Friday, April 27, 2012

Afternoon Tea Around the World

The gentle tinkling of china teacups announces the civilized interlude between 3 and 5 PM when the world stops for tea in both cozy English tearooms and fancy East Asian hotels.
This is the time to sit back and savor a long-standing and treasured ritual.
Bettys moderate
6–8 St. Helen’s Square, York;
Established in 1919, Bettys has six tearooms scattered around Yorkshire. The York establishment must be the most glamorous tearoom in England, an Art Deco gem whose elegant interior was inspired by the famous ocean liner Queen Mary . From the craft bakery emerge extraordinary breads, cakes, and confections, including the specialty cherry-andalmond “Fat Rascals,” while Bettys’ house-blend Yorkshire Tea is an English classic.

The Black Swan Tearoom
Market Place, Helmsley;
Yorkshire’s market towns are full of traditional, honest-to-goodness cafés, but there’s far more style in evidence in this boutique tearoom and patisserie (a Tea Guild award-winner) attached to a classy country hotel. A rare and exotic tea menu ranges far and wide, or order afternoon tea with Champagne for a real indulgence.

Swinton Park moderate
Masham, Ripon;
For a taste of the noble life, take tea in Swinton Park castle hotel, which is set in 200 acres of private parkland on the eastern fringes of the Yorkshire Dales. The local choice here is a “Wensleydale Tea,” served with the crumbly, eponymous cheese from the Dales and Yorkshire fruitcake.
London offers a stylish introduction to afternoon tea in a score or more famous hotels and glitzy stores, while in every region of England there’s a seductive café or tearoom devoted to serving the perfect cream tea.
Otterton Mill inexpensive
Otterton, Budleigh Salterton, Devon;
Of the many contenders for the best Devonshire cream tea, they go the extra mile at Otterton Mill, which is set in a glorious riverside location in the wildlife-rich Otter Valley. The scones are made daily using their own milled flour, both clotted cream and jellies are supplied by nearby artisan
producers, and the tea is organic and fair trade.
 Cavendish Rooms moderate
Chatsworth House, Bakewell, Derbyshire;
Enjoy a gracious afternoon tea that’s entirely in keeping with the surroundings at Chatsworth House, Britain’s finest Baroque stately home, the ancestral digs of the Dukes of Devonshire. Dainty cakes and pastries made by Chatsworth’s own bakers are served in what is surely the most elegant stable block in the land, a glorious 18th-century space given a contemporary makeover.
De Grey’s Tea Rooms moderate
Broad Street, Ludlow, Shropshire;
In central England’s foodie capital, Ludlow, afternoon tea is at its traditional best at De Grey’s, a half-timbered Tudor town house with an atmospheric oak-beamed interior and black-and-white-clad staff. An in-house bakery produces wonderful cakes and pastries, and if you eat more than is wise, you may be grateful to learn that there are also very cozy guest accommodations.
The Secret Garden moderate
Mersham-le-Hatch, Hythe Road, Ashford, Kent;
In the county of Kent – the so-called “garden of England” – afternoon tea and handsome locations go hand in hand, as in this restored coach house and impressive Victorian walled garden. The strawberry cream tea served here incorporates locally sourced jellies and clotted cream, while seasonal variations add a glass of Kentish sparkling wine or even mince pies and mulled wine at Christmas.
The Tea Cosy moderate
3 George Street, Kemptown, Brighton, East Sussex;
In the south coast’s most flamboyant resort, this charming tearoom is dedicated, with its tongue firmly in its cheek, to the gracious art of taking tea.
Etiquette and manners are explained for beginners and visitors alike, from the use of the sugar tongs to the allowable volume of conversation at the tea table, while on Sunday afternoons everyone rises for a rendition of “God Save the Queen.”
Fortnum & Mason expensive
181 Piccadilly, London W1;
Few places can offer as wide a range of teas as Fortnum’s, the fashionable London grocery store par excellence founded in 1707. Their tea department offers over 70 blends and single-estate teas, available as part of afternoon tea or a grander High Tea in the store’s elegant St. James’s restaurant.
The Ritz expensive
150 Piccadilly, London W1;
For many, there is simply no better place to experience the quintessential afternoon tea in all its pomp and glory than the Ritz Hotel’s magnificent, gilded Palm Court. This is tradition poured straight from the pot and, as befits the surroundings, you are expected to dress up; no jeans or athletic shoes, and gentlemen require a jacket and tie.
Coffee has long been the more popular drink in North America, but across the US and in Canada there are Anglophiles and tea fanatics who keep alive the genteel traditions of a bygone age.
Crown & Crumpet Tea Salon
207 Ghirardelli Square, 900 North Point, San Francisco, CA;
The Crown & Crumpet presents a mix of English wit and San Francisco style in a bright and breezy tearoom that offers a playful take on traditional afternoon tea. All the right ingredients are in place — well-sourced teas, homemade scones and cakes, toasted crumpets — but this creative California café is never in danger of taking itself too seriously.
Tea & Sympathy moderate
108 Greenwich Avenue, New York City, NY;
Greenwich Village, original heart of New York’s counterculture, is a melting pot of ideas and influences, including this self-styled “corner of England,” known for its home-away-from-home food.
Scones and jam are always on the menu, alongside other teatime favorites like rarebit or sardines on toast, and the teas include both English-style house blends and specialty brews.
Fairmont Empress Hotel
721 Government Street, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada;
For over a century, Victoria’s dashing grande dame hotel has been serving afternoon tea with a harbor view in its glorious imperial lobby. There’s every attention to detail, from tea tasting notes to the signature raisin scones that form the centerpiece of this most elegant of experiences.
ASIA As the British Empire touched every corner of the world, so did the taste for a reviving mid-afternoon break. The English took tea back to its Eastern roots, and in Singapore, Hong Kong, and India, the ceremony lingers on in upmarket hotels.
Mandarin Oriental expensive
5 Connaught Road, Central, Hong Kong;
Even on the most hot and humid of days there’s an air of calm in the Mandarin Oriental’s legendary Clipper Lounge, where the great and good of Hong Kong come to see and be seen. Here, in one of the world’s most renowned luxury hotels, afternoon tea is a truly magnificent repast, including artistic creations from the hotel’s own patisserie.
Raffles Hotel expensive
1 Beach Road, Singapore;
White-jacketed waiters glide effortlessly around the period-piece “Tiffin Room” in one of Southeast Asia’s most emblematic hotels. Much like having a Singapore Sling (the iconic cocktail invented in the hotel), taking High Tea at Raffles is part of the whole colonial-revival experience and not to be missed.
Rambagh Palace expensive
Bhawani Singh Road, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India;
This former royal guest house and hunting lodge, later a Maharajah’s palace and now a sumptuous hotel, makes for a wonderfully extravagant backdrop for afternoon tea. Pots of tea and dainty bites, impeccably presented, are served overlooking the stunning palace gardens.

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