Get ready for the best afternoon tea spots around the world!
There are few experiences that make a woman feel as beautiful, elegant, graceful, and confident as afternoon tea. It’s not hard to see why. Afternoon tea is glamour and sophistication at its finest.
For centuries, tea rooms have been a meeting place for women to gossip, get support from their girlfriends, and mastermind their next bold move to take over the world. But, when the conversations start getting too serious, that’s when we sweeten it up with dainty desserts and champagne.
Sure, you could just order a cup of tea and a muffin from your local café and call it a day but is it the same as getting dolled up to enjoy an afternoon of decadent cakes, pastries, and tea sandwiches? I think not… Just ask any over the top girly girl out there and they’ll tell you it’s worth every pretty penny.
Now, tell me you don’t love afternoon tea? 😉
Follow along for some of the most Instagram worthy afternoon tea services across the world and learn more about the history of afternoon tea.
History of Afternoon Tea
I won’t assume that you came to this blog already an afternoon tea aficionado. In case you’re a first timer…
What is Afternoon Tea?
The afternoon tea we’ve come to know and love started in British high society in the mid-1800s. It was a cute and classy way for ladies to munch before dinner, typically between 3:00 and 4:00 PM.
No doubt, these fabulous women invented “extra”. Naturally, ladies of the 20th and 21st centuries would follow their lead, including yours truly.
High tea on the other hand, did not start out so fancy.
What is the Difference Between High Tea and Afternoon Tea
You may have heard of “high tea” and confused it with “afternoon tea”. No worries, the terms are often used interchangeably and are easy to confuse. I’ll tell you what high tea is not… a cup of tea to get high from. Sorry if I disappointed anyone.
You’ll find lighter, daintier fare eaten with fingers at afternoon tea which includes but is not limited to scones, tea sandwiches, tea cakes, petit fours and champagne or cocktails, making it a far more formal event than high tea, especially if you’re going to a tea room at a nice, luxury hotel, parlor or restaurant.
On the other hand, high tea is more like a dinner and a bit hardier, so you’ll find more meat, potatoes and vegetables, which are eaten with silverware. Much like lobster, (which back in the day was a poor man’s food), high tea was mostly served to workers who, after a hard day’s work would eat while standing or seated on a stool, hence “high tea”.
What’s Your Tea Style?
If the thought of etiquette and dressing up is too intimidating for you, you can also enjoy afternoon tea in a more casual or relaxed setting such as a spa, where you can lounge in your bathrobe. If this appeals to you, I have just the afternoon tea spot for you! Read on…
I personally like to dress up and enjoy my afternoon tea in a more glamorous atmosphere, but that’s just me. You do you, go wherever makes you feel comfortable.
Just in case you’re wondering if afternoon tea is only for women… Not in the least. I’ve been on many an afternoon tea date.
Different Types of Afternoon Tea
You might wonder, how long is a typical afternoon tea service? For as long or short as you want it to be. Depends on how lavish your spread is. There are a few different types of afternoon tea:
- Cream Tea
Tea with scones and clotted cream
- Light Tea
Tea with scones, clotted cream and more sweets
- Full Tea
Tea with scones, clotted cream, sweets and savory tea sandwiches
- Royal Tea (a.k.a. “Champagne Afternoon Tea”)
Tea with scones, clotted cream, sweets, savory tea sandwiches and champagne or a cocktail
In case you’re wondering, I always go for Royal Tea. Go big or go home my friends. 😉
Historically, afternoon tea was held in small rooms across England. Therefore, it was necessary to have multi-tiered trays as a way to fit everything on the table.
Tea Ceremonies Are Different Around the World
When we think of “afternoon tea”, our minds instantly go to British culture.
As the story goes, Anna Russell, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, introduced the concept at her country estate in the 19th century after complaining of a “sinking feeling” in between lunch and dinner. The rest is history.
However, it would be silly not to acknowledge that tea ceremonies had already been enjoyed by other cultures around the world for thousands of years prior. What I find fascinating is each countries’ variation of tea ceremonies as well as the different names and meanings each culture has for it.
Having been born and raised in the US, I have a strong appreciation for the significant meaning that other cultures place on tea. While tea is just another beverage to Americans, for many other countries, it’s a ritualistic ceremony passed down from generations to encourage wellness and wellbeing.
For example, Japan’s tea ceremony is called sadō/chadō (茶道, ‘The Way of Tea’) or chanoyu (茶の,‘Hot Water for Tea’) and takes place in a traditional Japanese tea house on a tatami mat, where matcha tea is artfully made and served to guests.
