Rooted in the 19th-century English aristocracy, the practice of afternoon tea –- which starts with finger sandwiches, transitions to scones with clotted cream and jam, and finishes with elaborate pastries –- has gracefully traversed the Atlantic and garnered a warm welcome across the diverse landscapes of the United States.
The beauty of afternoon tea lies not only in the delectable offerings but also in the ritual accompanying it. As the fragrant steam rises from a carefully-brewed teapot, one is transported to a world where time slows down, thus allowing for the appreciation of life's simple pleasures. Tea rooms and hotels have embraced this quintessentially British tradition and infused it with its own unique charm. And since America is a melting pot of cultures, you can also find plenty of afternoon tea spots that have nothing to do with the Brits and instead pay homage to the fine tea traditions present in countries like Russia and Japan. So, let's take a look at which establishments provide the best afternoon tea experiences across the U.S., based on personal experience and professional and Google reviews.
Palm Court At The Plaza In New York, NY
Afternoon tea at The Plaza might just be the pinnacle of the classic tea experience on this side of the Atlantic. You can choose menu options ranging from the Manhattan Tea, Plaza Signature Tea, or, for the little ones, the Eloise Tea, named after the children's books.
Each menu will have all the trappings of a fine English afternoon tea, all served in the grand setting of the Palm Court. The tea selection is courtesy of Palais des Thés, but there is also plenty of bubbly on hand -- otherwise, it wouldn't be proper afternoon tea. Expect typical finger sandwiches with a twist, like a trusty cucumber with mint labneh, tarragon, and pickled mustard seeds.
768 5th Ave, New York, NY 10019
Astra In The St. Regis In San Francisco, CA
If you're after a traditional British setting for your afternoon tea, this is not quite it, but it should also not be dismissed. The signature tea experience comes with a wooden box containing glass vials of tea, from which you can choose the special blend you want to try.
But mostly, you'll want to go for the seasonal afternoon tea menu devised to suit holidays or special events, such as the Lunar New Year afternoon tea. Either way, you'll be treated to exquisite TEALEAVES tea tailor-made to suit the St. Regis' high standards, with options including Pu-Erh Tou Cha, Imperial Dragonwell, Organic Jasmine Pearl, or Iron Goddess of Mercy.
125 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94105
Camellias At Hotel Bennett In Charleston, SC
Afternoon tea is all about old-world pleasures. It helps us imagine we're in a faraway land from long ago, living the life of an aristocratic figure. Surely, drinking tea must be what they did all day. Luckily, Charleston, with its genteel Southern ways, is the perfect setting to facilitate this type of imaginative play. Such is especially true at Camellias, located in the Hotel Bennett.
The champagne lounge is an ideal spot for afternoon tea, also because what better drink is there than bubbly to kick off such an event? Just don't dress in pink from head to toe, or you might end up blending into your surroundings -- never to be seen again.
404 King St, Charleston, SC 29403
Tipsy Tea Party At The Gwen Hotel In Chicago, IL
While most afternoon tea events are tranquil and sometimes subdued affairs, the Tipsy Tea Party at the Gwen Hotel in Chicago is anything but. First of all, as the name suggests, the booze takes center stage, although the tea remains an integral part of the afternoon. Second, and most shockingly, there is also a live DJ present in the room.
The most fun part, though, is the cocktails. Unlike your usual afternoon tea, which comes with a glass of sparkling wine to kick things off, the Tipsy Tea Party provides you with a whole host of fun tea-based cocktails to choose from, such as the Getaway Car: a warm and fuzzy combination of bourbon, lemon, and oolong tea.
521 N Rush St, Chicago, IL 60611
Le Salon At The Windsor Court Hotel In New Orleans, LA
A hotel named The Windsor Court is bound to evoke the aristocratic feel of a proper afternoon tea. Aside from the royal name, the decor is traditionally English with a touch of Southern charm, and live harp or piano music can be heard at any given time.
