This list includes places I’ve enjoyed Afternoon Tea over the past years; some may have changed in menu, style and so on. Within the list, I’ll group geographically.
I’m not including prices, as those will change. I am including a link at the end of each review. From the link you can access menus and prices.
Most of the places listed are in the Chicago area because that’s where I live, though some of my favorites are teas I’ve enjoyed outside of the Midwest. If the place in question has a star/asterisk * next to the title, it means I thought it was wonderful.
Afternoon Tea in Great Britain
The Milestone Hotel *
This is a true luxury hotel. The building is gorgeous, old, and steeped in history. The tea room is like walking into someone’s beautiful, expensive townhouse parlor. The oil painting of Noel Coward over the fireplace – charming.
We had the Champagne ‘Ruinart’ Afternoon Tea. Pricey? YES! Worth it? Yes.
And btw, Afternoon Tea at any five-star hotel is going to be expensive, it just is. Unless you don’t like Champagne or have some other reason for avoiding alcohol, I would indulge and splurge. The setting is special, the food top-notch.
Website: Milestone Hotel Tea
This is the only place I don’t have a photo for. I went there a few years ago and I’ve lost the pictures.
What a shame!
Because this was one of my favorite Afternoon Teas. Like the Milestone, it’s luxury all the way. And how can you not like a place that was inhabited by both Agatha Christie and Rudyard Kipling when they were writing?
Supposedly, Brown’s Hotel was the inspiration and setting for Christie’s book, At Bertram’s Hotel. And Kipling wrote part of the Jungle Book while staying as a guest.
Another pricey London Afternoon Tea Experience, another one totally worth the splurge. Say ‘yes’ to Champagne.
Website: Browns Hotel Tea
Betty’s Tea Room
Betty’s is a chain of tea rooms in the UK.
Although you can order Afternoon Tea here, it’s one of the menu items, rather than the only menu item – so you can have the full Afternoon Tea and the person you’re dining with could have a regular lunch.
Afternoon Tea is served all day.
We went to the one in York, which was bustling – really busy!
The food was delicious and the tea was lovely. I believe some of their other tea rooms are, I guess what I would call, ‘fancier.’ Maybe the ones in London. It’s been a while since I was there, but I recall the Betty’s in York being lively and much less formal than a hotel Afternoon Tea.
Less expensive too:)
Website: Betty’s Tea
We had Afternoon Tea at the Inverlochy Castle when we stayed there during a trip to the Scottish Highlands. I think this was probably the best tasting – and looking – food presentation I’ve experienced as far as Afternoon Tea.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that we were enjoying it in a gorgeous room that made one feel as if they lived in a grand country manor. Huge fireplace, overstuffed couches, classical music, and blustery Scottish weather…a perfect stormy day in a teacup.
Website: Inverlochy Castle Tea
Afternoon Tea in Chicago and Suburbs
The Drake Hotel Palm Court
Being possibly the best known Chicago venue for Afternoon Tea, I’ve been to the Drake several times. In fact, I was there just a week ago, which is why there’s a longer article about the Palm Court’s Afternoon Tea here.
Always reliable, the Drake’s tea is traditional and efficient. A good place to go for a bridal tea, or gathering of your favorite friends.
During the week it wasn’t hard to get in (we went on a Thursday), on the weekend, or during the holidays, you want to make sure you have a reservation.
One thing that’s nice about the Drake, you can be pretty sure you won’t be the only ones there (see next review).
Website: Drake Hotel Tea
The London House
The London House is a stylish hotel, beautifully outfitted. The Afternoon Tea, aesthetically, was lovely. If you’re someone who likes food presentations that buck tradition, this might be your place. Nothing outrageous, but like many places these day, the London House Afternoon Tea, trends toward modern.
For myself, I prefer more traditional bites, but that’s just me. There were two things that made the London House tea not quite as I had hoped.
One, we were the only people having tea in the lobby bar (that’s where it was served), which kind of takes away from the experience.
And two, sort of an extension of the first criticism, is having the tea in the lobby bar. I actually love hotel lobbies, and when the only thing that is being served there is tea, it’s grand. But having people seated next to you talking on their phone, or tapping away on a laptop, makes the experience a little less ‘afternoon tea-like,’ if you know what I mean.
Website: London House Chicago Tea
Oh, The Allis is a fantastic space! Sort of Modern Victorian with a pinch of industrial. But those chairs! I love them, and they made me feel like I was in a Victorian drawing room.
The tea presentation is pretty traditional, and the food was good. The one complaint I had, and this is true of about 80 percent of the places I’ve had tea, is that if you order Champagne (Champagne Afternoon Tea), they serve it, and then within minutes, your tea is also brought out.
You would think that I would remember to request it be held back, but for some reason I don’t.
The problem is, if your tea is sitting their steeping while you’re sipping Champagne – it gets bitter from overly strong tanins.
Oh, well, I shouldn’t pick on the Allis, as they all do it.
Service was good, not 5-Star hotel good, but very nice, and one difference here is, you’ll see more men at the tea tables. At least I did when I was there.
The space is beautiful, go for the atmosphere, enjoy the tea.
Website: The Allis Tea
Vanille Patisserie has several location, I went to the one in Lincoln Park.
I think it’s actually hard for pastry shops to compete with an Afternoon Tea at a hotel as they don’t usually have all the resources the other does.
One of the things I love about Afternoon Tea is the setting and the sort of ‘luxury’ items that are out of the everyday for most people – things like being served in low-slung or elegantly upholstered seating, fresh flowers, heavy silver, beautiful linens and sandwiches on fine bone china, not to mention the harp or piano music.
