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I have loved tea parties ever since I was a little girl. All my birthdays were celebrated with tea parties at my Nanu's beautiful, traditional two-storied house. The happy presence of all my cousins, aunts and uncles, the high-pitched glee, the chitter chatter, the paratha rolls, the endless games of hide and seek have been permanently engraved in my memory. Perhaps this nostalgia that still tugs at my heart is the reason I am still fascinated by the idea of throwing tea parties for any occasion.

Even if I don't have a reason to celebrate, I turn my every day evening tea into an impromptu tea party whenever I feel like it. Be it with simple jam and crackers or soft French toasts or a bowl of puffed rice lightly fried in mustard oil with chopped ginger and green chillies and a mug of steaming tea, my spontaneous tea parties are ready at a moment's notice with my daughter, my mother and my daughter's nanny in attendance.

Tea parties do not necessarily have to be elaborate and strictly follow a prim and proper English afternoon tea menu and neither do you have to tilt your pinkie finger up for balance while holding the cup; it can be very random and casual.

Turn your old sewing machine into a table by placing a rectangular wooden slab as a table top and dressing it up with a chequered pink or red table cloth for that instant care-free ambience. If you have a lush lawn that is where this makeshift table should be set up but the perfect surrounding would be on your rooftop garden, if you have one. With green plants all around and summer's white blooms like lilies, belis, gondhorajs added to the mix, you are bound for good times, even with initially unenthusiastic invitees.

Don't forget to put some cut flowers from the garden on the table. Colourful paper plates also add to the summer feel but if you want you can use your grandma's quarter plates for the heck of it all.

You can cook if you are in the mood and make nibble-sized samosas and daal puris; however, patisseries like Sausly's with their sandwiches, pastries, tarts and cold cuts; and restaurants like Dhaba with their dahi phuchkas, papri chaats and rolls can serve the purpose just as well with much less hassle.

This does not however go to say that you cannot hold proper teas and prepare elaborate and lavish menus. Hosting an upscale tea party can be fun too with starched white embroidered napkins and beautiful tea cups. If you are willing to brave it and host a high tea, set up your tea table in the dining room, preferably with a white lace-trimmed tablecloth or white linen with needlework in lace or appliqué.

When it comes to planning the menu for such a tea party you would do well to remember that more table space should be given to sweets -- scones, cookies, cupcakes, fruitcake or slices of iced cake. Such high teas are quite different from cocktail parties which have a greater selection of savouries. To maintain some balance in your menu and to cater to those without a sweet tooth, tea sandwiches should be served. Sausly's offers a variety of sandwich fillers from tuna to hunter beef to smoked chicken and egg salad.

I personally enjoy tea parties in all their forms and formats although intimate, spontaneous tea parties with whatever I have in my larder are my favourites. Sitting on the lawn or the terrace or the rooftop with my cup of tea, a handful of friends and the summer breeze blowing through my hair -- these are exactly the things my dreams are made of.

This summer, pick an evening to put in a little bit of extra effort and ask friends over for a random tea party with malai chai and deshi snacks -- however you decide to plan it and whoever you invite, chances are, you won't be disappointed.

By Raffat Binte Rashid
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Food: Sausly and Dhaba
Special thanks to Dora Alamgir for arranging the Dhaba photoshoot


Impromptu tea party

The best thing about summer is the tea parties we get to host: cucumber sandwiches, scones and jam. Very British, one might argue, but it is not so much the menu as it is being able to share your strong or weak (depending on your preference) cup of Earl Grey and Lady Grey with your dear ones.

Perpetually stuck at 6 p.m. Mad Hatter, of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland fame, threw 'grand' parties for himself and chum, the March Hare. This week Star Lifestyle suggests that you too go overboard and turn a sultry, dull May afternoon into a spectacular high tea.


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