Making Teatime a Holiday Tradition
Page Medically Reviewed and Edited by Cyrus Khambatta, PhD
Holiday traditions can serve us well by creating familiarity and festive fun. Tea can be a part of that tradition by hosting a holiday tea party. Sitting together, sipping a delicious, hot tea, and basking in the warmth of friends and family is an excellent way to welcome the holidays.
Making Holiday Tea a New Tradition for Your Family
While it sounds fancy (and maybe a bit complicated) hosting a Christmas Tea doesn’t have to be. You don’t have to even be a tea connoisseur to provide a superior, non-GMO, dark green oolong tea which is roasted, rolled, dried, hand-sorted, and blended to achieve the best characteristics of a mild-flavored, smooth tea. Your friends and family will be so impressed and appreciate the effort you put in to make this a memorable time.
Christmas Tea: A Centuries Old Tradition
Did you know the tradition of a Christmas Tea actually dates back centuries? Some 200 years ago, Christmas was known as a holiday for getting drunk. University of California, Santa Barbara historian Erika Rappaport states, "I guess the way Christmas used to be celebrated, you'd just get drunk."
Rappaport further explains that Christmas was one of the few times the working-class men had off and it was a good excuse to let loose with money in hand to spend on alcohol. It was not uncommon to later see women storming into the taverns ready to drag home their inebriated husbands — and what was left of their paychecks!
And so, the backlash against this drunken “tradition” began in the 1830s with the Temperance movement when the crusaders against public drunkenness set their sights on Christmas. "They wanted to make it more of a family affair," Rappaport says.
So these teetotalers decided to, well, make Christmas a tea holiday. The group would host massive tea parties on Christmas Eve, with thousands in attendance. Foie gras and smoked salmon finger sandwiches, mincemeat pies, and decadent desserts became part of the tradition, along with opulent decorations.
One of the earliest tea parties was held on Christmas of 1834 at Preston’s Cloth Hall, and was attended by over 1,200 men and children. Over 630 feet of tables was used to serve the guests, and the entertainment consisted of Temperance hymn singing and lectures about the evils of public drunkeness.
This new custom quickly spread to the United States, and today it is still common for hotels in both countries to throw luxurious Christmas Eve tea parties. Many individuals also host their own parties, inviting friends and family to drink hot tea and celebrate the season together.
Caroling and Tea
Caroling is another holiday tradition associated with tea that began in England during the Victorian era. In the early 1800s, young men and women in the English countryside would travel from door-to-door, singing songs and offering flavorful hot teas made from mulled spices to their neighbors.
During these early times, caroling was commonly known as “wassailing,” and the spiced tea was served in a “wassail bowl.” Many of the most popular Christmas carols were written during this era, including favorites like “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Joy to the World.” Once again, the emphasis was to enjoy a robust, delicious drink that was non-alcoholic.
Can Tea Really Replace Alcoholic Drinks?
For people who live with diabetes, alcohol can wreak havoc on blood sugar levels, depending on the type of drink. Plus alcohol can have a lot of calories. And for your guests who might be trying to lose or keep weight off during the holidays, alcohol can be a set back.
From a biological perspective, the only way to lose weight is by consuming fewer calories than you burn. The extra calories from alcohol have an increased chance of turning into body fat and weight gain, and these drinks are void of micronutrients.
For example, the same carbohydrates and glucose from a glass of wine or beer could be supplied by fruits and vegetables, which contain fiber and micronutrients.
While these foods might be less exciting, that substitution could be the difference-maker for a better mood, improved overall health, and higher energy, especially while maintaining a calorie deficit.
So, if you or a guest is seeking to lose weight, less alcohol is probably better, especially if you replace those calories with foods that will make you feel much better and healthier in the long run. And a healthy, robust-tasting tea is a great replacement.
Steps to Create a Perfect Holiday Tea
Imagine the excitement your friends and family will feel if you invite them to a holiday “tea” instead of just a holiday “party.” There’s a certain sophistication and elegance as well as an expectation of a unique experience. But don’t despair! It’s easier than you think to create a memorable time.
Designing the Invitation
There’s no need to be fancy, unless you want to be! The sky and your imagination are the only limits on the types of invitations you create. From handwritten teapot-shaped cards to wood ornaments with tea tags attached, there’s no right or wrong way. Just be sure you are clear that this is a tea party, and not another type of holiday party.
Setting the Scene
Depending on where you live, you will need to decide on whether your tea party is to be hosted indoors or outdoors. Either way, you’ll want plenty of seating and table space for each guest as food and drink will be served.
