Tea bag place cards, Japanese sweets, colorful sandwiches and more lively ideas for an untraditional tea party.
Have a spot of tea...on your invitation. Mount paper made with green tea onto a card, then affix a tea bag. Staple on your own tab with a clever message, such as "Gimme a Tea" or stitch a guest's initial onto a linen napkin with the string from a tea bag, then write her name on the tab to create a place card. Green-tea paper from Wild Lily Tea Market ($11 for 10 sheets; 212-598-9097). "Springtime in Budapest" tea service by Anna Weatherly at Bergdorf Goodman ($540 for teapot, creamer and sugar bowl; 800-558-1855). Teaspoon by Roux-Marquiand ($30; 888-414-8448).
Debbie Samuelson of New York City-based Verithé caters tea parties with a twist: Customers can order up a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, a Moroccan or even a special customized one. Her French service might include pots of lemon verbena or mint tisane with tarte Tatin from Payard Pâtisserie & Bistro, all served in her collection of lusterware (from $50 per person; 212-366-4623 or www.verithe.com).
Decorate the cookie plate with cute, mini sweets from One Girl Cookies ($19 per pound; 212-675-4996). Add surprise with Toraya's bean pastefilled Japanese confections, including kashiwa-mochisticky rice cake wrapped in oak leaf ($2 and up; 212-861-1700 or www.toraya-america.com).
Arrange sandwiches in a variety of heights, geometric shapes and multihued layers. Cover with a damp paper towel to keep the bread moist. Chill those made with soft spreads to firm the filling before cutting with a very sharp or serrated knife; butter the edges and dip them in chopped herbs or nuts.
The immaculate tea shop Ito En in New York City carries a vast selection of green teasincluding matcha, green jasmine and hojicha (212-988-7111 or www.itoen.com). At Manhattan's Leaf Storm Tea kiosk, former fashion designer Amy Chen steeps herbal African rooibos, Indian chai masala, earthy aged Chinese Puerh and about 40 other international varieties, which she also sells by mail order (212-222-3300). In Sardinia, Italy, Roberto De Col Piras and his wife, Ana, handpick and sun-dry the aromatic herbs and fruits that they mix into their lovely Azienda Agricola tisanes, available at A.G. Ferrari (877-878-2783).
As an alternative to the ubiquitous strainer,try a t-saca disposable natural-fiber tea filterfor loose leaves, in a pot or a cup ($6 for 100; 877-337-2491 or www.chefshop.com).