The Best Afternoon Tea Spots Around the World
While Japan is still high up on my adventure list, I do have some afternoon tea spots I’ve collected in other parts of the world. Naturally, because I am an afternoon tea addict, I will continue to add to this list, so save this blog for later. Leave a comment if there’s a place you think I should try!
Best Afternoon Tea in the US
In the US, we tend to lean more toward England’s afternoon tea. Some tea rooms across the nation even honor other cultures, like Cha An, which I share in a bit.
New York City Afternoon Tea
- Cha An | New York City
This NYC tea house is inspired by the traditional Japanese tea houses in Japan. Based on movies and pictures I’ve seen of Japanese teahouses, Cha An’s atmosphere felt very authentic.
After sitting down for Cha An’s Tamatebako Afternoon Tea, I felt instantly transported to Japan. It only made me want to go there even more! It was a really lovely experience. I enjoyed opening each of the stacked jewel boxes to find tasty treats and matcha laced delicacies.
Each of the three layers held assorted sweet treasures for us to discover such as mini cakes, crème puffs, Japanese cookies, mochi and savory goodies like smoked salmon tea sandwiches. You also have your choice between green tea or hoji tea.
The whole experience is wonderful. I’ll definitely return because of how unique it is to have a Japanese afternoon tea experience in the US!
Cost: $48+ tax/pp
- Russian Tea Room | New York City
If you’re looking for a flashy afternoon tea experience, Russian Tea Room in NYC is for you. Come before a Broadway show or opera performance at the Met.
What I love most is that they make every guest feel welcome by taking each individual person’s dietary restrictions and preferences into account and offer different afternoon tea options.
When you walk into the main dining room from off the streets of NYC, you’re transfixed on the bold and theatrical atmosphere, which could easily be any of the elegant tea houses in Russia. The setting is nothing short of opulent with gold accents and intricate designs all throughout the space. It lends itself to a very regal feel.
Imagine my reaction at 16, when I walked into this place. I felt like a princess. 🙂
As for the tea service, I remember it being perfectly timed, then again I was an afternoon tea beginner, what do I know. I couldn’t finish all the treats so, they gave me a bag to take it home. Don’t forget to check out their collection of handmade Russian dolls, they’re beautiful.
Cost: Afternoon Tea $95 | Royal Afternoon Tea $130 | Children’s Afternoon Tea $75 | Vegetarian Afternoon Tea $95 | Gluten Free Afternoon Tea $95
In addition to afternoon tea, you can enjoy continental classics like borscht, caviar & vodka. They also offer holiday and specialty menus.
Boston Afternoon Tea
- The Courtyard, Boston Public Library | Boston
For an afternoon you won’t soon forget, head into Boston Public Library, America’s oldest public library, for a one-of-a-kind afternoon tea experience located at The Courtyard. Not only is it reasonably priced, it’s also perfect for couples, friends and even families as the environment is a bit more casual and relaxed. Here, you’ll be given a menu where you can make your tea selection from an actual library book. How cool is that?
The real appeal is in the courtyard outside the library which is nothing short of idyllic. I felt an immediate calm come over me as I walked beside the charming water fountain and looked up to admire the historic architecture.
If you missed afternoon tea, walk to the room adjacent to The Courtyard where you’ll find the steampunk-themed Map Room Tea Lounge which has historic maps of Boston and eccentric vintage oddities on display. A note, they only accept walk-ins and serve light bites and craft cocktails from their “tea bar”.
Cost: $39/pp + $10/glass of prosecco
Reserve The Courtyard here.
- Trifecta, Four Seasons | Boston
After TikTok teased me enough, I finally decided to give the glamorous (and highly priced) afternoon tea at Four Seasons’ Trifecta a try. It did not disappoint in terms of service, lavish interior design or a relaxing vibe. I also really appreciated being served my champagne early as I waited for a friend to arrive. What it did lack however, is that certain “oomph” that would have justified being the most expensive afternoon tea in Boston. It did at least, come with a liqueur pairing and a glass of champagne.
See full menu here.
