Last Sunday I had a few friends over for some desi afternoon tea. Sharing some pictures, menu and our desi touch to an English tradition. While us South Asians got the habit of tea drinking from the days of the British Raj in the subcontinent, we have given it a distinct desi flair by adding an elaborate spread.
I hosted the desi afternoon tea with a friend at my house as we celebrated the birthday of a common friend. We asked everyone to come around 3 p.m. I found some cute decorations at a local dollar store that went with our “tea time” theme. In order to reduce the stress on the day of the party, I set up the table and decorations the night before. I like to know where everything will go to avoid crowding the table, so always put the empty dishes on the table to mark their spot. Also found a kurta perfect for the occasion with little tea pots on it. Decided to add a string of pearls to the outfit to go with the English and desi fusion theme of the event.
For the backdrop I used an artificial flower strand I had at home from Michaels. The dollar store also had teapots and teacups stringed together for decoration that I used. I set up the table with teapots, tea cups and a string of pearls. To add height I used old books. I put fresh lilies in water bottles and put them around the table. To give a vintage touch I used paper doilies under the bottles and all dishes. My friend made a banner for the birthday girl which we added to the window.
Desi Afternoon Tea Menu
The menu for our desi afteroon tea was a combination of desi/southasian chai dishes and classic english tea accompaniments. I like to choose the majority of dishes for tea so that I don’t constantly have to worry about warming them up.
My friend made tuna sandwiches and set up a station for pani puri. I made fruit chaat and vegetable pasta. We got the cake and macaroons from Yum Bakery at the Calgary Farmers’ market a day before. We also bought ready-made samosas with an imli dip, some biscuits, cream puffs and lots of desi snacks like daal moong that we put in small cups we got from the dollar store. Two other friends brought a platter of vegetable quiches and a loaf of cardamom and pista bread.
Besides water, we also made a drink of pomegranate juice + carbonated water for the guests.
I brought out my fine bone china tea cups for the special occasion. We steeped tea in pots and had sugar and evaporated milk out for guests to add. And what’s a desi afternoon tea without a little pun? So we added a throw back to the classic Lipton tea ad.
The hosts set the tone of the event by welcoming the guests with warmth and being attentive to their needs. Music also plays a great role! I made a playlist on Patari the night before and it was a hoot! Was great to listen to Vital Signs, Noor Jehan, Nayara Noor, Benjamin Sisters and Noori.
After the cake had been cut, people had eaten and were settling down on the sofas with their tea, I debated whether I should introduce the game I had kept incase we needed it. The conversation was flowing great, people were chatting in small groups and there were no awkward silences. However I felt it might be great to have one activity that we all did together so I brought out the game.
It was a very simple one really that I had made up myself. I had found two hat-tiaras at the dollar store (from the mad hatter tea party aisle). I added “Asks” at the back of one. We asked everyone to form a loose circle between the sofas and the chairs and passed the tiaras on opposite sides. Now we played the music while people passed the tiaras to each other. When the music stopped, the two people with the tiaras in their hands got to put it on their heads. The one who got the tiara with the “Asks” at the back got to ask ANY question from the other girl. We had a lot of fun with silly and scandalous questions. We learnt a lot about each other and it definitely made for great memories.
birthday Gift Idea
I’m all for cutting clutter and materialism from our lives. The birthday girl is a new mom and we felt a spa treat would be the perfect gift for her. We asked everyone to bring in whatever cash amount they were comfortable with and added that to a box. That contributed towards a gift card for a spa treat for the birthday girl. We had a birthday card out for everyone to sign. Simple.
Hope you enjoyed this tour of our desi afternoon tea! How do you enjoy your chai? Would love to hear from you!