A Casual and Inexpensive Tea for Summer

Teas don't have to be an expensive proposition. It isn't necessary to use the most expensive ingredients or to buy a whole box of something when you need only an ounce. I've created a menu using seasonal, inexpensive and everyday ingredients that do double or triple duty. This menu won't seem skimpy or cheap to your guests. It is full of tasty and wonderful treats.

Homemade invitations are always the best. Since there are still lots of summer flowers in bloom, why not dry a few between the pages of a book and glue a blossom or two to white card stock. Glue on a bit of ribbon too. Use your best handwriting to announce the details of the tea with an ink color that matches the flower. Your guests will only see your creativity, not the small amount of money you spent.

You probably have everything you need to decorate for the tea already. Pull out all your candles for the centerpiece. Place little bouquets of flowers in between the candles. Nothing needs to match but don't let the colors clash. If you have hanging baskets or potted flowers outside, bring them in and put them around the room. Nothing says festive like flowers and candles. Use any solid color tablecloth you have and for this casual summer tea, go ahead and use paper napkins. There are really beautiful paper plates out there too but keep in mind that they will add to the overall cost of your tea. Use your nicest silverware and teacups. If you don’t have enough cups, it is perfectly okay to ask guests to bring their own. It makes for a nice show and tell and everyone enjoys this.

I like to give little favors to my guests so they have a way to remember the tea. Potpourri sachets made from beautiful, old hankies from the 1950s are a sweet and inexpensive gift. Buy the potpourri in a large bag from any craft store. The hankies can be found very inexpensively in antique stores or flea markets (or check with your grandmother.) There are so many bright colors and many feature a bit of lace on the edges. Tie the filled hankies with coordinating ribbon and group all the potpourri hankies in a basket. Let each guest pick her favorite. Just don’t place the potpourri too close to the table; you don't want the scent to overwhelm the food you’re serving.

I normally would recommend using only loose tea for an afternoon tea party; however, if you don't own the equipment necessary to brew and serve loose tea, go ahead and use tea bags. Prepare the tea in a pot though and dispose of the teabags yourself. Guests don't want to have to mess with used teabags.

Check back tomorrow for the menu!