Expect the afternoon to unfold in an equally traditional way. Tea begins with a glass of sparkling wine or a light cocktail, followed by your tea of choice, along with finger sandwiches. Next in line are the scones, which can be enjoyed with cream and jam, and finally, a selection of sophisticated desserts. Up the ante by choosing one of many themed teas, like the Mad Hatter or Mardi Gras teas.
300 Gravier St, New Orleans, LA 70130
The Russian Tea Room In New York, NY
If you don't think you'll have time to grab dinner before your show at nearby Carnegie Hall, afternoon tea at the Russian Tea Room is the ideal option. That way, you can while away the afternoon and take time your time to enjoy your meal without having to rush to catch the next showtime.
Founded in 1927 by members of the Russian Imperial Ballet, this iconic establishment has been going strong for almost 100 years, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner in addition to afternoon tea. This might also be one of the few places where you can add caviar to your uniquely Russian tea experience.
150 W 57th St, New York, NY 10019
The Dandelion In Philadelphia, PA
British cuisine may not be as well-known as Asian or Indian food. But that has changed very much over the years with the rise of the British gastropub and, of course, the proliferation of afternoon tea. The Dandelion in Philadelphia does both meals well, especially when enjoyed in its beautiful Victorian-style dining room.
Order the traditional afternoon tea experience with the typical sandwiches, scones, and pastries -- also known as A Royal Occasion. Or you can keep it light and simple by just ordering the sandwiches -- or sticking to the pastries. The tea selection is short but sweet, courtesy of Teapigs.
124 S 18th St, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Willard Peacock Alley Tea In Washington D.C.
Although afternoon tea can easily be made entirely vegetarian -- as it's often made up of cucumber sandwiches and meat-free pastries anyway -- it hardly ever is. This is not the case for the Willard Peacock Alley Tea at the Hotel Intercontinental in Washington, D.C., where there is a delightful vegetarian afternoon tea menu, as well as options for a vegan-only or omnivorous affair. The various teas are provided by the J'enwey Tea Company and the scones are baked fresh every day.
Sipping tea at the Williard is an afternoon treat dating back to the 1920s. Snacking on sandwiches and enjoying the company of your friends will make you feel like you're stepping back into history.
1401 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20004
Lady Mendl's Tea Salon In New York, NY
While most afternoon teas are technically three-course affairs -- between the sandwiches, scones, and pastries -- the one at Lady Mendl's Tea Salon is a whopping five courses. The additional dishes consist of soup or salad to start, then crepês served between the scones and the pastries.
If you still have room after all of this, plus the requisite tea, start the afternoon with a fine glass of sparkling wine or a cocktail with a whimsical name, like the Butterfly Effect or the Rose Petal Fizz. This is the ideal spot and menu for a restful afternoon event with friends or a low-key baby shower.
56 Irving Pl, New York, NY 10003
The Living Room At Peninsula Beverly Hills In Beverly Hills, CA
If you can only pick one place for afternoon tea while in Los Angeles, let it be the Living Room at the Peninsula Hotel Beverly Hills. While many establishments that offer afternoon tea only do so on the weekend, the Living Room offers this service every day of the week.
This location takes afternoon tea very seriously. The sandwiches, to start, amp up traditional fare by adding exquisite new ingredients, like caviar on the smoked salmon sandwich or mint and pumpernickel bread to the cucumber sandwich. And the pastries are just as ingenious, including the decadent three chocolate cake or the peanut caramel cupcake.
9882 S Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90212
Brown Palace In Denver, CO
Denver may be more closely associated with the historic lawlessness of the Wild West than the civility of an afternoon tea. But times have changed, and the Brown Palace can whip up as good an afternoon tea as any the King might enjoy back in Britain. In fact, the Devonshire cream provided with a plate of Brown Palace's scones comes directly from merry England.
