A Just-In-Time Take On Traditional Afternoon Tea
Are you feeling isolated during this shelter-in-place period? Here’s an idea for connecting with your friends: Host an afternoon tea party, virtually! Piece of cake!
Tea! Bless ordinary everyday afternoon tea!
— Agatha Christie
Hello, tea lovers. I grew up in Hong Kong, where afternoon tea — a highly celebrated tradition of British culture — was adopted in the former British colony.
Side note: The fate of Hong Kong was tied to the tea trade as a result of the first Opium War in 1835. To learn more about tea and its illustrious history, visit 9DragonsTea.com the official website for an upcoming documentary on tea.
Having enjoyed afternoon tea in luxury hotels all over the world, I started gathering notes on how to host my own tea parties. As we go through this uncharted territory of sheltering-in-place, I’m taking my afternoon tea party plan and giving it a new twist.
Here are six easy steps to host your virtual tea party. Stay connected with your friends and sip tea through the COVID-19 pandemic in the comfort of your own home.
1. PICK A HOST
Pick a host for your virtual tea party. Do we have a volunteer? Want to volunteer someone?
As with an actual face-to-face event, the host would organize the party with a guest list, coordinate with everyone on the scheduling, determine the best method of communication and whether the party should have a set of topics, and of course, press the button to start the party and guide the discussion.
The only thing this virtual host doesn’t have to do is make food for everyone. It’s DIY. Much easier, right? For those who want to hone their skills in planning and organization, this is the perfect opportunity!
2. SET A TIME
Set a day and time to get together for tea. While we are on the subject of time for tea, do you know the difference between traditional afternoon tea and high tea? Turns out there is a great deal of difference, indeed.
English traditional afternoon tea started in the 19th century during the industrialization of Great Britain. It was served around 4 p.m., as a stopgap meal before dinner, which was served at 8 p.m.
Afternoon tea is served on low, comfortable chairs or in the garden, as depicted in the photographs below, which is a traditional afternoon tea service at the Goring Hotel in London, reported by Sarah Turner.
Pure luxury. Wouldn’t you like to go there now? Count me in.
High tea refers to tea time after work for the lower class folks, served at a high counter or table and seated on high back chairs. Because workers need food after a long day of work, heartier foods are served at high tea.
Here is a good comparison chart on Afternoon Tea and High Tea by The Tea Cup Of Life to distinguish the two services.
3. PICK A METHOD OF COMMUNICATION
FaceTime – Easy to use. It’s a great option.
Zoom – For social animals, Zoom is ideal. It allows free video conversations for up to 40 minutes, with up to 100 participants. Want to make your friends jealous on Zoom? Here’s a tip:
Remember all the wonderful vacation photos you never had the chance to share with your friends? Upload them onto Zoom as virtual backgrounds in your profile. Your friends will go ga-ga over them.
If that’s too much to handle, go the easy route like I did! I picked this beach background on Zoom’s FREE offering. Yep, I’m hanging out on the beach, albeit virtually! To do that, go to Zoom > Preference > Virtual Background. Download Zoom here.
Skype – Old school works, too! Skype is free and easy to use. Download it here.
4. PICK YOUR TEA
Now the most important part: Tea.
Types Of Tea
There are many great loose teas to choose from. Here are just a few:
- Green tea: Long Jing (Dragon Well), Dragon Pearl Jasmine, Gunpowder, Bi Lo Chun and of course, Matcha, Japanese green tea.
- Black tea: English Breakfast, Lapsang Souchong, Earl Grey, Darjeeling Black Tea, Ceylon Black Tea, Assam Black Tea. Fancy any?
- Oolong tea: Da Hong Pao Oolong, Rui Quay (Chinese name for cinnamon Oolong from Wuyi Shan — this is one of my favorites!), Dong Ding Oolong (from Taiwan). All are fantastic. Good Oolong is so fragrant that tasting it is like taking a virtual walk in the garden. This is my daily go-to elixir.
- Puer (or Pu’er or Puerh): Sheng Puer (raw) or Shou Puer (cooked). A fine Puer tea is like a walk through the forest, or digging your fingers through the earth. I have tasted some Puer that is a pure joy. So earthy that I feel grounded. Great Puer is very difficult to find nowadays, and expensive. The Puer teas I was lucky to taste were 30 years old, at least. Phenomenal tea!
- Herbal tea: Chamomile, lemon ginger and peppermint are great choices.
- DIY Tonic: Since the outbreak of coronavirus, I’ve been making a DIY drink to boost the immune system and increase overall wellness. I call it “Pepperic Gin.”
All it takes is three ingredients and a pot of boiling water:
- Ginger (freshly chopped)
- Turmeric (tea bag)
- Black pepper (freshly ground up)
Why black pepper? Because black pepper makes turmeric bioavailable. This is such a wonderful tonic and is so easy to make.
There are more options, of course, including White tea and Yellow tea.
Any chocolate lovers? Champagne drinkers? This party is BYO. Personally, a glass of Champagne can never go wrong. So whatever floats your teacup is A-Okay!
5. MAKE YOUR FOOD
Savory finger foods and irresistible pastries: Each person makes his or her own finger foods, pastries, fresh fruit, etc. And get ready to share, virtually. Here are some ideas:
- Scones with jam, fresh cream and butter
- Finger sandwiches with such fillings as ham, chicken, smoked salmon, egg salad or cucumber with cream cheese
- Cookies (stop right there!) and biscuits
- Pastries of all types and shapes (stars for me, please!)
- Lemon curd and jam, macarons, éclair, etc.
- Fresh fruit (love!)
6. LOG ON FOR PARTY TIME!
Get your tea and food ready. Be sure your gadgets are charged up, with a power cord nearby just in case. Now look your best. Then log on. Enjoy your tea party. Cheers!