Call to reserve: (617) 936-4876
- The Langham | Boston
This was my first afternoon tea experience in Boston and one of my favorites. Sadly, since undergoing a renovation, they no longer serve afternoon tea at this Langham location. However, other Langham hotel locations around the world do and I highly recommend you give them a try. They are the crème de la crème of hotels and so is their afternoon tea service, literally. 😉
- Abigail’s Tea Room | Boston
For an experience that matches Boston’s historical past, don’t miss a fun, tasty and educational afternoon of tea and tasty treats at The Boston Tea Party Museum. During Valentine’s Day, they even read love letters that were exchanged between John and Abigail Adams, for whom the tea room is named after.
Don’t expect a fancy display. This is more of a café where they offer tea and sweets to purchase a la carte. It’s a unique experience you won’t find anywhere else.
- Rowes Wharf Grill, Boston Harbor Hotel | Boston
If you can only visit one Boston afternoon spot on this list, this is it. Not only do you get to experience the beautiful Boston Harbor from your table, you get to enjoy a wonderful afternoon tea in a cheerful room full of natural lighting and nautical, New England style interior throughout.
Cost: $75/pp, $85/pp w/ champagne
On a side note, if you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Boston, you won’t be disappointed with Boston Harbor hotel which exudes luxury and elegance in a very understated and relaxed manner. You can even add custom touches to make it a romantic getaway, such as chocolate strawberries and champagne which you can have brought to your room.
- Mandarin Oriental | Boston
Mandarin Oriental has long been respected for its commitment to providing stellar service in the luxury hotel space. This 5-star hotel brand is also known for having one of the top afternoon teas in each of its given cities, including Boston, who does not miss a beat when it comes to presentation. Their tea cakes and sandwiches are displayed on a multi-level tray with Chinese accents, a nod to their roots in Hong Kong.
Get ready to enjoy a tasty selection of sweet and savory tea cakes and sandwiches as well as tea and champagne in the hotel’s lobby. During the Winter months, they offer a spectacular champagne afternoon tea amidst holiday décor and a cozy fireplace!
Call hotel to reserve: (617) 535-8888
Alright, what we’ve all been waiting for. Let’s hear it for the original founders of afternoon tea…
Best Afternoon Tea in England
If you ever get a chance, don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful and elegant tea rooms across London, which have some of the most fabulous afternoon tea services I’ve ever experienced. Nobody does afternoon tea like London, I mean nobody. 😉
London Afternoon Tea
- Rotunda, Four Seasons | London
Did I mention that London does afternoon tea the best? Just waltz into the Four Seasons, take a seat at one of the tables in the center of the room overlooking the pianist and tell me I’m wrong. There is a grand feel to the tea room that makes you feel like you’re a celebrity.
The music was very soothing, especially as I sipped my tea and champagne while dabbling into the artfully crafted sweets and finger sandwiches. There was also a very enchanting ambience that lit the room, which made me feel instantly relaxed. I highly recommend for the reasonable price. You get more than what you pay for. Live music from 2 – 5:00 PM.
- ESPA Life Spa, Corinthia Hotel | London
What’s better than afternoon tea at the spa? After spending the afternoon getting pampered with a massage, going to the pool, sauna and trying out all of ESPA’s other amazing amenities, I almost forgot that it was time for tea. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, it did. Your experience is enhanced by the unknown. That’s what makes ESPA Life my favorite afternoon tea of all time.
The tea room is bright and spacious with an edgy glass ceiling and all white interior decor, which blends elegant and modern furnishings for a unique design. What brings it all together is the cozy rock bed fireplace, which adds warmth and much needed ambience to the tea lounge.
My friend and I enjoyed lounging around in our spa robes during our afternoon tea service with hair still wet from our massage treatment and swimming in the pool.
Cost: £65/pp, £75/pp w/ champagne
Reserve by calling +44 (0) 20 7321 3050 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Promenade, The Dorchester Hotel | London
This is another one of my favorites! Located in The Dorchester Hotel, The Promenade welcomes you in like you’re going to a garden party at Buckingham Palace. I was very cozy while enjoying my tea and goodies as I sat back in the tall, cushioned seats with pillows.
The interior décor is beautiful and compliments the afternoon tea service wonderfully.
That’s a Wrap!
Help me add to my list! Where should I go next? What are some of your favorite high tea spots? Comment below!
Thank you so much for being apart of this journey with me! I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you.
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Until next time… keep it real.
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Good question Henry. Yes, absolutely! Men go to afternoon tea! I’ve been taken on dates there plenty of times. Guys like to dress up and feel sophisticated too. 😉
Do men ever go to afternoon tea? I’ve been interested in going to tea, but have never done so. Maybe, I’m just channeling thoughts of spending time with the Mad Hatter.