The Charms of Tea

Tips for planning a New Year afternoon tea with friends

Savor the cherished ritual of tea time by ringing in the New Year with friends by hosting an afternoon tea. Whenever the fragrance rises from a fresh-poured cup of tea, a sense of comfort, peace, and ceremony accompanies it. Perhaps that's why, to most the offering of tea signifies trust and friendship. 

Under certain circumstances there are few hours of life in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to this time honored tradition known as the afternoon tea.  But one thing is for certain, everything doesn't need to be perfect in order to for everything to go perfect. 

The most important ingredient to hosting a tea, is gathering people together that inspire great conversations. In the Victorian era where the afternoon tea originated their simple rules ring true today.  A tea should be limited to matters that are light hearted in nature. This is not the time for heated political discussion or the airing of family feuds. Conversations should be inspiring, motivating and never harsh or mean in spirit. This time should reflect a natural time for close friends to reconnect, and who knows maybe a little tea leave readings occur and secrets are safely shared. 

The second most important tip for a successful tea is making the best pot of tea you can.  Top expert from The Tea Table shares their secret to success, and it all starts with Good Water. For best results, use artesian water. Then fill an empty kettle with fresh cold water. After that,

Warm your pot:

  • While the water is heating, fill your teapot with hot tap water to preheat it. Alternatively, you can briefly hold your teapot over the steaming kettle (don’t get too close).
  • Warming your teapot prevents cracking that can occur when boiling water is placed in a room temperature pot, and it helps the brewed tea maintain the proper temperature.
  • Discard the water once the pot is warm.

Measure Your Tea:

  • For loose tea, place approximately one teaspoon of tea leaves per cup into the pot, or into an infuser placed in the pot. (The amount depends on the type of tea and personal preference.)
  • If you don’t have loose tea, use one tea bag per 1-2 cups, depending on the size of the bag and personal preference.

Boil Water:

  • As soon as the water comes to a boil, remove it from the heat.
  • Overheating the water reduces its oxygen content and causes the tea to taste flat.
  • Immediately pour the water into the pot, cover, and let stand.
  • If using green or white tea, allow the water to cool slightly before pouring onto the leaves (ideal temperature 158°-203°F).
  • NOTE: At an altitude of 5000 feet, water boils at 202°F instead of 212°F, so you don’t need to cool the water much.

Steep Your Tea:

  • How long to steep depends on how strong you like your tea and the type of tea you’re using.
  • Do not judge by color because some teas brew light while others brew dark.
  • Small leaves brew more quickly and are usually ready in two to three minutes; medium leaves in three to five minutes; large leaves in six.
  • Most teas will taste bitter if you steep longer than five or six minutes.
  • If you have used an infuser or tea bags, remove them from the pot when the tea has reached the desired strength.
  • Tea bags steep more quickly because the leaves are finely cut, so don’t let them steep too long. You may squeeze the bags gently before removing them from the pot to reduce drips (tea bag squeezers make this very easy).
  • If you placed loose leaves directly into the pot, you may want to pour the tea into a second warmed pot through a strainer to separate the tea from the leaves. This will prevent the tea from becoming bitter. But if you plan to pour all the tea into cups soon, simply place a strainer over the cup and pour slowly from the original pot.

At the end of the day, you want your guests to remember the pouring of steaming beverages, clanking of champagne glasses welcoming in the the New Year, passing of sweets and savories, and sharing the intimacies and light-hearted conversations that made their day so special. 

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