That sort of thing.
Afternoon Tea in pastry shops is a little different. It often has many of the things I mentioned, but they’re more casual in nature. It’s still a very enjoyable experience though.
I like Vanille, but this was another case where we were the only ones there having Afternoon Tea – in fact, I think we were the only ones in the shop at one point (outside of the staff). Because of this, it seemed a little dark and cold inside. Had this been a bright, sunny day, and had we visited during a busier time, perhaps I would have had a different impression.
They do have a special room that looked delightful for special occasions, and I’m sure it would be very festive indeed were you seated in there with a group of friends. It had a sort of Marie-Antoinette vibe.
Vanille Patisserie has a really high rating on Yelp, and most people absolutely love it. So why not give it a try if you’re in the Lincoln Park neighborhood?
Website: Vanille Patisserie Tea
The Celtic Knot
The Celtic Knot is another less formal venue for Afternoon Tea. In fact, it’s an Irish pub. With the Celtic Knot, I had no expectations of elegance. And it did not disappoint! It was a casual, fun, enjoyable meal, in a relaxed tavern atmosphere. The nibbles were good, and the tea came in a large pot that sat over a sterno-like heating source, keeping it warm.
If you’re a student at Northwestern, or just live in the area, this would be a great spot to meet a friend for something warm and tasty. Especially on a snowy, Chicago day.
Website: Celtic Knot Tea
Another beautiful hotel Afternoon Tea experience.
The Pavilion is the setting for tea, and it’s a grand space with soaring ceilings and elegant furnishings.
This would make a beautiful Bridal Shower venue.
Like the London House, the food was somewhat ‘modern.’ As I mentioned earlier, I prefer traditional, but that’s just me. China is fine Wedgwood, and very pretty.
The service was perfect and when you’re at the Langham, you feel like you’re indulging in a special occasion, even if you’re not.
I would go back to the Langham any day just to sit and sip in that beautiful space.
Website: The Langham Tea
The Peninsula service and food is excellent.
There’s another level of professionalism to this hotel, and it feels very refined. Take your daughter, son, mother or grandmother here for tea, they’ll love it.
In some respects, out of the places that I’ve enjoyed Afternoon Tea in Chicago, the Peninsula reminds me the most of a ‘London’ hotel tea experience. Quality and understated elegance seep from every corner.
Judging from the photo on their current website, the lobby space where tea is served has new furnishings and looks fabulous.
Website: The Peninsula Chicago Tea
The Pinecone Cottage Tea House
The Pinecone Cottage is in Downer’s Grove, a suburb outside of Chicago. Cute with a country shabby chic vibe, the Pinecone is a cozy spot for an afternoon rendezvous.
Unlike most Afternoon Tea, the Pinecone Cottage tea begins with soup (it could almost be called a High Tea). And if I recall, the owner is also the chef and harvests many ingredients from her garden. I believe she said the soups she features depend upon what’s in season.
It was very good.
The whole set up is charming, and the Pinecone Cottage would make a lovely space for a special birthday or get together.
Website: Pinecone Cottage Tea
The Deer Path Inn*
The Deer Path Inn is in Lake Forest, a Chicago North Shore suburb. And what a lovely suburb it is. The Deer Path Inn reflects the wealth of the community, and is beautiful in its English styling. Both architecture and interiors will make you feel a if you’re in a British country house.
The Afternoon Tea service was excellent, the food lovely. My only wish was that the place that Afteroon Tea was actually served, was in the English Room Restaurant instead of the sort of glassed conservatory area. However, I was there in the winter, when there was snow on the ground. No doubt in the summer, the space is perfect for tea.
When we left, they gave us a small tin of loose tea that matched the one we had drunk. It was a lovely gesture.
Website: Deer Path Inn Tea
Afternoon Tea in New Orleans
The Windsor Court Hotel*
Oh, this was one of my favorite Afternoon Tea experiences. The Windsor Court does tea as it should be done!
A beautiful setting that includes oil paintings, lovely furniture, and perfect ambient lighting. The details here are gorgeous – including chairs with embroidered Chinoserie scenes and Wedgwood Wild Strawberry china.
This place was busy, and it was fun partaking in tea with a full house. I don’t recall what day we were there (we were on vacation in New Orleans) but I don’t think it was a weekend, so plan and reserve accordingly.
If you’re in New Orleans, go here, I can’t recommend it enough.
Website: Windsor Court Tea
Afternoon Tea in Asheville
Inn on the Biltmore Estate
I’ve been to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC twice now. If you’ve never been, you should go, it’s such an incredible place. The actual Biltmore Esate was built by the Vanderbilts at the end of the 1800s and is done in a French Chateau style that’s exceptionally grand. I think I read that it’s the largest single family home in the country.
The Afternoon Tea, is, unfortunately not served in the Biltmore mansion. But the setting is very pretty nonetheless at the Inn on the Biltmore Estate.
A little bit modern, a little bit traditional, it’s a very enjoyable addition to your visit.
You’ll feel special drinking from their monogrammed teacups and the presentation is very beautiful.
In the summertime, the estate gets really busy, so Afternoon Tea is a nice, quiet respite away from the throngs.
Website: Biltmore Tea
Interested in the History of Afternoon Tea?
* An asterisk signifies I thought the Afternoon Tea (setting, presentation and taste) was exceptional.
This list will be updated with each Afternoon Tea experience I encounter. Check back.