Even so, many ingredients used to prepare the food are local and seasonal, including the honey, which comes from the hotel's rooftop bee colonies. Order the Brown Palace Signature Tea for a booze-free option, or go for the teas that come with Chandon or Veuve Clicquot Champagnes.
321 17th St, Denver, CO 80202
The Courtyard Tea Room In Boston, MA
Afternoon tea is a relaxed affair, which is why it works well with the vibe of the Courtyard Tea Room inside the Boston Public Library -- which we consider one of the most relaxing places on Earth. You hardly notice that you're actually in the city's bustling center.
Order your tea from a vast selection of high-quality varieties and complement it with a craft cocktail, as this establishment provides some exciting propositions. The Perfect Pair will complete your tea dreams with its house-made matcha liquor, matcha powder, and coconut creme, while the Snowbird will keep you bright and spritely with its mandarin-infused bourbon, orange cranberry sugar water, Disaronno Amaretto, fresh lime juice, and ginger beer.
700 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02116
Emperor Georgiu's Tea Room In Portland, OR
This afternoon tea experience is out of this world -- not just because the fare is incredible. While themed afternoon teas abound, especially for children, many of them tend to be Disney-related or inspired by literature. Finally, Emperor Georgiu's Tea Room –- which is a queer, black, and neurodivergent-owned business -– brings us a Star Trek-inspired afternoon tea.
As you can imagine, this is not your typical afternoon tea experience. This tea room, which is named after a Star Trek character, offers the Emperor's Tea service -- which includes a bottomless pot of tea, toasted crumpets, a chai spice scone, sage and white bean finger sandwich, and pear upside-down cake. Diners can also substitute items for vegan or gluten-free selections.
8237 N Denver Ave, Portland, OR 97217
The Tea Lounge At The Waldorf Astoria In Las Vegas, NV
If you need to get away from the incessant kitsch of Las Vegas, head to the elegant Tea Lounge at the Waldorf Astoria for one of the most sophisticated dining experiences in Las Vegas. Afternoon tea is available every day on the 23rd floor of the building, which offers beautiful views of the city.
A typical afternoon tea here will come with freshly brewed loose-leaf tea, a host of innovative finger sandwiches, including the curry chicken sandwich on curry turmeric bread or the porchetta with mustard relish mayo on multigrain bread, fresh scones, and petit fours that are as pretty to look at as they are good to eat.
3752 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89158
Gracie's In Portland, OR
Enjoy a stately afternoon tea at Gracie's in Portland. The interior features intricate crown molding, elaborate chandeliers, and other sophisticated touches. The restaurant also offers some very fine custom-blended teas that you won't find anywhere else.
There's the Portland Breakfast, which is as strong as its English counterpart but includes hints of spice and peat. Or there's the Silent Night for those seeking a caffeine-free experience and, indeed, a very silent and restful night. This blend leans heavily into the peppermint flavors, which perfectly match the subdued elements of cinnamon, ginger, and licorice. Oregonian wines are deployed to provide the perfect pairing for the scones, savory sandwiches, and other offerings.
729 SW 15th Ave, Portland, OR 97205
The Tea House On Los Rios In San Juan Capistrano, CA
Given the upscale feel of Orange County, it's hardly a surprise that great spots for afternoon tea abound. The Tea House on Los Rios, located in San Juan Capistrano, is one of these top spots. This family-run operation is conducted out of a renovated cottage, which is a big part of its charm.
Afternoon tea here can come in several forms. There's the Royal Tea, which starts with a fine glass of Veuve Clicquot followed by the usual tea accouterments, plus a mixed green salad and fresh fruit. The Victorian Tea launches with a mimosa or sparkling cider and adds a specialty soup to the mix. Finally, there's a more locally-inspired, alcohol-free Mission Tea.
31731 Los Rios St, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
Brooklyn High Low In New York, NY
Afternoon tea is typically a long and relaxed affair that lasts for well over an hour. For an experience like that, opt for the Classic prefix menu at Brooklyn High Low, which includes high-quality finger sandwiches, scones, and pastries, along with bottomless pots of tea.
