Afternoon tea is definitely a special experience–and one of my favorite indulgences, complete with tea, scones, finger sandwiches, and sweet treats. I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy high tea in a few places around the world, and this summer, I’ve been especially lucky to have afternoon tea twice in New York City. Here are the pictures and highlights from those two lovely afternoons.
Tea at the St. Regis, 5th Avenue
Together with the delightfully effervescent, ever passionate, and super knowledgeable tea entrepreneur Lisa Kunizaki of Chambre de Sucre, our high tea started with finger sandwiches, followed by scones, and finally a 3-tier tray of sweets. The sandwiches were quite substantial and the scones sizable. She had the Osmanthus Oolong and I had White Tip Darjeeling (see tea menu). Both teas perfectly suited us.
But, what I was most grateful for is a gluten-free tea set (pictured right) that was just as complete and rich as the regular tea set (left). And, they even had extra scones and sweets that they sent home with me! ($55++ per person)
Tea at the Mandarin Oriental, Columbus Circle
The tea service describes itself as East-meets-West afternoon tea, and while most tea is grown in Asia (east), and high tea is distinctly British in origin (West), there was nothing about the tea menu that struck me as particularly Eastern.
With 4 people, we were able to enjoy a broader selection of teas: New York Rose Black, Mandarin Blossom (a green tea), Mandarin Oolong, and Earl Grey. The favorites of the day were the Rose Black and Mandarin Blossom, both nicely scented, but not overwhelming, with enough tannins and bitterness to cut the sweetness of the sweets. The Mandarin Oolong was too sweet and the Earl Grey went best with milk.
In contrast to the St. Regis, scones are served first at the Mandarin. The Mandarin, too, was able to do a gluten-free set for me, and they even found a extra GF scone for me, since I enjoyed the first two so much. ($48++ per person)
One of the Mandarin Oriental’s biggest selling points is its view over New York’s Central Park and Midtown Manhattan. Another plus was being able to access the subway station without getting wet in a flash thunderstorm.
It’s hard to say which afternoon tea I’d recommend as each had its own advantages and strengths. But if you’re in town on a short visit, I definitely recommend at least stopping into the 35th floor lobby of the Mandarin Oriental to see the view.
(P.S. Sometimes I imagine how well Belight would fit in with fancy afternoon tea service. wink, wink)