As we enter the holiday season, we enter a time of gathering together. With holiday parties, come holiday menu planning and tea can factor into the festivities.
There used to be a time where if you served tea, you would make a big pot and pour it into small cups for guests. Now, people customize. Some people want black, others prefer green, or herbal. I typically don’t serve loose tea to guests unless I’m brewing it and then only if there is a small group because how many teapots can you have? Brewing loose tea is easy. But, tea bags are easier for large parties. Here are some suggestions to pick the right teas for any sized party.
For Small Groups
Serve One Shared Pot of Tea
When I have a small group over of six people or less, I still like to make a big pot that we can share—it’s nice to drink the same tea at the same time because it’s communal and brings people together, bridging their experiences into the greater experience. I try to pick a tea that’s crowd-pleasing, most often a plain black tea like Organic Breakfast. You can offer milk and sugar too. Chinese and Ceylon black teas also would make good options—they don’t change as easily over time after having been brewed. Yunnan black tea brews a sweet, rich tea that can be drunk in a number of ways. Ceylon Kenilworth tends to go with anything and can be served with milk, sugar, paired with dessert, or sipped on its own—it’s even Steven, not super showy, but dependable that way. Oolong teas are really nice to accompany food, so long as the food isn’t very spicy. Oolongs are fragrant, mellow and interesting to look at, but because of the leaf size are generally not found in tea bags. For a white tea selection, White Peony is very drinkable too. It’s easy to brew that is a bit rounder with more body. I reserve Pu Erh for more of the adventurers and for those in the know. Some teas don’t airpot well—meaning if you make a large batch of it at once it won’t keep. That can be an issue when you’re making tea. You have to make it ahead of time if you’re making a big pot, otherwise you’re stuck in the kitchen instead of socializing.
For Large Groups
Offer Tea Pouches
When I have more than six people, I don’t make a big pot of tea. Instead, I will boil water and pour it into an airpot (a large insulated dispenser that keeps water hot). I like to pull out a variety of mugs along with a variety of tea pouches so people can choose their own tea. I’ve learned not to ask people what tea they want because they might ask for a tea I don’t have. Also, because people know what I do for a living, if I ask, they might get worried they’re not picking the right tea. More often than not, the question I ask is do you want caffeinated or non-caffeinated?
Brew Three Types of Tea
Something that can be fun to do with large groups is to keep three pots of tea going of different tea types. One pot would be black tea-based. Another would be filled with green tea. And, the third would be caffeine-free rooibos-based. For the herbal infusion, I try not to serve mint or licorice because they’re divisive flavors with permeating aromas—half the people might like them and half the people might not. Rooibos is more of a crowd pleaser that even black tea drinkers will sometimes choose.
Pair Teas with Desserts
If I was throwing a large party with a wide array of desserts, it would be fun to match up teas with desserts. Stick with tea pouches and select six or seven types to pair with the desserts. You could provide tasting notes. “Try one of these two teas to pair with the chocolate mousse.” This easily elevates the experience with thoughtful flavor recommendations. When selecting the teas to pair with dessert, get the flavor in line or in contrast. Teas that are complementary flavor profiles for dessert include Earl Grey, Chinese black tea, and rooibos that go with chocolate. Another complementary pairing would selecting an herbal infusion with lemongrass or lemon myrtle to pair with lemon meringue pie. For a contrasting duo, pair a really sweet dessert with a brisk, robust black tea to cut through the cream—you would want a tea that is more astringent with a stronger taste. Watch out for sour tastes—don’t pick two sours to pair together such as lemon meringue with rosehips. Orange Dulce or Bombay Chai trend toward a sweet idea anyway.