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After the tea party

Almost six hours of conversation over tea and assorted goodies. (I made home-baked vegan apple pie and non-vegan biscuits!)

Somehow, the numbers always work out. Just enough people to fit around the kitchen table, perhaps with a few extra chairs and a piano bench.

Now the house is quiet. The dishes have been put away. I don’t feel tired, as I sometimes do after social events. I don’t feel like I’m buzzing. I feel grateful.

It’s amazing that in just three years, we’ve built these friendships. It’s amazing that when new people join us, they feel at home.

I enjoy this a lot. I enjoy creating a space where people can connect, and where they can wander off to bookshelves or puzzles when they need a break. People don’t worry about how to start a conversation because there’s usually one or two to join, and people ask questions to draw others in. It’s a very different dynamic from cocktail parties, and I find it to be a lot more fulfilling.

It took us a bit of experimentation to get here. Lunch and dinner parties were fun, but timing was complicated. I wanted people to be able to drop in whenever they were available and leave whenever they needed. Tea is so much better. When guests arrive, I simply pop home-made biscuits into the toaster oven and heat up the water. Potluck tea is much easier, too. Potluck lunches and dinners take coordination of entrees, and many of my friends don’t have good cooking set-ups yet. With tea parties, people can bring different kinds of teas and sweets, and everything goes well together.

I’d like to host a tea party every other month. It’s a great way to hear from my friends, meet people they know I’ll get along with, and see everyone grow.

I wonder: how can I translate this to other spaces? Can I create this feeling online?

Tea

One of my indulgences is hosting tea parties. I love bringing friends together for conversation. There’s something about an unhurried afternoon when people can come and go as they please, enjoy some snacks and as much conversation as they’d like, and share their lives.

After lots of experimentation, I’ve settled into a good routine. The week before, I prepare tarts, biscuits, muffins, scones, or other delectables that I can stash in the fridge or freezer. I think about dietary restrictions and make sure there’s something for everyone. When guests come (or a little before), I get small portions ready.

Even if no one makes it (life happens!), I’ll have a freezer of goodies to see us at least through the next week. Yay!

People always come. Most of the time, lots of people do. We crowd around the kitchen table, unwrap the favourites that people have brought, and share stories and tips and questions and advice.

There’s something about these low-expectation whoever-shows-up get-togethers that feels wonderful. When I read about the extended family dinners Trent wrote about on the Simple Dollar, I thought, “Yes, that’s what I do, except tea works better for me than dinner.” Less juggling of dishes, less competition from other weekend priorities, less need to get everyone together at a specific time.

I’m planning to host another tea party near the end of the month, or perhaps mid-May. I’ll buy a few more saucers so that I’m not always scrambling to find a clean one for later visitors. It’s a good time for lemonade and lemon curd squares. (W- makes awesome lemon curd squares with shredded coconut.) Pies and tarts are starting to give way to fresh fruit and lighter breads (perhaps some pandesal?), but maybe I can learn how to make pecan tarts. Soon it will be barbecue season, which opens up even more possibilities.

If you haven’t hosted a tea party or other get-together yet, try it out. It’s fun, surprisingly frugal, and a great way to connect.