Chapter 4 - A Mad Tea Party: Menu
Although the menu was on our minds early on, the first thing we actually planned for our Mad Hatter tea party were the place settings. Experience had taught us that we would need to consider carefully what we served with.
We’ve had our share of child size tea sets over the years. The first tea party we ever hosted outside of our own little pretend tea parties at home was for a fifth birthday party. We used those play tea sets and allowed the kids to serve real lemonade. This was special since they’d only ever been allowed to serve air or water before. However, that was the last time we served actual liquid from the toy tea sets. What a mess! Those teeny tiny cups made for small targets for all those drippy spouts.
From then on the play tea sets were used exclusively for pretend tea parties. Any “real” tea parties we hosted we employed actual porcelain china teacups and teapots.
For this tea party we shopped for mismatched vintage china in thrift stores. We picked up extra sugar bowls, teapots, coffee pots, and a chocolate pot. We served coffee, tea, hot cocoa and lemonade in order to satisfy everyone’s preferences. Tip: Place a felt sticker across the rim and lid of the teapot to avoid any accidents involving lids falling into teacups.
Our particular tea party was in the afternoon between lunch and dinner time. For this reason, we planned a simple, easy, light menu. We served two kinds of finger sandwiches, some fruits, vegetables, and a variety of petit fours. The birthday cake was a Mad Hatter two tiered chocolate and vanilla fondant cake.
Although you can serve whatever you like from any kind of pot (we served lemonade from one of ours) there is a difference. You can tell the difference between coffee, tea, and chocolate pots by looking at the inside of the pot and the spout. Most teapots will have a strainer insert or holes on the inside wall of the spout to prevent tea leaves from accumulating in the teacups. Pots for hot cocoa traditionally have short pouring spouts.
For the two kinds of finger sandwiches we chose the fillings that would appeal to the most guests - chicken salad and peanut butter. We had jam in serving bowls for anyone that wanted to add it to their peanut butter sandwich. We saved time by serving pre-made petit fours. Teatime can be very versatile so serve what is appropriate for the occasion, time of day, and guest list including any favorites of the guest of honor.
The drink condiments were an important part of the menu. We included cream, sugar, artificial sweetener, honey and lemon for the coffee and tea. We also filled some sugar bowls with mini marshmallows for the hot cocoa drinkers. Tip: Sugar cubes and granulized honey make serving much easier and neater.
A note about china storage: Stack porcelain plates and saucers with layers of felt, paper towels, or doilies between to help preserve the glaze. Keeping stacks to a minimum and avoiding overweighing them will also help keep them looking nice.