If you've never had a proper English-style tea service, you may not realize what you're missing: The ritual involves much, much more than tea. It's a beautifully presented extravagana of pastries and sandwiches, and every place does it a little differently. The best tea services stateside include a stunning assortment of sweet and savory foods (and tea too, of course) that mix classic elements with boldly inventive streaks. Check out these places for an experience that will leave you feeling pampered and transported.
Tres by José Andrés at SLS Hotel, Beverly Hills
Duck into a cozy fireplace-lined nook at Tres by José Andrés, draw the curtains for privacy and prepare for a serious gastronomic adventure. Choose from an impressive selection of fine green teas, as well as Imperial versions of Earl Grey, English Breakfast and other classics, to pair with star chef Jose Andres's spectacular array of snacks like steamed caviar bao, guacamole cones, peanut macarons, cocoa-coated pop rocks and other genre-bending bites.
The Palm Court at The Plaza, New York City
The Palm Court at the Plaza's opulent take on Champagne Tea comes with optional American Osetra or Royal Sterling caviar service, and nibbles such as Peekytoe crab salad with black truffle oil on pretzel crostini, foie gras torchon on toasted brioche, and black and white eclairs, an exquisite spin on the quintessentially New York black-and-white cookies. Little ones can opt for the Children's Eloise Tea menu and experience life like the little storybook girl who famously lived in the hotel.
Le Salon, The Grill Room at Windsor Court, New Orleans
Champagne is a popular add-on for tea services across the country, but you'll have to head to New Orleans if you want to sip your leaves with a Cajun Milk Punch (sweet potato brown sugar syrup, milk and spiced spirits). Le Salon inside The Grill Room at Windsor Court includes an original cocktail with your tea, which features snacks like truffled egg salad and lobster salad sandwiches, black currant and walnut scones, and chocolate-covered strawberries.
The Peninsula, Chicago
Windy City tea enthusiasts head to The Peninsula for avocado and grapefruit salad on brioche, ham and Swiss sandwiches on pretzel buns, chocolate crumble tarts and spiced orange financiers, all part of the hotel's unique afternoon tea offerings. The Peninsula stands out for another reason too: It's one of the few fine hotel tea services in the country that also offer a vegan version.
The Ritz-Carlton San Francisco
Tea in the luxurious lounge of The Ritz-Carlton San Francisco takes place every first and third Saturday of the month through November, when a more frequent and holiday-themed service kicks in. On a typical Saturday afternoon, the bite-sized savories might include a lobster and caviar eclair, cucumber with goat cheese triangles or meaty maitake mushrooms with eggs on toast. Polish those off and move on to the impressive tower of sweets, where you might find everything from brown butter madeleines to layered raspberry Victoria sponge cakes.
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