10 Afternoon Tea Spots Across the Country

From tea and finger sandwiches served in the traditional English style to cakes and scones with a Mediterranean twist, here are some of the best spots across the country to lift your pinkie.
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Photo By: Beth Furgurson ©copyright beth furgurson

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Pinkie Up

Think high tea and afternoon tea are interchangeable? There is, in fact, a difference. Afternoon tea started as a social snack break for the upper classes in England between meals. High tea came about for the working classes as an evening meal that might serve as a dinner replacement. The traditional British afternoon tea consisted of tea, bread, cheese and even meat — typically served at leisure to guests on sofas. High tea was traditionally eaten at the table. So no matter what you call it, or where you choose to lift your pinkie, we’ve rounded up some of the best options for teatime.

New York City: The Palm Court

Feel like Eloise in The Palm Court at the legendary Plaza Hotel, where afternoon tea has been served for more than 100 years. Chef and Food Network star Geoffrey Zakarian is the culinary director for this elegant meal that features custom tableware and Bernardaud china made exclusively for The Plaza. The spread includes lox and bagels with pickled cucumber, cream cheese and house-cured pickles, as well as deviled organic egg salad with dill pickle relish. One thing that has changed since tea service began? Vegan and gluten-free menus are now available for tea lovers with dietary restrictions.

Photo by Daniel Krieger

Miami: The Biltmore Hotel

The setting at The Biltmore Hotel is as impressive as the tea spread. Built in the early 1900s, the hotel features hand-painted frescos on vaulted ceilings, as well as travertine floors and fine marble columns. Tea is served in the lobby, Wednesday through Sunday, accompanied by live harp music. Finger sandwiches include the tropics-inspired turkey with guava jam, as well as classic cucumber, and ham and cheese roulade.

Los Angeles: Getty Villa

Stop by the Getty Villa for a dose of tea and culture. On Thursdays and Saturdays, the 1 p.m. tea service puts an ancient Roman spin on tradition, thanks to its setting in the Villa's exquisitely replicated first-century Roman gardens. The menu features Mediterranean-inspired selections, including savory panini, sweet scones and tea breads, and gourmet cakes and tarts, with a wide assortment of teas. Afterward, tour the vast grounds with a Villa docent, and check out the culinary-inspired garden tour, which features many of the menu ingredients.

Richmond: The Jefferson Hotel

In the iconic Jefferson Hotel, which opened in 1895, you can enjoy pastries, scones and finger sandwiches next to a marble statue of Thomas Jefferson, beneath the Tiffany stained glass of the Palm Court lobby. Special tea events are held monthly, including a Teddy Bear Tea (bring your favorite stuffed companion) and a Chocolate Lover’s Tea.

Milwaukee: Pfister Hotel

At the Pfister Hotel, tea is served in the 23rd-floor lounge with panoramic views of Milwaukee and Lake Michigan. You’ll also get tableside tea blending (with Rishi Tea from nearby) presented in all-silver service, including a replica of an 18th-century self-tipping teapot by a Pfister Tea Butler. Yes, there's a butler, who provides education on the varieties of tea, their countries of origin and their unique flavors; you can also get advice on which to choose to affect mood and health.

Seattle: Queen Mary Tea Room

There’s an air of Victorian elegance at Queen Mary Tea Room, where the main event is served on English bone china, amid delicate lace and rich wainscoting. All of the authentic dishes are homemade and individually prepared with the freshest ingredients, plus afternoon tea is served all day, meaning there's no need to wait until after lunch.

Washington, D.C.: The Willard InterContinental

The Willard InterContinental has hosted almost every U.S. president since 1853, so it’s no surprise that tea service here has been a see-and-be-seen experience for more than 150 years. Afternoon tea is set up in Peacock Alley, the hotel’s luxurious main corridor. A harpist sets the score for the event, which includes tea and sandwiches; you can enjoy the house-smoked salmon club on pumpernickel bread, the organic orange-scented chicken mousse on walnut and raisin bread, and more.

Dallas: Dallas Arboretum

Turn tea into a garden party at the historic DeGolyer House in the Dallas Arboretum. Tea service includes soup, tea sandwiches and sweets, as well as scones with clotted cream and jam. Allow time to enjoy the gardens after your tea, as the price of your dining experience includes general admission.

Chicago: The Allis

Make your afternoon tea a sparkling one at The Allis, a lounge and bar with an expansive art collection and views of Green Street through floor-to-ceiling windows. The historic building was constructed in 1907 and is now home to a burgeoning breakfast and lunch spot. Afternoon tea features finger sandwiches, scones, a selection of fancy cakes, tea of your choice and rosé Prosecco.

Newport, R.I.: Castle Hill Inn

Looking to expand high tea into a Vanderbilt-worthy extravaganza? Tea at the Castle Hill Inn, on the Newport waterfront, is exclusive to hotel guests. The Inn rolls out the aristocratic flourishes, particularly around the holidays. The hotel's elegant tearoom is perfect for gazing out at the water, with your choice of more than 25 teas, along with sandwiches, desserts and pastries.

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