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Why darty when you can tarty? 5 tips for throwing the best (dorm) tea parties

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For all my unwitting freshman out there: the “darty,” or day party, is a classic staple of the college experience. Spring quarter brings with it an endless slew of sunny afternoons ideal for fountain hopping, beer pong or a combination of both. It’s a celebration of warmth, of summer’s arrival — and it’s constantly been on my mind as a weak Californian facing the onslaught of freezing (read: 50 degrees Fahrenheit) winter weather.

While it’s still too cold for peak darty season, I thought I’d propose a fun alternative as we head into the depths of fall. Stanford, meet the tarty.

The tarty, or “tea party” for my more cultured friends out there, negates the need for luxuries like warm weather and ping pong tables. You see, the tarty can, in fact, be held from the heated comfort of your very own dorm room!

To my skeptics: yeah, okay, we’ve all been to or held our own kiddie tea parties before, but I can assure you, the tarty would be a strictly (young) adult affair. Think a cross between millennial brunch and high tea, mimosas and smoked salmon sandwiches. As for entertainment, the tarty is no place for the formalities of high tea. Rather, it’s entirely up to the host; gossip, chit-chat, board games or even a dance tarty are all within the realm of possibility (it’s your room, so who’s to judge, right?).

That being said, it isn’t a tarty without at least some tea (of either kind, really), so without further ado, here are some tips for throwing the tarty on a budget.

Tip 1: Get seasonal, and bring the outdoors in.

Wherever you are on campus, take a quick peek out the nearest window: you see those leaves out there, particularly the pretty ones on the ground? Turns out those can be used as fun seasonal decorations! String together leaves to create an eco-friendly fairy-light alternative. As an added bonus, picking them up off the ground reduces the risk of fires. 

Additionally, there are quite a few pine trees along Bowdoin Street from which you can harvest some fragrant green pine needles or, if you’re lucky, freshly fallen pine cones. These would work great together as a scented, wintery centerpiece. 

Tip 2: Finagle some frugal finger food. 

Cucumber finger sandwiches can, in fact, be made at your nearest dining hall. Grab some sandwich bread of your choice (I recommend brioche!), slice off the crusts and spread with cream cheese, mayo or a mix of both. Layer slices of fresh cucumber from the salad bar, top it all off with another slice of bread, and you’re good to go! You can experiment with adding salt or pepper to the mix, or even Sriracha if that’s your vibe. 

If you do feel like splurging a bit, Costco sells packs of smoked salmon for around $15 per pound. While that may sound a bit expensive, I can confidently assure you that a hefty pound of smoked salmon feeds quite a few people, and it’s an incredibly versatile ingredient. If you’re lucky enough to have leftovers, you can even use it to spice up a dining hall bagel!

Tip 3: If you bake, keep it basic. 

Unless you’re living it up in Norcliffe, Meier or somewhere with a full kitchen, instant baking mixes are your best bet at harnessing the full power of the kitchenette. That being said, you still need to watch what you buy, as not all mixes are created equal. 

Here are a few cheap(ish) products that I recommend, most of which can be found at Safeway:

  • Cherryvale Farms bread mixes — Munger Market happens to carry these, so it’s a great way to put some freshly-baked bread or muffins on the table and those dining dollars to good use!
  • King Arthur Flour scone mixes — seriously, they’re delicious and will make you feel incredibly fancy. Did I mention they also come in special seasonal flavors?
  • Pillsbury (Sweet) Biscuits — yes, technically these are biscuits not scones, but I promise you they smell heavenly coming out of the oven, and they go just as well with jam!

Tip 4: Tea’s the season.

And season, therefore, should influence your tea of choice. While I’m no tea expert, I generally stick to the following rule of thumb: save the lightness and nuttiness of green and white teas for spring, and go for stronger, more pronounced flavors (try a black tea) as it starts to get chilly. There’s a reason that varieties of earl grey, assam and chai are so popular come winter. 

Keep in mind that you are, of course, welcome to deviate, but I personally quite enjoy the challenge of the seasonal theme.

For my friends who like to spice things up even more, you can actually mix your tea with booze. Rum happens to go great with most black teas, especially an English breakfast. Chai, however, can be paired with rye whiskey for an extra spicy punch. If you happen to have some Irish cream on hand, you can also craft a boozy chai latte.

Tip 5: Music is a must-have.

Go ahead, blast Mariah Carey. Or maybe just some mellow jazz. Whatever makes you feel happy and warm

In fact, the real goal of the tarty is — pardon the cliché-ness of this all — to share the warmth of camaraderie. In my experience, nothing warms me up like singing or dancing along to some catchy tunes with a cup of tea in hand. Music truly has the ability to set the atmosphere, making it a powerful, essential addition to any good tarty.

As the darkness, cold and rain of winter quarter approach, hopefully these tips will provide you with a way through the gloom. Perhaps winter quarter doesn’t have to be the “sad quarter” we’ve all come to know and love it as — after all, the tarty’s just getting started!

Contact Carissa Lee at carislee ‘at’ stanford.edu.