Afternoon tea emerged sometime between the 1830’s and 1840’s. So says the book A Social History of Tea by Jane Pettigrew, the well–known tea historian. Since lunch was light, and dinner no earlier than 7:30 pm, it was that pleasant bit of sustenance in mid–day. It was sometimes called “Low Tea” because of the low chairs and tables. The offerings have not changed much over time, consisting of crustless finger sandwiches, scones, cakes, and other nibbles, in addition to a full complement of teas. It was very much a part of the fabric of the time, and has lasted, in various forms and in many countries, through today.
Generally beginning sometime after 3 p.m., afternoon tea in New York City runs the gamut, from the formal to the funky, some with a bit of an ethnic twist and some designed specifically for kids. Some require sophisticated casual attire and others are just plain casual. Held in hotels and restaurants, they conjure up images of days gone by. But in fact, it is a wonderful break in our modern-day life, when friends can meet without the time and commitment of dinner, or without the noise you might find having a drink in a bar. It is a time and place where the frenetic urban air is left at the door. We’ve picked out fifteen places, in no particular order, for you to have your afternoon tea, and hope you will add to our list with your favorites.
1. Astor Court at the St. Regis Hotel
Traditional afternoon tea is served in the elegant Astor Court dining area, surrounded by murals and in view of the famed King Cole Salon. Sweets and savories, with a wide selection of tea’s are served from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., and there is often a harpist. The Beaux-Arts St. Regis Hotel was completed in 1904 and designated a City Landmark in 1988. Located at 2 East 55th Street.