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Friends, tea, talk ... ahhh

May 22, 2007|by ERICA COLLIFLOWER

Who really has tea parties anymore? It's a lot to put together - picking a theme, buying decorations, sending invitations, making sure that it all flows nicely. It can be a lot of work.

However, the definition of tea party has changed. Tea parties today are not the same as tea parties from 50 years ago.

It's probably safe to say that most of us, when thinking "tea party," have mental images pop into our heads of tables set with elaborate dishes accompanied by required manners and etiquette.

Fortunately, that's not what today's tea parties are like, according to Tracy Stern, a tea expert who has started her own line of tea, Salontea. Stern's latest addition to the world of tea is a book entitled, "Tea Party: 20 Themed Tea Parties with Recipes for Every Occasion, from Fabulous Showers to Intimate Gatherings."

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Basically, she says, any event that includes tea can be considered a tea party - something small and intimate, a gathering between close friends or something huge and elaborate.

"It's a ceremony that is all about celebrations," Stern says. "Tea parties bring everyone together."

Anyone can host a tea party. All you have to do is pick a theme, Stern says.

"Make it simple and base your theme on your guests' tastes," she says.

Tea parties don't have to be elegant and formal. Stern's new book includes an eclectic range of themes, some traditional like the Fashionable French Tea, while others, such, as the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, are more modern. She makes it easy by including recipes and tips on how to make your party a success.

Stern's book also includes a specially themed Gentlemen's Tea, complete with recipes and tips designed to get guys involved.

Tea parties can be tremendous fun. The possibilities are endless. However, if you don't feel like organizing your own tea party, you might try visiting tea houses in the area. Shaharazade's Exotic Tea Room is in Shepherdstown, W.Va., and offers a variety of teas by the cup - whites, blacks, greens, chai and herbal - in a casual, Persian-themed atmosphere. Shaharazade's also offers a high tea complete with a pot of tea, scones, sandwiches and cookies. If your group includes more than four, they recommend calling ahead to place reservations.

Many coffeehouses also serve a variety of teas.

There are also a couple of Web sites that can help you find a tea house in your local area: www.teaguide.net and www.teamap.com. However, if you use these, make sure you call the tea house before visiting.

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