Few things are more satisfyingly decadent than afternoon tea on a weekday or a Sunday spent leisurely with friends. The luxe three-tier affair, involving savories, scones, sweets, and lots of tea, is serious business in New York City, with a huge range of options. Some hotels have giant tea menus, while other shops take pride in a small, curated selection. Some focus more energy on the food with a full meal’s size worth, others on the tea itself. From big name hotels to tiny neighborhood gems, there’s an afternoon tea service to suit every mood (from cozy and casual to formal and sophisticated) and budget (prices on this map range from $25 to $150 a person).
There are many origin tales of how afternoon tea came to be, but the generally accepted story is that it was “invented” in 1840 by Anna, the Duchess of Bedford. Anna suffered from “hunger spells” each afternoon and started the tradition of having small snacks and sweets with tea to remedy the situation. She invited friends to partake in this afternoon session and soon enough, it became a full-blown social affair.
Etiquette certainly is a part of the tea’s tradition, but rules have relaxed in the centuries since. Some things to keep in mind, though, are eating from the bottom tier up — that means savories first, then scones, and finally sweets — eating the bottom half of a scone first, with jam and preserves spread on before the cream, and feeling free to take home leftovers. Finally: This endeavor is called afternoon tea — a pleasurable afternoon affair of small savory and sweet bites accompanied by tea — not high tea, which is considered an early evening supper.Read More