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Herbal Tea Parties

Learn how to plan the perfect tea party. We offer suggested recipes, menus and tips for tea parties for any occasion. Also find out the difference between herbal teas and black and green teas and how long to steep herbal teas.

Looking for a way to celebrate a special event or enliven a routine day? An herbal tea party is appropriate for a surprising number of occasions, including a graduation or engagement, a stellar performance (or effort!), a baby shower, any-age birthday, or a holiday (such as Mother's Day or Valentine's Day). You might even have a ritual tea party, say every Sunday morning with your neighbor or every Friday after school with your kids and their friends.

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Homemade Lavender Lemon Scones
Scones are the ultimate “afternoon tea” snack, traditionally served to the English upper class at three or four each afternoon. (“High tea,” on the other hand, was served with cheeses and meats in the evening to the working class.) There are myriad scone variations—from oat-cinnamon-raisin to cheddar cheese-mustard-cayenne. This recipe yields a delicate, delicious dessert scone.

tea and scones2 tablespoons dried organic lavender flowers
1/2 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon lemon peel (cut and sifted)
3/4 cup cream, milk, or buttermilk
2 cups unbleached white flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Blend the lavender flowers and sugar together in a blender. Pour into a small bowl with the butter, lemon peel, and cream or milk. Blend until creamy. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and sea salt. Combine the dry and wet ingredients and knead slightly. On a lightly floured surface, press into a circle, about 3/4 of an inch thick, and cut into wedges. Place wedges on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake until just golden, about 15 to 20 minutes. Makes about a dozen scones.

Delicious Poppy Seed Muffins
Tea and muffins are perfect party partners. These are tasty enough to serve on their own, but they're also delicious with cream cheese or butter.

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Planning the Perfect Tea Party

Herbal teas are perfect for guests of any age, so stock up on a selection. Favorites include: peppermint, spearmint, chamomile and hibiscus. Consider including some spices and other flavorings, such as cinnamon, cloves, orange peel or lemon peel. (Check the safety of specific herbs for use during pregnancy, if any of your guests are expecting.)

Suggested Menus

  • Gingerbread with lemon yogurt and rosehips tea (especially nice during the winter holidays)
  • Bite-size sandwiches (cream cheese, cucumber and dill on pumpernickel; hummus and cilantro on rye) and a robust mint tea
  • Lavender Lemon Scones (see recipe above) or fruit tarts with a collection of herbal favorites: chamomile, lemongrass, hibiscus, and mint
  • Muffins (poppy seed and orange, cinnamon and oatmeal, cardamom and chocolate) and a dandelion or raspberry tea

Ask the Experts

What’s the difference between herbal tea and black or green tea?

Herbal teas are made from the edible herbs, flowers, leaves, bark, roots, or berries of plants. Most don’t contain caffeine, and many have been used medicinally throughout history. Black, green, oolong, and white teas, on the other hand, all come from the Camellia sinensis plant, which produces thousands of varieties of tea, depending on where the tea is grown, when it’s harvested, and how it’s processed.

How long should I steep herbal teas?

Experiment to see what you prefer, but if you enjoy a mild tea, start with three to five minutes. For more robust flavor, you can steep longer, say five to ten minutes. But be careful, because over-steeping can eliminate the subtleties of herb blends.

Should I use a teapot or steep my tea right in my cup?

Whichever you prefer. A teapot can enable you to brew enough tea for several people at once, and it will keep your tea warm for a longer time than individual cups. You can also brew a perfect cup of tea directly in your cup, though, with the added advantage of easier cleanup and potentially less waste. The Chinese, in fact, traditionally brewed their teas in cups rather than pots. By the way, a teacup—more shallow and wide than a coffee cup—allows tea to cool quickly once poured. Tea party etiquette dictates that you fill a teacup 3/4 full rather than top it off.

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