America’s 8 Best Hotels for Afternoon Tea (Slideshow)
November 22, 2013
From custom tea blends to luxurious settings, these hotels deliver top-notch tea
The Jefferson in Richmond, Va.
Perhaps Richmond’s most historic and opulent hotel — Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and 12 presidents including Obama have stayed here — The Jefferson also hosts an afternoon tea in its elegant Palm Court. Drink tea while you gaze up at the Tiffany stained-glass dome ceiling and admire the rich history that’s practically seeping through the walls at this hotel. Tea highlights here include The Jefferson Blend — a traditional English tea made from Keemun, Darjeeling, and Ceylon that’s described as aromatic with a full flavor — and The Richmond Blend, a spicy tea that’s a combination of black tea, cinnamon oil, orange peel, and cloves. As you nurse your beverage, nibble on finger sandwiches, scones with cream and strawberries, and a selection of pastries. The Jefferson also hosts several special tea events. Every first Sunday of each month, children are invited to bring their teddy bears to tea during an afternoon that benefits the Children’s Hospital of Richmond. The third Saturday of every month features a buffet of chocolates served with the full tea service.
The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Co.
Those visiting one of Colorado’s most luxurious hotels can enjoy afternoon tea in the cozy environment of The Broadmoor’s West Tower Lobby. Here, guests can indulge in a wide selection of teas, tea sandwiches, and freshly baked French pastries and desserts. The prix fixe "Julie Penrose Selection" includes the fanciful trio of tea brioches — including watercress with sweet lemon cream cheese, smoked Norwegian salmon with capers and cucumber, and egg salad with truffles and Chervil — freshly baked scones with crème fraîche and raspberry preserves, and traditional French tea pastries, alongside a tea selection. Live piano music completes the experience.
Park Hyatt Washington in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C. has a secret. It’s home to one of the most expansive collections of tea in the United States. (You thought it was about politics, didn’t you?) The Park Hyatt Washington’s Tea Cellar has more than 50 rare and limited-production, single-estate teas that hail from all over the globe. You’ll find drinks on the menu from remote regions of China, Japan, Sri Lanka, and the Himalayas. Teas are served by the pot, from $8 to $300. Exotic teas are a staple here. If you want to be daring, try the Underwater Garden, a hand-tied green tea with hidden wild chrysanthemum flowers for a slight smoky and sweet flavor. But if you’d like stick to the familiar, you can; mint and chamomile tea also make an appearance on the menu. The Hyatt’s tea expert Lukas Marcinowski also can assist guests with their choices, which can seem endless.
"Our Tea Cellar houses one of the deepest inventories of rare, high-end green, Oolong, and Pu-erh teas in the country," Marcinowski said in an email. "Our guests are able to choose from an exclusive selection, including several full-bodied black teas that are barrel-aged in oak, resembling a fine wine."
The Palm Court at The Drake Hotel in Chicago
Afternoon tea at this hotel in considered a Chicago experience as quintessential as eating a hot dog at Wrigley Field. And it seems that even royals agree; Princess Diana, Queen Elizabeth, and the Empress of Japan have all been here. Tea is held at the all-white, dripping-with pristine Palm Court. Drink the hotel’s specialty custom-made "Palm Court" blend, made out of four teas — Indian Assam, chocolate notes from Chinese Keemun, Ceylon, and a toasty Formosa Oolong — while you nosh on small bites like lavender egg salad on an egg bun or cream puffs. If you’re here Wednesday through Sunday, enjoy live harp music while you sip.
Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon at the Inn at Irving Place in New York City
The Inn at Irving Place, a charming Gramercy bed-and-breakfast, is also the site of one of New York City’s top tea rooms: Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon. It's the sight of many bridal and baby showers, and guests here can order a five-course afternoon tea. Sip on a selection of freshly stepped teas as you start with a seasonal amuse bouche, followed by a variety of sandwiches ranging from cucumber with mint fraîche on brioche to smoked turkey and cranberry between seven-grain. Next, anticipate scones with clotted cream and preserves (Mrs. Dalloway would be proud), the salon’s signature cake, and finish your tea with a plate of assorted cookies and chocolate-covered strawberries.
The St. Regis San Francisco in San Francisco
Every St. Regis serves afternoon tea, and the menu at the San Francisco spot is unique to its location. Tea is served in the Lobby Bar of this lavish hotel, and guests can enjoy loose-leaf teas by Ito En like Earl Grey, Ceylon breakfast, and fresh mint. The plates are intended to reflect San Francisco’s dynamic culinary scene and some are served with paired teas. Nosh on a Kaisen sashimi salad while you sip a Honyama Sencha tea. Or drink Egyptian chamomile tea while you dig into an apple elderberry pie.
The Fairmont Olympic in Seattle
The Fairmont Olympic’s on-site AAA Four Diamond award-winning restaurant The Georgian also hosts a charming afternoon tea. One highlight here is the 1907 Blend, a custom black tea blend with hints of oak cask and a dusting of delicate citrus in celebration of The Fairmont’s centennial anniversary. The hotel also offers classic chamomile in addition to dynamic brews like cherry rose. As you sip, feast on mixed berries; scones; finger sandwiches like honey bacon, lettuce, and tomato layered on rosemary bread; and creative sweets such as a minty lemon éclair. If you’ve got younger ones with you, this hotel even offers a kid’s tea menu.
The Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary, N.C.
Umstead Hotel and Spa visitors can enjoy high tea accompanied by sandwiches, scones, and sweets in the afternoons from Wednesday through Sunday. Tea is served in the elegant and modern lobby (the centerpiece is an ornate glass sculpture), and tea drinkers can expect to listen to a live harpist as they enjoy themselves. Sip on everything from classic Earl Grey to daring pomegranate acai from the tea menu that lists the caffeine level of the all the options. Fare here includes traditional teatime accompaniments like chicken salad and cream cheese panna cotta sandwiches, buttermilk scones, and sweets such as teacakes and macaroons. If you’d really like to celebrate, consider ordering a glass of champagne, too.