Many of the items on this list of tea equipment are not essential to the success of a tea party. If you do not own a matching tea set or have a full set of utensils, don’t let these details be an excuse not to host a party! Improvise with the tools that you have on hand or see if you can borrow certain items from neighbors and friends.
If you plan to host many tea parties in the future, always keep an eye out for new tea equipment supplies when shopping to gradually build your collection over time. You might stumble across some great finds in antique shops or at flea markets.
Tea caddy or airtight tin or ceramic jars – Use these to store tea and prevent the leaves from coming into contact with air, light, and excessive heat. Glass jars will also work if they are kept out of the sunlight. For more information, read the article on how to store tea.
Tea kettle – Kettles are only used for boiling the water that will steep with the tea leaves inside a teapot. Aluminum and enamel are okay materials for kettles but should be avoided when choosing a teapot.
Infusers – When brewing a pot of tea, avoid small teaball infusers and instead use larger cylinder and pyramid shaped infusers that provide adequate space for tea leaves to expand. Many teapots are available with infusers already conveniently built-in.
Strainer – If you are not using an infuser, a strainer is a necessary piece of tea equipment and will be needed to catch the tea leaves when pouring freshly brewed tea into another teapot or directly into the teacups.
Teapot – The teapot is perhaps the most essential piece of tea equipment. Choose one made from ceramic, cast iron, silver, or stainless steel, avoiding aluminum and enamel (except for teakettles). Yixing teapots, popular with tea connoisseurs, should only be used for one type of tea, probably a Chinese black or green tea, because the stoneware retains the flavor of teas brewed and will affect later infusions.
Teacups with saucers and teaspoons – It is not necessary to have a matching set but try to choose cups that have complementary color schemes. To set the table, put the teacups in their saucers and place a teaspoon on each saucer.
Cozy – This quilted or knitted fabric cover is slid over the teapot to keep the tea hot when not immediately served. Never let a pot of tea sit that still has the tea leaves inside. Instead, strain the leaves because they will oversteep and cause a bitter taste, especially with the tea cozy preserving a high temperature. Read how to steep tea for more details.
Milk or cream pitcher – This should be arranged close to the teapot for guests who like to take tea with milk.
Sugar bowl with spoon or tongs – This is placed near the teapot with the milk pitcher.
Lemon plate with small fork – Lemon slices are placed by the milk pitcher and sugar bowl. Lemon and milk are never combined in the same cup of tea because the acidic lemon will cause the milk to curdle. When serving your guest, ask if they desire milk or lemon. Add the milk or lemon to the teacup after filling the cup three-quarters of the way full.
Hot water pot – Keep a pot of nearly boiling water close to the teapot. Ask guests if they prefer their tea strong or weak and if they desire weaker tea, add a splash of the hot water.
Waste or slop bowl – This can be any small bowl but sometimes comes as part of a set. It is used for dumping any tea dregs remaining in the bottom of empty teacups.
Tray for the tea service – Sometimes silver teapots and other wares included in the set have a matching tray for easy transport of tea equipment.
Coffee pot, sugar bowl, and small creamer pitcher – Coffee is often served with tea and silver or stainless steel are also good metals for the coffee pot. Like the tea tray, a sugar bowl with spoon or tongs is placed near the coffee pot and a small creamer pitcher is arranged with the sugar bowl.
Trays and platters – Use these for serving pastries, scones, and sandwiches if you do not have a tiered server.
Tiered server – This is a convenient piece of tea equipment and is a space-efficient way to serve the finger foods. The foods are arranged in the order of afternoon full tea courses starting from the bottom with sandwiches and savories on the lowest tier, scones in the middle, and finally pastries on the top. Fresh fruits like strawberries can serve as lovely edible garnishes.
Pedestal cake stand with a cake server – On the tea table, a stand makes an elegant display for the cake but with the help of a cake server, it is also very functional for cutting the slices and transferring them to plates.
Baskets lined with linens – Use these if you prefer to keep freshly baked muffins and scones warm.
Side plates – These small plates should be available for guests to help themselves to scones, sandwiches, appetizers, pastries, and little desserts. They may be included in a tea set and match the teacups.
Glass or ceramic bowls and small spoons – Use whatever pretty dishes you have on hand for serving jams and clotted cream which are a must for scones, rolls, muffins, and breads.
Butter dish with a knife – Don’t forget the butter if you are serving rolls or any other baked goods that go well with it.
Utensils – The forks, knives, and/or spoons, depending on which foods you plan to serve, should be arranged near the plates and linen napkins.
Linen napkins – Linens are ideal and considered by some to be a must for tea parties. If you do not have any, be sure to use the most attractive and sturdy paper napkins that you can find.