Decide on a theme - Your personality can shine through by choosing a theme for your tea party. Perhaps it is strictly Christmas-oriented, complete with Frosty the Snowman plates. Or maybe you’re able to have the table outdoors where you can wrap nature into the scene. Pine cones, spruce cuttings, and other natural decorations can make a beautiful addition to your theme. Or maybe you do a Mad Hatter or even superhero theme. Have fun with this new tradition!
China or tableware - The tea is the main attraction, so some hosts opt to have each guest bring a fun and colorful teacup, or you can head to your local antique or thrift shop to find some mix and match tea cups. Or if you are one of the lucky ones who has your Great Aunt Edna’s fine china, here’s an excuse to haul it out and showcase it. But don’t despair if none of these options work for you. Paper cups, plates, and napkins are also acceptable and are available in lots of colors and themes.
Setting the table - After you’ve decided on your dishes, perhaps a fun tablecloth can help you better hone in on your theme. Cut pieces of spruce tied with a colorful ribbon lining the middle of the table can make nice holiday touches or even small Poinsettias in colorful pots can make a wonderful holiday centerpiece.
Napkin holders - Real cloth or paper napkins are fine, and you can make it more festive by creating fun napkin holders - rings made from colorful pipe cleaners, ribbons, and even attaching a small Christmas ornament to each.
Choosing the Right Teas
While any tea will do, not all teas are created equal. We suggest serving a delicious, organic oolong green or black tea that will add to your guests overall health. A tea crafted with good-for-you botanicals such as amla or hibiscus can create a memorable tea drinking experience for your guests.
Traditional Amla Green Tea - Perhaps the easiest tea you will make all year is just one scoop of Amla Green added to a tea cup with hot water. Fresh, delicious, and so healthy for you!
Fruity Amla Green Tea - If you want to create something with a fruitier flavor, you can take that pre-made Amla Green Tea and add in cut strawberries or blueberries and then let it sit overnight as the fruit flavors infuse the tea.
Amla Green Hibiscus Tea - Another delicious herbal alternative, and one which many of your guests may have never tried before, is the Amla Green Hibiscus Tea.
And best yet, your teas are accommodating for all your guests, even those who might have type 1 or 2 diabetes. Maybe the most impressive of amla's benefits is its ability to fight diabetes naturally by helping lower blood glucose on a level comparable to common medications. In fact, herbalists and scientists alike have used amla for centuries in herbal medicine practices to help both types I and II diabetics manage their blood sugar levels naturally.
Serving the Right Treats
The correct order to eat the traditional tea is to eat the sandwiches and main course first, then move onto the scones and end with the sweets. But, just as you want your teas to be safe and healthy for all to consume, you want the same for your food choices.
Tea Sandwiches - While sandwiches are more traditional to an English tea time, many can be loaded with carbohydrates which might immediately throw off your blood glucose. So, consider having an equally hearty yet still light on the stomach main course such as Sweet Potato Bruschetta or Chickpea “Tuna” Sushi.
Scones - Traditional tea scones are loaded with sugar and calories and are designed to fill the stomach while being sweet. As the host of a holiday tea, you can accomplish this by serving soup for the second course: Curry Red Lentil Soup or Carrot Ginger Soup are delicious fan favorites.
Desserts - While traditional tea time desserts might drive blood glucose levels out of whack, you might consider a tasty alternative such as a creamy and dreamy Mint Chocolate Chip “Nice” Ice Cream or Banana "Nice" Ice Cream.
Good luck with this new holiday tradition, which doesn’t have to be limited to the holidays! Birthday teas, afternoon tea, and even high tea served year round is a healthy way to enjoy consuming powerful antioxidants aiding your overall health.
Page Medically Reviewed and Edited by
Cyrus Khambatta, PhD
Cyrus Khambatta, PhD, is a cofounder of Mastering Diabetes and Amla Green is an internationally recognized nutrition and fitness coach who has been living with type 1 diabetes since 2002. Using an evidence-based approach to nutrition and fitness, he first reduced his own insulin usage by more than 40%, and has educated thousands of people with all forms of diabetes how to reverse insulin resistance using food as medicine. Cyrus earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University in 2003, then earned a PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry from the University of California at Berkeley in 2012. He is the co-host of the annual Mastering Diabetes Online Summit, a featured speaker at the Plant-Based Nutrition and Healthcare Conference (PBNHC), the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) Conference, Plant Stock, and has been featured on Forks Over Knives, NPR, PBS, KQED, Fast Company, and is the author of the upcoming book Mastering Diabetes.
- Cyrus Khambatta