Deck table with stylish tea setting

Maybe male readers can't relate, but as a little girl, I, like most girls, was a huge fan of tea parties. From sending would-be invitations and setting out stuffed friends to dressing in my lavish costume jewelry, the whole faux gala was a day's worth of entertainment.

The key factor for a truly splendid tea party was, of course, the tea set. Mine was a tiny, plastic, white one. In reality, it was rather blah, but in my overly active imagination, it was a fancy-schmancy arrangement of a kettle, cups and saucers.

These days, my tastes have graduated past the miniature plastic cups and I prefer the real tea deal.

A master of all things tea, Tea Forte offers several tea gift sets, including the Teardrop Tea Set. Modern and simple, the elegant set features clean lines inspired by both Western and Eastern styles. Included are two demitasse tea cups, sugar and cream containers, two tea trays and a teapot, which is designed to brew one Tea Forte tea bag. The set comes in a vibrant green gift box, so it's perfect for a personal indulgence or a sweet gift. Retailing for $65, the set is available at Origin stores and online at www.teaforte.com.

Forget tea for two. The Lenox Butterfly Meadow Stackable Tea Set makes tea for one an option. The base of the teapot is actually an oversized, 12-ounce tea cup. Once tea has been poured into the cup, replace the teapot on the cup to keep the drink warm. The porcelain teapot, cup and tea bag holder are decorated with a lovely butterfly and nature scene, complete with a tiny butterfly sculpted on the teapot's lid. The set retails for $39.99 at Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Exuding a more industrious feel, the Well Stainless Steel tea set from Teavana is less delicate than traditional sets. The sleek and shiny set includes a teapot, two cups with saucers, and sugar and creamer bowls. Additionally, the set comes with a tea warmer to keep your drink piping hot, as well as a steel serving tray. Retailing for $199.99, the set is sold at Teavana stores and online at www.teavana.com.

The Cherry Blossom Tea Set from Enjoying Tea is inspired by traditional Japanese tea sets. Made of porcelain, the teapot and included four cups are painted with an intricate, black-and-green cherry blossom tree scene, reminiscent of ancient Japanese art. The set includes a teapot with bamboo handle, four small cups and a serving tray. Available online at www.enjoyingtea.com, the set sells for $22.98.