical music or other gentle background music (such as bosa nova or cheerful jazz) that will not distract from the conversation.
5.) A few days before the event, clean and decorate. Wash and iron your tablecloths and napkins. Make sure that you have the essential china, serving pieces, tea and sugar cubes.
6.) The day before the event, shop for fresh flowers, pastries, strawberries, cream and if needed, tea. Cut the flowers and create several colorful bouquets using pretty vases.
7.) The day of the event, set everything out an hour before the party begins. If it's a warm day, be sure to have glasses and iced lemon water ready to offer guests when they arrive. The most important element of the party is the hostess' welcoming manner.

Fresh bouquet of garden roses

Tea Party Essentials:

*Good-quality black tea, Mariage Frères is the best!
*Teacups with saucers (vintage porcelain, mismatched is fine)
*Cream and lemon (served in fine bone china or porcelain pieces)
*Sugar cubes (with special mini tongs for serving)
*Macaroons (about 20 for 6-8 guests). Try Chantal-Guillon rose and vanilla flavors.
*Madeleines or financiers (2 per guest)
*Fresh organic, locally grown strawberries (one 8-oz. pack)

If you follow these steps, you are guaranteed to create a special occasion that your guests will cherish. You may even inspire a new tradition! Hosting a tea party is a rewarding experience and an art form well worth sharing with others.

Copyright © 2014, Lisa Alexander. All rights reserved.


Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry I missed it. Did you really iron the tablecloth and clean a few days before?

Miss Patisserie said...

Hi! Thanks for your comment! To be honest, I did not iron my tablecloths a few days before the event. However I really with that I had done that! So I give this advice to others, for a more stress-free party prepping experience! :)

cabbage said...

Hi Lisa!

I really enjoyed the tea party! love Mariage Frères Éros Tea and the delicious Macaroons. I will try to visit your inspirations next time I visit Paris. Have yo u been to La Maison Angelina on Rue de Rivoli? I heard it was Coco Chanel's favorite place!

Glad to see these photos work for you too!

Thank you again for your invitation.


Miss Patisserie said...

Hi Vivian,
Thank you for the feedback. I'm so glad that you enjoyed the tea and macaroons! Ooh, I love the Maison Angelina in Paris! I didn't know that it was a favorite of Coco Chanel. Hmm. I'm thinking that this would be a great theme for the next tea party! :) Thanks again for the photos!

Unknown said...

Oh Lisa, it was such a lovely tea party (and outside of the pretend ones I held with my stuffed animals, my first!). Thank you!! Everything was a delight ... the treats were delish, the tea service was charming, and you were the most gracious host.

And, not only were all tea party trapping perfect -- but the guests were amazing. You truly know a bunch of awesome women. It's a thrill to be included!!

Thanks so much. When's the next one? heh.

~ j

Anonymous said...

Lisa - Thank you so much for inviting me to your beautiful tea party. What a lovely event!! I would say that you definitely succeeded in creating an inspiring Parisian salon de the that was elegant, delicate and feminine. Your decor, food presentation, and beautiful tea service were spot on, my friend. And, I was so happy to see that you were serving Mariage Freres tea, one of my favorites. Such a nice treat! The flavor you chose was a particularly good fit which added to the ambiance. The event definitely took me back to when I lived in London. Thank you for providing me with such a wonderful European experience and introducing me to a great group of women. - MW

Miss Patisserie said...

I'm so glad that you enjoyed the tea party! I had a wonderful time as well! Fabulous company!