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.
2. Baccarat Hotel New York
Inspired by royal households throughout the world, Baccarat Hotel honors that legacy with afternoon tea held in an open alcove off the Grand Salon. Marriage Frères teas are paired with canapés and petit fours that include mini brioche lobster rolls, smoked salmon with capers and crème fraîche, lemon tartelettes, and much more.
Reservation are required 24 hours in advance at 212-790-8867. Afternoon tea is held daily from 12 p.m. – 4 pm. The Baccarat Hotel is located at 28 West 53rd Street, opposite the Museum of Modern Art.
3. Kings’ Carriage House
You will be surrounded by gilded paintings, crystal chandeliers and antique furnishings while enjoying your afternoon tea at Kings’ Carriage House. Located at 251 East 82nd Street, this adorable two–story brick structure transports you to an English Country House.
Afternoon Tea is offered Tuesday through Sunday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Choose Afternoon Tea or High Tea, which features a luncheon entrée to accompany the lovely three-tier service. If you would prefer to take tea at your home or office, they now offer Afternoon Tea Boxes to go or a fully prepared “Afternoon Tea Party To Go”.
4. The Carlyle Hotel
Afternoon Tea at the Carlyle Hotel is held in the Gallery, which is inspired by the Sultan’s dining room at the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul and was designed by legendary decorator Renzo Mongiardino. The elegant three-tier service offers a modern take on afternoon tea, with tasty bites like Hudson Valley foie gras torchon and house-made pâtés, as well as scones with Devonshire cream and pastries.
Located at 35 East 76th Street, on the ground floor, the hours are from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. daily. If you go, be sure to take a peek at the beautiful murals inside Bemelmans Bar, one of the best bars in New York City where a drink is served with a work of art.
5. The Palm Court at The Plaza Hotel
The Palm Court at the Plaza Hotel offers an afternoon tea for adults and the famous Eloise Tea for kids. The goal is to bring Central Park indoors, while staying true to the original design. Located at Fifth Avenue at Central Park South, the Plaza serves afternoon tea daily from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and they also offer gluten free options upon request.
The Plaza Hotel was designated a City Landmark in 1969 and listed on the Register of Historic Places, and the only NYC hotel to be designated as a National Historic Landmark.
6. The Mandarin Oriental
Stepping off the elevator on the thirty-fifth floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, you will find yourself in the Sky Lobby reception area facing a very impressive Dale Chihuly sculpture rising out of an oriental moss garden. Beyond the sculpture is the Lobby Lounge, where you can sip looseleaf teas with an impressive view of Central Park. The hotel is located at 80 Columbus Circle.
7. Bosie Tea Parlor
Located at 10 Morton Street in the West Village, the Bosie Tea Parlor has a selection of over 100 hand-sourced and blended fine and loose leaf teas. Afternoon Tea is served all day here and they are open seven days a week. Their resident Tea Master, Kiley Holliday, can guide you through the tea menu and as an extra treat, their pastry is baked by Damien Herrgott, a third-generation French Pastry Chef.
8. Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon
Located at 56 Irving Place, you will find two townhouses without the hint of either rooms to rent or a tea salon behind their doors. But when you open the door and enter the parlor, you will find the Inn at Irving Place and Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon. A
fternoon Tea from Wednesday through Friday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., and on the weekends from noon to 5 p.m. is held in this Victorian setting and served on Wedgwood china. Reservations are preferred, and no children under the age of 12 admitted.
9. The Crosby Street Hotel in Soho
Afternoon Tea at the Crosby Street Hotel can be had in either the bar or the terrace. As you might expect at a British-owned hotel, it is quite traditional with a three–tiered tray consisting of nibbles like truffled egg salad and caramelized apple tartelettes. Located at 79 Crosby Street in Soho, the hotel serves afternoon tea beginning at 2 p.m.
10. The Russian Tea Room
Founded by members of the Russian Imperial Ballet in 1927, the Russian Tea Room was opened as a gathering place for Russian expatriates. The restaurant has been sold several times since then, but they are as dedicated to Tea as their name suggests. Afternoon tea comes in many variations including vegetarian, gluten free and a Children’s Tea. Served daily from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 pm.
11. Tea and Sympathy
Tea and Sympathy is like a little bit of England in the middle of the West Village. Afternoon tea is for one, and you must not share. They do offer a vegetarian version upon request. In addition to their restaurant, they have a fabulous shop next door carrying classic British groceries. They are located at 108 Greenwich Avenue.
12. The Gotham Lounge in The Peninsula Hotel
In the heart of the Fifth Avenue Midtown shopping district, you can find afternoon tea in the Gotham Lounge at the Peninsula Hotel. Located at 700 Fifth Avenue, the Peninsula was constructed in 1905 as the Hotel Gotham, going bankrupt just three years later due to its proximity to the Presbyterian church, and the lack of the ability to sell liquor.
Now a member of the luxurious Peninsula brand, the hotel is one of New York’s finest. Afternoon tea is served on the mezzanine level of the lobby from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Reservations are required. Their holiday afternoon tea includes a bottle of Champagne in addition to the usual scones, finger sandwiches, and petit fours. They also have an afternoon tea for children.
13. Bergdorf Goodman’s BG Restaurant
Not just a location for ladies who lunch, BG Restaurant on the seventh floor Bergdorf Goodman also serves afternoon tea. A selection of Damman Frères tea is available and you can upgrade your afternoon tea with a glass of Veuve Cliquot.
Reservations are required and when doing so, you might like to request seating in a pair of their “Whisper” chairs. Afternoon tea is served from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
14. Alice’s Tea Cup
The quirky Alice’s Tea Cup is a favorite choice for afternoon tea. Their devotion to tea shines through with a variety that includes the Mad Hatter Tea Party Menu, the Mad Happy Hour, the Mad Morning Tea, Vegan’s Tea, Gluten Free Tea, Wee Tea for kids and more!
Afternoon Tea is a casual and fun affair served in their Upper West Side and Upper East Side locations. Check individual tea shops for times.
Opening its doors in 2004, the Cha-An Tea House is for lovers of tea and elegant Japanese snacks. The chef is trained in Japanese cooking as well as French pastry making, having apprenticed at Bouley Bakery with short stints at both the Russian Tea Room and Le Bernardin.
Here, in her own shop, she offers a Japanese version of the traditional afternoon tea with matcha and sencha teas as well as avocado toast on homemade Japanese milkbread and sweets like matcha tiramisu. Located at 230 East 9th Street, Cha-An serves afternoon tea from noon to 11 p.m.
You can contact the author at AFineLyne. Additional reporting by Laura Itzkowitz.