World’s 10 Best Spots for Afternoon Tea

Courtesy of Sarabeth's

Dating back to the mid-1800s, the tradition of afternoon tea was first introduced by the aristocracy of England and its colonies. Since then, the formal meal has infiltrated the world’s most elite hotels, historic museums, and kitschy patisseries, allowing the masses to enjoy decadent three-tiered servings of finger sandwiches, tiny cakes, and strawberries with Devonshire cream. As an alternative to holiday cocktails, warm-up with afternoon tea at one of our recommended locales, from traditional luxury hotels to homey, rustic cafes.

By Allyson Rees

The Orangery at Kensington Gardens

Where: London, England

Built in 1704, The Orangery, or “greenhouse” in the gardens at Kensington Palace is a light-filled venue with floor-to-ceiling windows and white-washed stone floors, the ideal setting for traditional English tea. Guests can choose from the English Orangery Afternoon Tea or the Royal Tea—which comes accompanied by a glass of Laurent-Perrier Brut or Rosé Spumante. We recommend a stroll through the gardens to walk off the food coma and Champagne buzz.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s London Guide

Tea & Sympathy

WHERE: New York City, New York

Tucked into a tiny shop in Greenwich Village, Tea & Sympathy is owned by English husband and wife duo Sean Kavanagh-Dowsett and Nicky Perry. The couple recreates the quintessential English tea market with items that are hard to find stateside—think Heinz baked beans and Cadbury chocolate. Next door, guests can enjoy a homemade afternoon tea of rhubarb crumble, custard, and orange scones, served on shabby-chic, mismatched floral china.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s New York City Guide

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The Getty Villa

WHERE: Malibu, California

Situated atop a hill in Malibu, The Getty Villa museum recreates an ancient Roman country house and gardens, and the afternoon tea is consistent with the Mediterranean theme. Aptly named “Tea by the Sea,” the serving consists of Italian-inspired dishes like scones with mascarpone and honey, duck-and-apple chutney panini, mortadella-buttermilk biscuits, and pesto crostini. Guests dine while overlooking the authentically recreated Roman gardens, with Pacific Ocean waves roaring in the distance.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Malibu Guide

Jen Bray Photogaphy/Shutterstock 

Eastern & Oriental Hotel

WHERE: Penang, Malaysia

Known as “The E&O” to generations of travellers who have stayed there, The Eastern & Oriental Hotel historically represents Malaysia’s British Colonial era and is situated directly on the coast of the Malacca Strait. The hotel’s afternoon tea is traditionally English, featuring blue and white porcelain tea sets and crisp white tablecloths. Though the sweets shine, with intricately decorated petit fours, raspberry-topped macaroons, and chocolate-covered strawberries, the hallmark of the meal is the old-world service and tradition of a bygone era.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Malaysia Guide

Courtesy of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts

The Grand Empress Hotel

WHERE: Victoria, Canada

Boasting its very own blend of tea with components from Assam, Kenya, South India, and China, The Fairmont Grand Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia, is undoubtedly one of the world’s most luxurious afternoon tea experiences. The dining room is richly outfitted with hand-carved tables, chintz fabrics, antique tapestries, and wingback chairs, and guests can gaze at the city’s bustling Inner Harbor as they sip Kir Royales and sample rose petal-accented shortbread.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Victoria Guide

Cafe Liberty, Liberty of London

WHERE: London, England

Easily the most fashionable pick on our list, Liberty of London is England’s retail gem, and the store’s restaurant, Café Liberty is a chic, yet casual extension of the brand. Take a break from browsing the world’s trendiest, avant-garde fashion and Liberty’s iconic fabrics with the Perrier Jouët Tea, or keep it simple with the Cream Tea—a smaller selection of scones, jam, and Cornish clotted cream.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s London Guide

Erawan Tea Room

WHERE: Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok’s poshest mall, Erawan offers an afternoon tea oasis in the middle of crowded boutiques. The Tea Room serves up Thai takes on traditional tea, like steamed flower-shaped dumplings filled with crab, roasted coconut, and ginger in a crispy pastry or chicken-curry puffs. Sweeter options include mango sticky rice, sweet bean petit fours and sesame cookies. Guests can choose to have tea served hot or cold, a necessary option when dealing with Bangkok’s high temperatures.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Bangkok Guide

Courtesy of Sarabeth's 

Sarabeth’s

WHERE: New York City, New York

Thanks to multiple locations in Manhattan and the restaurant’s daily service, afternoon tea at New York City institution Sarabeth’s is always an option. Indulge in pastries and comfort food, like Maine lobster rolls, chicken salad, and Black Forest ham finger sandwiches, and splurge on Sarabeth’s peerless cocktails—the Bloody Mary and Bellini are the restaurant’s most popular.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s New York City Guide

Courtesy of The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

The Huntington Library & Gardens

WHERE: San Marino, California

After touring the expansive botanical gardens, lily pond, and conservatory at the lush Huntington Library, patrons can get comfortable in the tea room overlooking the historic rose gardens. Ideal for those with larger appetites, afternoon tea at the Huntington is served buffet-style, allowing diners to choose from an unlimited portion of freshly-baked scones, tiny cakes, delicate sandwiches, and fine cheeses.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Pasadena Guide

Courtesy of Claridge's, A Maybourne Hotel

Claridge’s Hotel

WHERE: London, England

The pièce de résistance is afternoon tea at Claridge’s in London’s Mayfair district. The hotel has received numerous Awards of Excellence by the Tea Guild for its presentation of quintessential English specialties like raisin and apple scones, Cornish clotted cream, and Marco Polo jelly. What’s more, Claridge’s offers a special Children’s Tea. Kids can snack on vanilla fairy cakes and chocolate brownies while parents sip champagne.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s London Guide

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