The ritual of afternoon tea is one that is steeped in tradition, but not every service is created equal. For those who want a little twist with their cup and scone, we’ve gathered a sampling of the rare tea services available in the States and across the pond. From rock ’n’roll to high art, sit back, sip away and always remember — pinky out.
The Royal Horseguards Hotel — Rolling Scones
Although tea usually carries with it a more formal presence, there’s no rule that says it can’t be accompanied by a little rock ’n’ roll. In honor of The Rolling Stones’ 50th anniversary, London’s The Royal Horseguards Hotel will embrace both rock and a love for wordplay with the Rolling Scones afternoon tea. Drawing inspiration from the band’s history, the afternoon tea menu will include such goodies as Rock n’ Rolls and Sandwiches, Keith’s Coconut Macaroons and the lip-smacking Lickin Lips Cakes (designed after the band’s logo). The treats, created by hotel pastry chef Joanne Todd, can be accompanied by teas such as Wild Encounter, a blend of hibiscus and dried fruits, and will be available for booking on the hotel’s website just in time for the summer festival season — June 24 through 30. Even Jagger can get satisfaction out of that.
The Plaza Hotel — Fitzgerald Tea for the Ages
It doesn’t matter whether you’re from East or West Egg or even if the spines of your library books aren’t cracked yet, this Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotel in New York City will play host to your dreams of an elegant Gatsby-inspired afternoon tea. The Plaza Hotel’s Palm Court, a truly graceful room with its shining stained-glass lay light and intricately-carved pillars, has been the scene for various novels and films, but F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is the most notable. Paying homage to the jet-setting couple of F. Scott and his wife Zelda, who were patrons of The Plaza Hotel during their heyday, the afternoon tea menu is full of Roaring Twenties-inspired fare such as the sweet Pate de Fruit with Gin Rickey Sugar, the Jazz Age chocolate bon bon, and the savory smoked salmon, wild sturgeon and deviled quail egg salad.
Bea’s of Bloomsbury
This trio of London shops (the original Bloomsbury location opened in 2008 and has since expanded with St. Paul and Maltby Street stores) is for tea seekers with a serious sweet tooth. The wide range of cakes and cupcakes, including decadent German chocolate cake, fresh lemon berry cheesecake and tiramisu cupcakes, sets the stage for a seriously full stomach, but there’s more fun to be had than just gorging one’s self (although with confections such as these, that’s plenty fun). The shops have held pop-up tea parties in London parks, Mad Hatter tea parties (with “Eat Me” and “Drink Me” delights) and are currently hosting outdoor movie nights with fun classics such as Edward Scissorhands, Groundhog Day and The Goonies. It’s not all sweets, however, Bea’s has a daily-changing menu of farm-fresh fare such as roast squash with chili and pomegranate molasses, a Brie, cranberry compote and rocket sandwich and pasta baked with roasted squash and feta.
The Merrion — Art Tea
Afternoon tea is a classy affair on its own, but combined with high art, the ritual overflows in elegance. Dublin’s The Merrion Hotel looks to 19th- and 20th-century art to create completely unique treats inspired by artists such as J.B. Yeats, William Scott and Louis le Brocquy. While losing yourself in the hotel’s extensive art compilation or paging through The Merrion art collection catalogue as you sip, the pastry chef will present three artsy desserts from the menu including “Roses and Temple, Patrick Hennessy” (rosewater and orange mousse on a white chocolate feuilletine), “The Hour of Sleep, Jack B Yeats” (sour apple and caramel mousse) and “Self Portrait 1912, Saurin Elizabeth Leech” (lime sponge, orange chiboust and lemon jelly curd).
Photos Courtesy of VFM Leonardo INC, Beas Of Bloomsbury, Guoman Hotels, The Plaza Hotel