But if you're in a hurry but still want your warm beverage, this place has you covered with the quick and easy Cream Tea, served on Fridays between 2 and 5 p.m. This service lasts no longer than 45 minutes, which still leaves you with plenty of time to enjoy a pot of tea, vegetarian sandwiches, and scones.
611 Vanderbilt Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238
The Maybourne In Beverly Hills, CA
Afternoon tea is served on the terrace of The Maybourne Beverly Hills on weekends between 2 and 4 p.m. The experience is fairly traditional, complete Laurent-Perrier Champagne and all the usual trappings, and centered in a sophisticated atmosphere. But it also stands out because of its use of local ingredients, like jam from Los Angeles-based Sqirl.
It should come as no surprise that The Maybourne serves a very fine afternoon tea. After all, its sister hotel, the Claridges in London, is one of the most iconic places in the world for this type of meal and perhaps the place that sets the gold standard.
225 N Canon Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210
The Hermitage Hotel In Nashville, TN
Afternoon tea at The Hermitage Hotel infuses a strong dose of Nashville into the experience without diluting any of the British charm. Visitors can enjoy the Spillin' Tea with Draper James menu, which was inspired by Reese Witherspoon's recipes in her cookbook "Whiskey in a Teacup." It's an aptly named publication to be translated into an afternoon tea menu and was fleshed out with the perfect array of loose-leaf teas, scones, and pastries in mind.
But the theme also changes regularly, so don't be surprised if you run into an entirely different menu next time you go. For example, past themes include a "Bridgerton" style afternoon tea, complete with gossip from Lady Hermitage and fantastic finger sandwiches to boot.
231 6th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37219
The Whitby Hotel In New York, NY
Specialty teas at the Whitby Hotel's afternoon tea range from strong, warm assam chai to tender, bright white peony bai mudan. Caffeine-free options and infusions are also available.
The simple afternoon tea menu is as traditional as it gets, starting with the glass of champagne that sets the tone for the rest of the afternoon. The sandwiches include smoked salmon with crème fraîche, egg salad, English cucumber, and Coronation chicken, while the scones are always accompanied by clotted cream. To go all out, though, order the Royal Tea for Two, which also includes caviar and blinis.
18 W 56th St, New York, NY 10019
Bar Pendry In Chicago, IL
For a great excuse to get boozy on a Sunday morning or early afternoon, book a tea session at Bar Pendry, located in Chicago. This elegant tea service sheds all notions of stuffiness and focuses on a quality experience for visitors. The Bar Pendry offers plenty of high-end tea options courtesy of Rare Cellars Tea and interesting variations on traditional finger sandwiches, like the koji beef carpaccio sandwich on brioche with house-made ricotta.
Since this is a particularly boozy afternoon tea, don't be surprised to find tea-and-alcohol cocktails aplenty, such as the Welcome Home, served hot with Sipsmith Gin, Leblon Cachaça, Jasmine green tea syrup, and lemon.
230 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60601
Cha-An Tea House In New York, NY
The Brits are by no means the only people who know tea. The British developed the palate for tea after bringing it to the Isles from China in the 1600s. So, it's high time we look to Japan when it comes to afternoon tea. To that end, there is Cha-An, a simple but welcoming Japanese tea room in New York.
This tea room offers rotating selections, including the Hojicha afternoon tea. It doesn't resemble anything from a traditional Brisith afternoon tea, which is reason enough to visit. Guests can choose between Japanese roasted green tea or rose green tea, and the food menu includes a hojicha roll cake with fruit and a series of bento-like seasonal dessert boxes. Meanwhile, the savory element includes inari with cucumber and tomato and mini salmon dons.
230 E 9th St, New York, NY, 10003
The restaurants were chosen based on multiple professional reviews of each location and supported by positive Google reviews by patrons. We sought to include establishments across the country and those catering to different budgets and unique experiences.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.