The 4th of July is a celebration of Independence, with fireworks and wiener roasts and marshmallows and chocolate bars melted into s’mores. Don’t forget the parades and concerts. But the best (okay, so I’m a little prejudiced here) is a 4th of July tea time while enjoying it all.
I start with the teapots – yes, plural. When having guests over I often use several teapots, one for black, one for green, and one for whatever odd item someone may prefer. Rooibos, for example, or chamomile, or even some Tutti Fruiti. My 6-cupper “Betty Blue” joins in with “Whitey” (a 4-cupper) and “Mini-Whitey” (a one-cupper). A red tablecloth makes the perfect setting and adds the right color touch.
Of course, you may want your tea iced and so may your guests. Keep a big bucket of ice handy, steep up the tea hot and extra strong (so that it doesn’t get too diluted by the ice), fill glasses with ice, and pour the tea (sweetened or not as you prefer) into the glass over the ice.
You can also pour the hot tea over ice in a big pitcher and take it to the table outside decorated with flags and bunting and banners and stars and a host of treats fitting that red, white, and blue color scheme.
The fireworks at your 4th of July tea time is through the visuals of the décor and the brightness of the flavors. A brisk tea such as PG Tips for steeping and then pouring over that ice is one such example. Peppermint candies are good but not very substantial, so here is a list of foods full of fireworks (hot spices) that would be great for this special day:
- Salsa – Eaten with nacho chips, great as a snack or appetizer. Jalapeño peppers combine with tomatoes and onions and cilantro to get the fireworks going on your tongue.
- Chili – Beans and ground beef (or other meats of your choice – even buffalo), plus tomatoes and tons of hot peppers and other spices (some so secret that the recipe is kept locked up in a safe by their owners). Check out this one.
- Hot Soups – These can vary but here’s one to try.
- Spicy Fried Chicken – Southern flair adds fireworks to one of the most classic of American “comfort foods.” This recipe shows how. A bit of cayenne pepper, plus paprika and hot pepper sauce are three reasons why you’ll need plenty of iced tea.
- Tilapia Thai Style – Coconut milk does little to quench the fire from the red curry paste in this recipe. As a fan of Thai cuisine, though, I’m willing to risk those flavor fireworks.
After all that spiciness, go for the sweets, featuring dessert with plenty of strawberries, blueberries, and whipped cream. I’m thinking this red, white, and blue trifle is the best option!
After all that tea and spicy food and sweet desserts you will enter a state of torpidity where movement will be rather less than desirable, not to mention unachievable. Just sit so you are looking in the direction of the local fireworks show, lean back, and relax.
Have a great 4th of July celebration!
Btw, here’s the teapot flag I made several years ago and that seems to be getting shared a lot online these days (without credit to me):
Don’t Forget to Let Sparks Fly at the 4th of July
Serve up your favorite teas from our growing line. Many of these are great either hot or over ice. And most are perfect with whatever you’ll be grilling. [See our recipes below for steak marinade and steak rub, both great for grilling.]
And to get you in the party mood, here are some ideas for how to throw a humdinger:
- First of all, relax. Parties are supposed to be fun, not perfect!
- Second, you don’t have to overdo the planning, effort, and expense – just turn on a little creativity and begin planning about six weeks ahead, with guests, invitations, and menu. Otherwise, you might find that your guests are already committed elsewhere and the food choices at the store are rather slim. You’ll also want to decide on a location (your backyard is not an issue in terms of scheduling, but some other venues most probably will be).
- Set a party theme. This isn’t just red, white, and blue décor. It can be something like these: Luau Party, 1960s/Hippie Party, Disco Party, Patriotic Scavenger Hunt Party, 50 States Party (guests dress and act like somebody from one of the states), Mexican Food Fiesta, and Christmas in July. The most popular is a barbecue since it makes both cooking for a group and cleaning up easier.
- The Theme will help determine the menu. Plus you may want guests to bring something to contribute to the feast (you can put this on the invitations so that when they RSVP, they can say what dish they’ll bring – or you can ask for specific dish types such as salads or desserts).
- Main dishes – making use of the grill. It keeps the cooking outside, lets the guests get involved, and is festive and fun. Chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs, brats, ribs, salmon, shrimp, and other meats and fishes are popular. You can also do veggie kabobs, grill ears of corn, and have pots of baked beans heating as the other items cook.
- The cold foods need to stay cold. If guests are bringing sides and desserts, have enough cold storage space for everything and suitable table or counter space to set them out for serving. If you’re providing these, then go with side dishes that can sit out safely. A green salad, cold pasta salad, spicy-sweet baked beans that are good hot or cold, some type of slaw, carrot cake, cold gazpacho, sliced tomatoes, and a picnic staple – potato salad!
- Don’t forget the 4th of July themed desserts. Of course, no 4th of July party is complete without a festive patriotic dessert such as THE American Flag Cake: Both Traditional and Not-so-Traditional, Creative 4th of July Cakes, and other cakes for the Fourth sporting those red, white, and blue colors.
- Time for Decorations and Preparation. You can be casual, elaborate, or anything in-between. But the key is to make it festive…and fun! Red, white and blue balloons or streamers are easy and low cost. If you’re planning to sit outside so you can watch fireworks, remember to have some chairs and lawn blankets available, and perhaps dot the lawn with tiny flags. (You can ask guests in the invitation to bring their own chair or blanket to sit on. You’ll also need about 2-3 napkins per guest, 4 plastic cups per person (one way to cut down on the number of cups used is to write their names on the cups), 2 small bowls, 2 sturdy picnic plates, and forks, spoons, and knives. Put coolers where there’s easy access, and position trash cans in convenient locations.
- Don’t forget to have fun! And some bug repellant will help you do just that without a lot of stinging bites.
Have a great holiday and remember that spirit of independence that the fireworks symbolize.
A recipe for Lapsang Souchong marinade for those steaks
For four 8-ounce steaks:
(prepare the night before)
- Boil one cup (8 ounces) of fresh water, toss in one teaspoon of Lapsang Souchong tea leaves, let steep for 5 minutes. Add in your favorite herbal seasonings.
- Put steaks in a shallow pan lying side by side, not stacked. Pour hot tea over them and be sure to cover each steak top well. TIP: lift each steak up a little to be sure the tea gets under each one.
- Refrigerate overnight.
You can also do this with cubed beef for kabobs. Marinate the kabob veggies separately.
A recipe for Lapsang Souchong Steak Rub
For two 16-ounce steaks:
Mix ahead and store in an airtight container.
3 tablespoons of Lapsang Souchong tea leaves
2 tablespoons fresh cracked black peppercorns
3 tablespoons sea salt (or table salt can be substituted)
2 tablespoons chili powder (alter this per you individual taste)
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Combine all of the above together in a bowl (metal or glass are best, since plastic will absorb some of the odors). Rub it into both sides of the steak before grilling.
Also good for lamb or other hearty meats.
© 2015 A.C. Cargill photos and text