There is nothing quite as elegant as a tea party. It reminds me of Downton Abbey, Pride and Prejudice and all things British. It is a lovely alternative to the usual dinner party, where you may have to slave away in the kitchen for days on end preparing a complete course for every single guest. This Ice Tea Party is simple, easy-to-do and is perfect for a lovely brunch. Today So continue reading to hear all about Jennifer Rubell’s refreshingly casual take on this London-hotel tradition, which happens to be perfect for a summer afternoon get-together.
There’s something about early June (memories of those last high-school days before summer vacation?) that makes me crave an afternoon with my girlfriends. Not a major production, just some cold drinks, a few nibbles and quality catch-up with fabulous women I never get to spend enough time with. (The menu works well for baby showers too.) I tell everyone to come over around 5 p.m., then brew up a few pitchers of unusual iced teas paired with surprisingly modern tea sandwiches. After a couple hours, we transition to wine and gab some more, before going our separate ways.
You never know your friends’ preferences du jour, so I cover my bases with –– three different teas, one from each category below.
my pick: Darjeeling
A deep, rich brew with a slightly golden color and an almost ambrosial flavor similar to late-harvest dessert wines.
the garnish: slices of fresh ginger
my pick: Sencha
Made from slender young leaves, this bright, grassy, slightly bittersweet green tea is the most popular in Japan.
the garnish: cucumber spears
my pick: Rooibos, aka red tea
This naturally caffeine-free tea is also high in antioxidants. It was harvested centuries ago by nomadic tribes in South Africa.
the garnish: fresh summer fruits such as melons or nectarines
ALL TEAS AVAILABLE AT ADAGIO.COM
BREW & SERVE
Bring a quart of water to a boil. Add 1/4 cup of loose tea leaves; let sit 5 minutes. Fill a pitcher with ice, and strain tea into the pitcher. When time to serve, I like to pour the tea into tall glasses for my guests, topping with the appropriate garnish from a bowl set next to the pitchers.
You never know your friends’ preferences du jour, so I cover my bases with three different teas, one from each category below.
WATERCRESS AND RADISH
Radishes with butter and sea salt—a favorite French predinner snack—is the inspiration for this delicate sandwich.
Ingredients (Makes 12):
- 3 tbsp. butter, at room temperature
- 6 slices sourdough bread sea or kosher salt
- 12 stems watercress, leaves only
- 6 radishes, thinly sliced
Butter all the bread slices, sprinkle generously with salt, then evenly distribute watercress and radishes on half of them. Close the sandwiches and press on them to seal. Trim the crusts, and cut sandwiches into quarters.
GOAT CHEESE AND TAPENADE
Tapenade, the olive-based paste that’s a staple of life in the South of France, pairs wonderfully with fresh goat cheese and herbes de Provence.
Ingredients (Makes 12):
- 2 oz. fresh, mild goat cheese
- 24 slices ficelle (thin baguette, sliced into rounds)
- 2 tbsp. olive tapenade (black or green)
- 1 tsp. herbes de Provence, plus more for garnish
Spread goat cheese on all the ficelle slices. On half of them, add a dollop of olive tapenade; sprinkle with herbes de Provence. Close the sandwiches and press to seal. Place on platter and sprinkle with more herbs to garnish.
CHINESE CRAV SALAD ON SESAME TOAST
These East-meets-West sandwiches will take your tea party in a slightly exotic direction.
Ingredients (Makes 12):
- ½ cup lump crabmeat (about 4 oz.)
- 2 tbsp. mayonnaise
- ¼ tsp. sesame oil
- ½ tsp. chopped fresh ginger
- ½ tsp. lemon juice
- 1 scallion (both white and green parts), finely sliced
- 6 slices dense white bread
- 1 ½ tbsp. salted butter
- 1 ½ tsp. sesame seeds seeds
Preheat broiler to high. Place crabmeat, mayonnaise, oil, ginger, lemon juice and scallion in a bowl, and toss gently to combine. Lightly toast bread. Spread three slices with butter, sprinkle with sesame seeds and place under broiler, watching carefully, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until bread turns golden brown. Spread crab mixture on a plain toast, and top with a seeded toast, seed side up. Repeat with remaining toasts. Trim crusts and cut sandwiches into quarters.
Forget cubes, granules and packets: There’s nothing worse than trying to dissolve sugar in an ice-cold drink. Try this no-brainer recipe instead.
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Combine sugar and water in a bowl; cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 3 to 4 minutes, or until water boils. Stir well to dissolve sugar and let cool. Pour into a pitcher and serve alongside teas. (Will keep in the refrigerator for at least a week.)
Fresh ice makes a big difference in the taste of iced tea. The night before your party, clear out your ice bin and refill so you’ll have a brand-new batch for the party.
TEA SANDWICH DOS AND DON’TS
Once you get the hang of it, you can experiment with your own creations, though there are some basic guidelines that apply to all tea sandwiches, nouveau and old-school alike.
Make them two or three bites. Use a variety of breads. Trim off crusts whenever possible.
Serve sandwiches that require utensils.
Include ingredients that will make the bread soggy.
Use too much filling.
So what do you think about this charming little tea party? Have you ever hosted one before? If so, how did it go?
Photographs by KIRSTEN STRECKER; Food Stylist: SUSAN SUGARMAN; Prop Stylist: CHRISTINA WRESSELL; Story by DOMINO; Intro and Ending by THE BLISS RESPECT