How to Host: Victorian Halloween Tea

Destination Tea's guide to hosting a Victorian Halloween Tea

When tea blogger and crafter Lynn Weekes Karegeannes of My Tea Diary suggested a Victorian Halloween themed tea party guide, we jumped at the idea. It turns out, Halloween was perfectly suited to the Victorian age (1837 to 1901), a time when supernatural beliefs and practices of occultism became hugely popular, including séances, mediums, tarot card readings, ghost sightings, psychics and fortune-telling (especially regarding love and marriage).

1904 Halloween greeting card
1904 Halloween greeting card

Also, Victorian “death culture” was intense, to say the least — with strict mourning rules, elaborate funerals, post-mortem portraits and opulent new cemeteries — and enthusiastically marked a holiday dedicated to remembering the dead. Living about half as long as we do today, Victorians may also have become obsessed with death due to two major 1861 occurrences: the start of the American Civil War, the deadliest war in American history, and the sudden passing of Queen Victoria’s beloved husband Prince Albert, from typhoid fever. Queen Victoria publicly mourning him by wearing black for the remaining 40 years of her life.

Though you don’t have to dress in black at your Victorian Halloween Tea, you’ll find plenty of ideas that celebrate the macabre in our new Victorian Halloween Tea Pinterest board, from costumes to creepy bites.

Notes on Using Destination Tea to Plan Your Tea Party

Destination Tea's Tea Party Planner - The Scene
Destination Tea's Tea Party Planner - The Menu

Here’s how we suggest using our resources:

  1. Print out a front-and-back copy of Destination Tea’s Tea Party Planner.
  2. As you browse the The Scene, Tea Selection, Tea Sandwiches, Scones and Sweets ideas in our Victorian Halloween Tea Pinterest board, choose which items you’ll have at your tea party, and fill in the related sections of your Tea Party Planner, adding needed items and ingredients to your Shopping List.
  3. In each pin, look for our notes to you, as shown below.
Destination Tea's icon will show you where we made special notes to you about our pinned suggestions.

Setting the Scene? That’s Everything!

In The Scene board, you’ll find suggestions for creative touches that will make your Victorian Halloween Tea feel authentic, which you can add to “The Scene” section of your Tea Party Planner, including:

  • Dressing the Part: Victorian costumes for gents and ladies, from hats to witch shoes and a guide to Victorian fashion that you can share with your guests beforehand;
  • Tablescape: “You’ve been poisoned” tea cups, black candelabra and milk glass candlesticks; DIY scary candles by Christine McConnell;
  • Favors: Witchcraft tea balls, palm-sized tea-leaf-reading books;
  • Activities: Crafting how-to’s for a crystal gazing ball and painted pumpkins with Victorian motif from Lynn of My Tea Diary, fortune-telling cards, Ouija board, tea leaf reading introductions, and Victorian glove flirtation guide.

The Menu: Victorian Halloween Tea

We pulled authentic Victorian-era recipes and modern-day eerie creations in a sinister-feeling menu that highlights Halloween colors (orange, black and red) and fall flavors (pumpkin, cranberry and apple).

Selecting Your Teas

We were especially delighted to find out that Connecticut’s Simpson & Vail has created an Edgar Allan Poe blend, fitting as Victorian writer Poe was born in fellow New England state, Massachusetts. We include a rooibos suggestion for tea leaf reading, so that you can leave it brewing loose in the teapot without the brew becoming bitter.

  • Simpson & Vail’s Edgar Allan Poe black tea blend
  • Harney & Sons’ Hot Cinnamon Spice
  • Adagio’s Candy Apple Tea
  • Simple Loose Leaf’s Blood Orange rooibos
  • Adagio’s Anhui Keemun

By the mid-nineteenth century, porcelain manufacturers began to create Tasseography (Tasse= Cup or Goblet, Graphy= Map, or to, Graph, or Layout, or Write) cups. These cups became quite popular in the late 1800s/early to mid 1900s where the fascination with the occult, and supernatural became more popular. They were generally easy to use, and most Ladies would use them as part of an Afternoon Tea event and Ladies Tea Events, where the hostess would read the fortunes of her guests. These cups came with their own definition booklets, so the use of psychic and intuitive ability was very loosely utilized as the fortune would be determined by what symbol the leaves land on, as apposed to the true form of the art where the leaves create their own patterns, shapes and symbols.”

– Amy Taylor, The Art of Tea and Tasseomancy
The Vintage Table's tasseography cups

Tea Sandwiches / Savories

We think a soup starter is a good call for this cool season teatime, and were delighted to find clever sandwich recipes shaped as Ouija board planchettes and coffins for this menu’s savories, including:

  • Spider Web Pumpkin Soup
  • Halloween Deviled Tea Eggs with Bugs
  • Ham and Havarti Planchette Sandwich
  • Roast Beef and Boursin Planchette Sandwich
  • Apple-Cheddar Coffin Sandwiches with Pesto and Bloody Raspberry Puree
Planchette tea sandwiches
Photo credit: Geeks Who Eat

Scones & Spreads

Our scone choices include autumn flavors and darkly chocolate elements. Of course, you can always purchase clotted cream, but for you DIYers, we’ve added a how-to on making your own clotted cream. It’s effortless!

  • Chocolate Scones
  • Cranberry Ginger Scones
  • Chocolate Chip Orange Zest Scones

Sweets

For a Victorian Halloween Tea, we wanted Halloween treats that would be creepy without being too gory to eat. Here’s what we chose:

  • Jack-O-Lantern Chocolate Cherry Hand Pies
  • Skeleton Key Chocolates
  • Victorian-era Queen Drop Biscuits
  • Mocha Cookies and Cream Cupcakes with Skeleton Cameo
Victorian ghost mold
Photo credit: SweetMoulds

Let’s Get Started Planning Your Victorian Halloween Tea

If you recommend a treat, tea or party game that we’ve missed, please let us know in the comments, thank you! Click on the pinboard below to delve into our suggestions for your Victorian Halloween Tea and happy party planning!

DestinationTea
Tea Voyageuse, discovering the world of afternoon tea, based in Atlanta, Georgia.

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