You’ve seen Looks 1 and 2 as part of the series on simple, chic and affordable ways to entertain at home… mostly place settings. Cheap & Chic (borrowed from the Italian designer, Moschino) dining at home with friends is in the works!
For now, this 3rd installment of how to create a fancy and ‘conversation piece’ set up when entertaining friends in your cozy home, I’m introducing a different hour of the day in which you can host company with mid-afternoon snacks. This look is far more relaxed but uses a similar color palette to the Missoni look; however the source of inspiration is more interesting and closer to home.
I need not remind you that I’m an addict. Of espresso. Yes.I.Am. There was a time I went from two shots a day to 7 or 8 and but not for my Doctor’s ethical responsibility, I would have gladly stayed at 8 a day instead of the my current 4 max, which I divide.
It kinda sucks. But, I recognize I’m getting older and I just don’t react the same to caffeine and stimulants. Not to mention when said Dr. gently reminded me that I’m getting older and my tatas are at risk of becoming dense due to high levels of caffeine, I yielded. Nothing on this body of mine needs to be dense… not now!
But, my hyperactive and nonstop, energetic personality needs something to both keep me going and then keep me nicely chilled back. Relaxed, really. A nearly impossible feat. Over the last two years, I’ve really delved into the intricacies of tea. I’ve done a lot of tastings and research. Not to the extent of knowing where my fine and beloved espresso comes from and its processes, but definitely enough to have developed a bias.
I love a strong matcha (green), a bold black and sweet and soft white (bearing less caffeine).
While the first thing I offer anyone entering my home is a doble, no matter the time of day, I’ve started to consider that perhaps a robust shot of espresso may not always be the key to a relaxed tryst.
In an attempt to reduce some stress and enjoy other fine beverages in the middle of the day, I’ve started toying with idea of hosting classic tea times where my girlfriends and I channel our inner English. I love the fancy elements and the proper conversations one presumably initiates.
To make this happen, a perfect serving tray is the most key element. That’s where you’ll be placing all of your accoutrements. A teapot, good tea and lovely teacups with a tasty biscotti, should occupy the rest of the tray which you’ll use to curtsey your friends.
Since the tray is the carryall and will set the aesthetic, let’s start there.
When my friends over at Heart of Haiti via Be Everywhere learned of my love for chic home entertaining, they kindly offered me a choice of serving trays, which I quickly fell in love with. I chose this colorful one, appropriately dubbed “Birds of Paradise” because of its vibrant colors and exotic flowers. When I received it, I appreciated even more the hand-painted design which is artistically done by a local artist on the depressed island. I’ve been sensitive to their plight and showcasing their fabulous talent and art to my friends while sitting back and relaxing would be just right.
And it handles well, no pun intended.
I mentally retrieved all the chotskies I have in my NY-sized kitchen (at least in my head) and knew I’d pull some befitting pieces to create a fun, island-y setting.
Being an island girl myself, I opted for my rooster teapot. Roosters are iconographic mainstays in Cuban kitchens in every gadget possible. You name it, there’s a rooster-something in every cocina. I scooped this one up at TJ Maxx for a low-low of $10! Fanciful enough to enjoy a blend of herbal or real tea, the Japanese-styled cups I pulled out are divine. They’re shaped perfectly for dainty hands, are designed with subtle crackle and continue to add color to the service. I Snatched up a lovely set of 4 at Teavana for $15, on sale.
And because flowers make such a strong statement on the tray, it only made sense to incorporate some perfumed roses positioned in a short, though bold red vase. My friends over at Village Green Flowers came through yet again and designed this lovely arrangement that complemented the tray so nicely.
What guest could possibly pass up tea service that looked like this?!
It didn’t take much time or money to make it come together, but it did involve daring and atypical taste for an event typically reserved for fancy porcelain and dainty doilies.
A vibrant, colorful and artistic tea service that defines your culture and style. A bit more relaxed than traditional settings involving fine or designer China.
Deciding to a color palette. In this case, bold, jewel tones were the base. Everything else was chosen based on them.
Find a great, sturdy and beautiful tray. One with handles makes it easier to carry. Ideally, one that embodies your style or theme will set the tone. The “Birds of Paradise” set the chic Caribbean vibe I went for.
Lovely tea cup. Always have authentic tea cups in your inventory. I like the clean lines of these from Teavana. They have no handles, which allows for easy stacking, and occupies less space on the tray. Tea specialty shops will always have a variety of choices.
A lovely tea pot is essential. It’s the 2nd most important piece since you’d be serving nada without one! Opt for one that pops, goes with other looks and complements your tray. My rooster went depicts Cuban culture, therefore went perfectly with a Haitian designed tray. Unless you are a daily tea drinker, various times a day, you can get by with ceramic or stoneware ones vs. hard core cast iron. Discount stores such as TJ Maxx, World Market and even GoodWill have some lovely ones for reasonable $$.
Delicious tea. Depending on the time of day, choose which tea is appropriate. Earl Grey for mornings is perfect; Jasmine or green for afternoon trysts is divine and herbal infusions like mint, lavender and chamomile are ideal for evening. Choose good quality loose leaf teas. They’re always better. Sweeten (or not) with honey or raw sugar cubes. Some like their tea with creme.
Cookies and fine biscotti for dipping. Ladyfingers are also a good choice. You can find really tasty ones at gourmet shop or even TJ Maxx. These hazelnut ones come from a gourmet shop in D.C. Sooo good.
Decorate your tray with flowers. They’re not necessary but add such sophistication and aroma to the service. Every woman loves flowers so why not take a few more bucks and time and have them there. Plus, they’ll last you long after tea time is over!
Napkins. Because it’s proper etiquette to place a napkin on your lap, no matter what you’re enjoying.
Next time you have tea time, think outside the box and go for something exotic and more importantly, something that defines you! Clearly, I’m all about bold, colorful and artsy things. Yes, I do enjoy the pretty China, but that’s for uber fancy trysts that require much more planning! This look on the other hand is fantastic for every day sipping.
Tray – $10-$50 c/o Macy’s
Tea cups – 4/$15 at Teavanna
Teapot – $10 from TJ Maxx
Tea – $4 for a canister of loose leaf from Village Tea Co.
Colorful napkins – $10/6 from World Market
Biscotti – $4-$8 Dean & DeLuca
Flowers – $10-$20 c/o Village Green Flowers
TOTAL COST for personal and chic tea service: $63-$117
If in Atlanta, visit Village Green Flowers to order fabulous arrangements for any occasion. 770.435.9393
To see a full collection of Heart of Haiti artwork, visit Macy’s and enjoy some hand-painted pieces.