In the U.S., when you talk about red, white, and blue, you know it means our flag colors. But it can also refer to a special teatime where those three colors set the visual tone and timbre of the event. And since there are a bunch of countries with those same flag colors, you can tilt your teatime toward their traditions and cultures by including some items from those countries.
Some countries whose flag colors are also red-white-and-blue: Australia, Cambodia, Chile (Republic of Chile), France, Holland, Laos, Luxembourg, Puerto Rico, Russian Federation (Russia), Thailand, United Kingdom, Western Samoa, and Yugoslavia.
They have lots of traditional and cultural “goodies” to mix in to your teatime to give it that international tilt.
Start with the tablecloth. Linen is nice for indoors, as is lace, and both add that atmosphere of quiet elegance typical in many European countries. I tend to use plastic for outdoors (easier to clean up such things as that bug you smashed before it could get to your potato salad). It’s a typical American thing — and great for covering those picnic tables that tend to be less than spotless. Whether you use cloth or plastic, you can go with red for a really lively atmosphere (red is a real attention-getting color — just ask any matador), navy blue for a rather nautical ambiance, a lighter blue shade such as sky blue for a light summery look, or white for a more delicate and light atmosphere. Be aware, though, that in many Asian countries, white is the color of mourning. I have a neat blue-and-white gingham tablecloth that practically screams country charm and can really set a homey teatime tone.
Whatever color of tablecloth you select, counter it with contrasting teawares. A white teapot on a red or blue tablecloth, for example, or a red teapot on a blue-and-white gingham tablecloth will make a lively contrast. Some blue and white dishwares — such as Delft blauw (which originated in China), blue willow patterns (dating back to the late 18th century), and Wedgwood — will look good on either a white, red, or even dark blue tablecloth. Of course, there are lots of red dishwares, too, either solid or in some kind of design, many having roses and other flowers on them, and other patterns from art deco and geometric, to toile (a French fabric pattern usually portraying bucolic scenes). Get intimate with a red-white-and-blue tea-for-two set. Go for that French touch with some red toile transferware, available in teapots, cream and sugar sets, platters, and complete dish sets.
Speaking of French, add some touches from that country through foods such as crêpes and teas such as Versailles Lavender Earl Grey, Revolution Earl Grey Lavender Tea, Twinings French Vanilla Chai, or French blend tea.
Strawberries and blueberries with dollops of whipped cream on top are a pretty American dish, as are sheet cakes with those same fruits arranged on a white icing to look like the stars and stripes on the flag (I saw a photo of one on Facebook awhile ago). Scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream is very British. Other red fruits that would be good for teatime are apples (some kinds such as red delicious and Rome), cherries (originally from China), watermelon with the rind removed (originally from Africa), red plums, cranberries, raspberries (originally from Europe), blood oranges, and pomegranates (originally from the ancient lands known as Persia). Besides the berries, there aren’t too many true blue fruits; you have to go a step or two around the color wheel to such fruits as purple grapes (from the Mediterranean area originally, blackberries (actually, very dark blue), plums, elderberries, and purple figs (also from the Mediterranean).
You can always go for a white tea served in a white teacup as a nice touch. Or serve up a black tea, which in many other countries is called “red tea” due to the ruby red color of the tea liquid. There is also that herbal infusion becoming more popular in the U.S. but already well-known in Southern Africa: rooibos (red bush).
Whatever you choose for your red, white, and blue teatime, I’m sure it will be a blast!
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