One of the best responsibilities we have at Little Yellow Couch is the excuse to host over-the-top parties. We knew early on that for our “Let’s Be Civilized” theme we’d want to host a high tea. And while the custom of high tea is already a bit extravagant, we wanted to create a setting that would transport our guests to a place completely out of our run-around, harried lives. (And, we admit, it’s simply loads of fun to go a bit overboard with a party!).
Once we started pulling out Karen’s collection of white tea pots from her black hutch, and a variety of vintage tea cups painted with delicate flowers, we came up with our color scheme: a black and white background with a top note of floral. (We were already feeling very civilized). Karen’s Dining Room was the perfect setting since she already has an affinity for black with shades of white, with her natural linen curtains trimmed with black ribbon, her salon style black paper silhouettes, her white dinnerware and black candlesticks.
I’m sure it’s obvious to you that our next idea was to require everyone to wear black and white. (No? You don’t usually dictate what people wear to your parties? How odd). Since it would be unseemly to be obvious in our need to have complete control over the aesthetic, we graciously informed our guests that they need not “trouble” themselves with their own jewelry but that we would provide it for them.
After going through a few different ideas on what the jewelry would look like, Karen had the brilliant idea to use fresh flowers. It was one of those smack-yourself-on-the-forehead ideas. I mean, who wouldn’t create one-of-a-kind, supremely delicate, can’t-be-made-ahead-of-time accessories that had an extra note of luxury because they would only last a day? I mean, all we had to do that afternoon was set up the living room, prepare the food, make the tea, get dressed, do our hair and make-up, take photos, and worry about providing scintillating conversation. (But this is what I love about Karen. Her over-the-top ideas are usually totally worth it). You may have already seen our DIY on the jewelry, but here it is looking just perfect adorning our guests.
And speaking of over-the-top, let’s back up to the conversation we had when Karen said to me, “now don’t freak out but I think I may have to tent my dining room ceiling in black and white. Do you think it’s too much?” Surely you must know by now that my response was something along the lines of, “I’m getting in the car to shop for fabric right this minute. What are you waiting for?”
As you can see, once the ceiling was transformed, we simply had to move out all of her other furniture to make room for our little yellow couch, which in turn, revealed to us the need for several small tables for serving and setting down cups of tea. Thank god for thrift stores and black paint.
We attended to other details as well, such as creating sandwich toppers, tea labels, clotted cream and sugar cubes (we really must bring these back…who wants to have torn sugar wrappers all over the place?).
But once everyone arrived, all pretense was let go so that we could relax and delight in conversation with our guests. Which is one of the most important lifestyle rules I live by: Plan like mad, attend to the details, anticipate any need for comfort your guests might have, and then throw out all expectations of how the party should go and simply enjoy the company of your friends and family.
We got right to the heart of the matter, discussing the three teas we were serving, generously provided to us by Bob Heiss at Tea Trekker. They were Buddha's Tea (Green) from the Anhui Province, China; Assam Golden Fancy (Black) from Assam, India; and Rooibos : Almond, Pink Peppercorn, Pistachio & Vanilla (Tisane) from South Africa.
We started with the tisane, which Bob had explained was what most of us think of when we say “herbal tea.” The thing about herbal tea, though, is that it’s not made from a tea leaf, but rather, other plants, herbs, aromatics, etc. Its’ steeped in water to release it’s flavor but that’s its only relationship to tea. We now much prefer the word “tisane” to the phrase “herbal tea.” Sounds so much more civilized, don’t you think?
The other big surprise was the green tea. When Karen first poured it, I thought it hadn’t been steeped long enough because it was almost translucent. But then we tasted it and WOW, it has this really big, full flavor. (Should have trusted Karen). We loved the surprise element of this one and you could taste several different flavors as it went from the tip of your teeth to the back of your tongue. Nothing like the boxes of green tea I buy at the supermarket! It’s now going to be a staple at my house.
For our first Little Yellow Couch party, we think it went swimmingly if the litmus test is that your friends want to be invited back. (Now if only we hadn’t forgotten to give them their take-home gifts. No matter the amount of planning that’s done, I always forget something, don’t you?).