We had two different people in the Studio the other day asking to buy tea for an upcoming bridal shower of 20 to 25 people. As I talked with each person the same questions came up so I thought I’d share some of the things we talked about. I’m not a caterer so I don’t give advice about foods to offer, but offering good tea can really help spark conversation and make for a memorable party.
When planning a tea party for a crowd of 15 or more people the first thing you want to consider is how many different varieties of tea you want to offer. I recommend having at least four different teas, two of which are decaf or non-caffeinated. A lot will depend on how many teapots you have available (using a different pot for each tea), but you can usually find used teapots at thrift stores, or buy new ones and give them away as game-winner gifts. Create pretty teapot tags to tie onto the teapots identifying the type of tea in each so that guests don’t have to lift the lids to figure out which is the black, green or herbal.
Plan on two to three cups of tea per person. What gets tricky is that you won’t know exactly which tea will be most popular so this can complicate estimating how much to buy. When buying loose leaf tea by the ounce, it’s estimated that each ounce makes about 10 to 12 cups of tea so for a party of 30 people you need at least 6 ounces. Loose-leaf is typically sold in one ounce minimum bags so if you want four different teas you’ll need to figure out which teas to stock more than others.
For ease of steeping multiple pots at one time I recommend using large disposable tea filters such as those made by Finum (aka tea sacs). You can prefill the tea sacs and have them ready for making new pots of tea. The tea sacs are compostable and make for easy cleanup.
Water for steeping is a bit challenging because of the time it takes to boil enough for four or more teapots at one time. It’s nice to have all the tea ready for guests when they sit down, plus then you need to be able to quickly refill pots. I recommend heating a large stockpot of water and keeping it simmering on the stove-top, covered, adding more filtered water as needed. Use a large ladle to transport the water into the teapot. This may not sound like an ideal set-up, but it works pretty well.
I find its best to wait until the guests have arrived and have time to chat for 10 to 15 minutes before you start steeping the teas. You want to present the tea when it is hot, and freshly steeped so let people get their chatting done first.
I hope these ideas are helpful—they are all things I do when preparing an English-style tea party for a crowd.