Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Perfectly Practical #51 - How to Set a Table for Morning Coffee

"All I want is a proper cup of coffee, made in a proper copper coffeepot.  I may be off my dot, but I want a proper coffee in a proper coffee pot.  Tin coffee pots and iron coffee pots, they are no use to me.  If I can't have a proper cup of coffee from a proper copper coffee pot, I'll have a cup of tea!"
That is the chorus from a great song by Trout Fishing in America.  It may just be my theme song.  You can listen to the song and see the silly video here.  Warning, you will be humming this tune all day after hearing it.

Lots of people would like to entertain in their homes but feel like they don't have the money or the time or the dishes or the culinary expertise to make it like Martha would.  Unless Martha herself is coming to your house, you probably don't need to worry about it.

If you just want somewhere to start so you can dip your toe in the water with entertaining, morning coffee is a great place to start. 

A morning coffee table is similar to an afternoon tea table in its placement but not in its formality. Morning coffee is much more informal.




Invitations for a coffee are issued via phone call or face-to-face generally.

An ironed lace, cutwork, or embroidered tablecloth is draped over the table. The cloth may drape evenly over the side either a couple of inches or about 18 inches; either length is acceptable. One never has a bare table unless it is glass or metal.

Candles are not used at coffee time so no need for candelabra and the centerpiece should be low and unobtrusive.

A silver or china service coffee service is presented on a tray at one end of the table. The pourer (which could be you but usually is a guest that you have asked beforehand to be the pourer) has the coffee pot on the right side of the tray with the cream and sugar to the left side. (Yes, I said cream not milk or – Lord help us - creamer.)

Cups are placed to the right of the tray so the pourer has easy access to them. They are not stacked more than two high or turned over; they are instead arranged nicely and evenly.

Tea plates are set to the right of the cups in a spot convenient for the guests. This is in order that they may pick up a plate and move along for their coffee without reaching over the food.

Spoons are the only utensils needed for a morning coffee. No food should be served with the coffee that requires any other form of utensil. Spoons are laid to the right of the plates singly and staggered for ease of picking up.

Small tea napkins that match the tablecloth should be used. Stagger them to the right of the spoons. Alternatively, you may place a napkin on each tea plate.

Food that is served should be small and easy to pick up with your fingers. Plates should be well filled with food but not overflowing. Once a plate is emptied, just take it to the kitchen and refill it. Better yet, have plates already filled with extras and bring them out to replace the one you just took away. You do not need much variety for a morning coffee. You may only have a single treat to offer but no more than five offerings are necessary.

There is scope obviously for some deviation. For instance, you may really like antique china and silverware so if the cups and saucers or spoons don’t match, that’s fine. Just make sure they are in coordinating colors. If it is pretty casual, then use your everyday dishes, paper tea napkins, and doilies instead of linen or lace.

Of course with all entertaining, how successful a gathering is correlates directly with how confident you are as a hostess. Be attentive to your guests and everyone will have a wonderful time. Just be prepared for people to always want to have coffee at your house.

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