Holiday Par-Teas

Holiday Par-Teas

Black tea in a reindeer mug, with meringues, a tea egg, and a lighted Christmas tree branch in the background

The holiday season is often a time for getting together and enjoying a cup of tea. Sometimes a cup of tea turns into a carafe, an air pump pot, or an urn of tea to bring along to a holiday festivity. Here are some tips, and suggestions on bringing tea to share.

What type of tea to bring 

I am often asked to bring prepared tea with me to parties, meetings or gatherings. In determining what type of tea to bring, I run through my own simple rubric to help narrow down the many options of what to bring. These are basic questions to aid in my decision making.

  1. What food is the host/hostess serving? This is an important question so that tea and food can complement each other and not compete. For example, I would not recommend serving a tea with a spicy cinnamon and ginger note with an equally spicy food that has black pepper, garlic, and hot chilis in the dish. It could be overwhelming on the tastebuds and the subtleness and complexity of the tea could be lost in a sea of spice. Rather, I think it is better to serve complimentary tea; a vegetal and creamy green tea or a smooth, thick mouthfeel Yunnan black tea with a spicy dish. The tea would not be competing with the food and both the food and the tea could be enjoyed together without overwhelming the senses. 
  2. Are there any other beverages being served? Is coffee, soda, lemonade, water, or drinks going to be served as well? If there will be other drinks served as well, then chances are that will decrease the amount of tea that will be consumed. In addition, maybe pairing the beverage flavors with the tea flavor profiles would be a nice added touch to the gathering. For example, if lemonade, Sangria, and a raspberry flavored coffee are going to be served, then a fruit tisane or a tea with a fruit flavor profile would be a nice addition.
  3. What is the theme of the party, meeting, or gathering? A wedding would be a wonderful time to incorporate maybe the couple’s favorite tea blends. Or, perhaps, if it is a cookie baking party, then a peppermint flavored tea would be a fun and festive tea to serve. 
  4. Are there any known allergies? Tea that is flavored with nuts, like a hazelnut flavor profile, or a tea that incorporates bits of nuts in the blend, would be best to avoid. If a tea is chosen that has nuts in the tea, then perhaps another tea could be served as well that doesn’t have any bits of nuts in it for flavoring. Guests or attendees would have two wonderful tea choices to choose from.
  5. Does the host/hostess have a specific tea in mind? This question should really be at the top of the question list. What, if any, type of tea would the event planner/party planner like to serve?
  6. Is the tea going to be served hot or iced? A very important question to obtain an answer. Some teas are better served hot while some teas are delicious served cold. Knowing which teas work well hot or iced can aid in decision making what teas to serve at what temperature.

How to prepare the tea 

A cup of black tea with holly and pinecones in the background

Serving the tea hot or cold can vary preparation time as well as how to prepare the tea. Several questions to try to find answers to will help in planning the preparations. 1. Does the location that tea will be served at have a licensed kitchen with an industrial filtered hot water tap or an iced tea maker? If so, there is less equipment to bring to prepare tea on the spot.

  1. Does the location have an ice maker, a refrigerator, or any carafes, air pump pots, or urns, or iced tea dispensers available for use?
  2. What about a place to plug in equipment for steeping tea?

If it is determined that the tea will need to be prepared at a separate location, then brought to the party location, the focus can be on how much tea to prepare, and not carting all the equipment to the location. When a water filter is not available, bottled spring water can be used to make the tea. The general rule of thumb for preparing a cup of tea is approximately 1 tsp. - 8 oz. of water. When I prepare large amounts of tea for an event, I purposefully will heap the teaspoon or “add one for the teapot” to make a stronger iced tea or hot tea. 

A few numbers to think about while planning how much tea to make…

  1. 1 lb. of dry tea makes approximately 200 cups of tea 
  2. 25 average sized tea bags makes approximately 50 cups of tea 
  3. 40 average sized tea bags makes roughly 80 cups of tea 
  4. To make an iced tea concentrate, add 40 tea bags to 1 gallon of water, then add the concentrate to a 5 gallon container and add water and ice 
  5. To sweeten a gallon of tea add approximately 1 cup of sugar 

When and how to transport the tea 

A Christmas tree decorated with ornaments and bows. In the background, guests are standing and eating snacks.

Working backwards from when the tea needs to be served determines when the tea needs to be dropped off at the event. Say an event is going to start at lunch time, then dropping off tea and setting up the tea table should ideally be early enough that everything is set up prior to party attendees arriving. Guests may want to enjoy the tea before food is served or before the event starts. A prepared tea table is a welcoming and hospitable sign for guests.

Transporting tea can be trickier than transporting the equipment to make the tea. If at all possible, try to make the tea at the party location instead of transporting hot or iced tea. Coming from experience and having a soggy interior of a car; plastic tubs or containers to set tea urns, dispensers, or air pump pots in can be a car saver. I also put all tea vessels in the trunk area or on the floor of the car (while still in the plastic tubs). They are more secure and less likely to spill than if they are on the seat, which is a less even surface. Wrapping up the tea vessels in a towel will help regulate and keep the temperature consistent.

How to display the tea

A white and red teacup and saucer, a matching creamer with a red border and a Christmas tree, and a sugar bowl with a red lid and border.

This may be the easiest part of the party tea preparation! Be sure to have the tea legibly labeled. I include on my tea signs the name of the tea, the type of tea (green, black, etc..), if it contains caffeine, and if it contains nuts. I also add a sign at the tea table that states hot tea is served very hot. A sign/label can also be included at the tea table if sweeteners or creamers need to be explained.

For any party or event that tea is served, just remember the main ingredient is fun!

Keep calm, serve tea, and have fun,

Leslie

References: 

Taylor, Nan.The Graceful Art Of Tea.Taylor-Brown Publishing, 2003.

Taylor, Nan.Tea Time Tutorials.Legend Video Productions, 2006.

About The Author

A photo of Leslie on the patio wearing a pink cardiganLeslie Sundberg is a World Tea Academy Certified Tea Specialist, a World Tea Academy Apprentice Tea Sommelier, a Specialty Tea Institute Level IV trained Tea Specialist, and a Tea and Business Etiquette Specialist. On any given day, Leslie can be found teaching, speaking or sharing in the joys of a cup of tea.  No matter what Leslie is doing or where she is, one thing remains constant: 4:00 in the afternoon is tea time!

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