The topic for this week’s Gracious Hospital-i-Tea Blog-a-Thon is Set the Table, Tea is On! Share a creative afternoon tea table setting. Linens, serving pieces, teapots and teacup, tea accoutrement's and accessories, centerpieces, tea trays or three-tiers, and more. Show one way you enjoy creating a memorable tea experience. This is your opportunity to show the world the fun you have when you create your own special tea experience. Then. . .invite over a friend or neighbor and share some tea together. That way all your work is not for ought.

It is so difficult to remember to take a photo at an afternoon tea party as the hostess. Everything must be at its proper hot or cold temperature which requires getting food to the table quickly. There are dozens of last minute details to address. And you know the guests are tapping their toes eagerly waiting to discover where the delicious smells are coming from. I did manage to snap this picture from a recent tea though.

When I have more than six guests for tea, I arrange a buffet instead of having everyone sit at one table. Each guest can help herself to the tea goodies and I’m not constantly jumping up and down to serve. I do make sure to have lots of small tables in the living room so no one has to balance her teacup on her knee.

I’m fortunate that my dining room has pocket doors that can be closed as my guests arrive. They don’t need to see the half-dressed buffet table or to watch me as I rush around at the last minute. When it is time for everyone to come to the table, I open the doors and my guests see the table for the first time.

I usually serve tea from the sideboard. (You can just see some cups in the photo. I think the tea pot had not arrived from the kitchen yet.) It’s good to have all the sugars and lemon and milk together but away from the food. Depending on my guests’ tastes, I usually serve two different teas.

Another nice feature of serving tea from a buffet is that the flowers can be tall and dramatic. There is no need to keep them low so guests can see each other. I was so pleased with the flowers at this tea. I’d taken a photo from a Victorian magazine to my florist and she did a wonderful job recreating that look.

I love the intimacy of tea for only a few friends but a large tea party can be a memorable experience for everyone. In this day of 30 minute meals, I believe our friends and relatives still appreciate the effort and caring that goes into an afternoon tea.