Us here on the West Coast of British Columbia have had a bit of a royal treat this week: the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and Princess Kathrine of Wales) have been visiting the cities of Victoria and Vancouver as part of their 2016 Royal Tour! I’ve always been intrigued by the British monarchy. As part of the commonwealth, every Canadian has grown up with the face of the queen on the flipside of each coin in their pocket, watching her metallic etched portrait age over the years. English history was prominent in my studies when I was a history minor in university (before switching over to Health Science), and stories of the British monarchy (especially those of Queen Elizabeth I) were always especially fascinating to me.
When it was announced a few months back that William and Kate would be visiting our city, my friend Marina and I knew we had to try to make it out to see them at an appearance if it was possible. Both her and I had watched the Royal wedding together on tv a few years prior, and were always up for a good gossip about the latest Royals news or the newest, gorgeous Alexander McQueen dress Princess Kate was debuting.
To make a long story short, this past Sunday, we excitedly gathered along with thousands of other Vancouverites at Jack Poole Plaza (the site of the 2010 Winter Olympics cauldron,) to welcome the pair as they stepped out of their plane and made their way to their motorcade. We dragged along my boyfriend, who, being French and definitely not interested in the British Monarchy, grumbled a little bit but won some major kudos for driving us. We had trouble seeing them in the huge crowd (I saw the back of William’s head and only saw Kate in the photos my boyfriend took over the crowd), and ended up making the 15 minute drive to see them at their next East Vancouver stop, at the newly built Immigrant Services Society of BC building. We arrived just as the royal couple, along with the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, were entering the building amidst camera flashes and cheers from the crowd, and after a bit of waiting, were there to see them emerge, wave to the onlookers and drive off in their well-protected motorcade. While I could wax on for awhile about how gorgeous Duchess Kate’s dress was, and how attractive the Canadian “first couple” was, I won’t bore you much further and will get to main gist of this post (tea time!). If you’re curious to see more of our royal experience beside the snapshot below, I’ve posted a few favourite pictures taken by myself and my friend Marina (@xoMarinaox on Instagram) here.
Inspired by our brush with British Royalty, I wanted to post today about one of my favourite food-related topics: Tea Time! While tea is a huge part of so many cultures and traditions, I grew up around two grandmothers who enjoyed tea in the British style, served nice and strong from a teapot, in teacups, with a bit of milk and sugar. As little girls, my sister and I loved a good “tea party” (usually using our little children’s china set) with our dolls, and this love of a tea party transitioned into throwing full fledged tea parties as we became young women, celebrating birthdays, bridal and baby showers, and girls days with tea, little sandwiches, and delicious sweet pastries.
I wanted to share my top 5 tips for a successful tea party today, and hopefully you’ll get a little insight into one my favourite types of celebration! That being said, I am a run-of-the-mill Canadian girl, and these tips do not claim to be of the proper British high tea variety! I’ve just found them to lead to some fun, successful tea parties in my experience and wanted to spread the happiness. I also want to give a big thank you to my mother of Blink Works Photography for taking many of the photos below as noted on the watermarks, for a tea party Marina and I had thrown for her birthday years back. If you have any tips to add that you feel aren’t here please feel free to leave a comment below!
1. Cultivate a collection of different styles of teacups!
Teacups come in so many colours and styles, which makes it a lot of fun for guests to pick and choose something that suits them! Think of it like going to an amusement park when you were a kid, and getting to choose which of the many brightly coloured and patterned horses you would ride on the carousel. Each person has a different taste and style, and having a variety of teacups gives the tea party a bit of extra pizazz! You can find second hand vintage teacups at a lot of thrift shops for cheap, so having an eclectic tea cup selection is also cheaper than buying a whole matching set.
2. Specifically pick your teas ahead of time.
Every tea party needs a good strong basic tea, one that can be paired with milk and sugar and goes well with pastries. I’m a fan of black teas for this purpose, especially Orange Pekoes, any of the Breakfast Teas, and Earl Grey (Cream of Earl Grey, if you can find it, is delicious). If you’re feeling a bit adventurous, you can also try creating a special blend for your party by going to a tea shop and asking for different types of teas that might work well together, then steeping them in the same pot (though give it a try before serving it!) It’s also a good idea to have a decaffeinated black tea on standby (such as my favourite, decaf Typhoo brand Orange Pekoe) as well as a basic herbal or rooiboos tea for those guests who can’t have caffiene.
3. Encourage guests to dress up!
Think Alice in Wonderland, fancy garden tea parties, and Downton Abbey (LOVE that show). A tea party is a great opportunity to embrace whimsy and don a party frock and a pretty hat. Let your guests know ahead of time that fancy “tea party” attire is encouraged, so that they feel comfortable showing up in their best duds and not feeling overdressed.
4. Plan for a mix of sweet and savoury nibbles.
Often, tea parties take place in the afternoon, after or in the place of lunch. Try to pick a start time that makes it clear how much food will be served (for example, a start time of 12:00pm implies there will be enough savoury food served to replace lunch, whereas a start time of 2:00pm might imply guests should eat before coming). Once the start time is established, plan a menu of finger foods that will both satisfy and delight guests at the same time. Scones, cookies, miniature sandwiches, and even hors d’oeurves work well, as long as they’re small and easy enough for guests to eat without cutlery.
5. Set the stage.
What better way to invite guests to indulge in a bit of tea party fun than to dress up the room you’re holding your tea party in! I’ve found that the number one way to bring a bit of whimsical beauty to your decor is to decorate with flowers. If you can get your hands on some fresh flowers the morning of, even if they’re from your own garden or the supermarket down the street, pop the blooms into vases or a spare teacup to brighten up the room. Thrift shops also often have pretty vintage figurines or candelabras that can be used as a centrepiece for tables, or points of interest throughout the room. You’ve dressed yourself up for your party; why not dress up the room a bit too to help create that extra element of delight.
For your next event, whether its a birthday or a baby shower, consider throwing a tea party, and giving some of these tips a whirl. Let me know if you have any other tips for a top tea party in the comments below!
Urbanista At Home