While takeout and cheap booze have their place in the New York City landscape, sometimes we need a healthy dose of civility and class to feel like a proper human being. (Downton Abbey marathons aside.) Enter: afternoon tea. Popularized by fancy hotels and those well-mannered Brits, afternoon tea gives us an opportunity to don our best finery (or at least change out of your sweatpants), be addressed as “sir” or “ma’am” and devote a few hours to eating tiny sandwiches while resisting the urge to stick our pinkies out. In honor of our dedication to spending an afternoon in the classiest way possible, we’ve rounded up five of the city’s more laid-back places for tea service—with everything from crépe cakes to custom tea blends to champagne and caviar.
Tea & Sympathy
We have difficulty subduing our instinct to British accents in this Greenwich Village stop. Tea & Sympathy is capable of laying out an afternoon tea spread guaranteed to make any Anglophile proud. In addition to the British-themed restaurant’s own tea blends, it offers 30 other varieties of branded teas, which you can enjoy in mismatched china alongside finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, and a selection of cakes. Want to take a slice of London home? Stop by Tea & Sympathy’s store, where there are British sweets and Union Jack teapots abound.
Served in courses instead of all at once, Lady Mendl’s Victorian-esque tea service elevates afternoon tea to an art, with prices and a reservations-required policy to match. Located in a building that dates to 1834, the five-course tea unfolds over the course of the afternoon with an amuse bouche, tea sandwiches, warm scones with clotted cream and preserves, the Lady’s signature layered crépe cake, and a round of petit fours.
Bosie Tea Parlor
When we want to keep our focus on the tea and food and less so on our surroundings, we plan for an afternoon stop at Bosie Tea Parlor. The resident tea master (yes, that’s a thing) painstakingly selects and blends more than 100 teas for the house’s brand, and pastries are crafted by a third-generation French pâtissier. The standard spread includes macarons, tea cakes and sandwiches, and a pot of Bosie’s signature tea. Pro-tip: Spring for the reservations-only chef service to score some champagne, mini scones, canapés, and more pastries. (Let’s be honest – there can never be enough pastries.)
Pembrook Tea Room
Take a ride to The Lowell’s second floor, and find The Pembroke Room for an afternoon of loose-leaf tea and extravagant nibbles guaranteed to give any dinner serious envy. In addition to petit fours and macrons, tea sandwiches go beyond the typical cucumber to include fillings such as Maine lobster salad and deviled quail eggs. Plus, receive not one, not two, but three varieties of scones served with both lemon curd and Devonshire cream. Upgrading to the imperial tea means being treated to a glass of Veueve Clicquot and spread of caviar—trés fancy, indeed.
More cozy than imposing, Podunk features an eclectic assortment of chairs, tables, and teapots, plus a diverse array of tea services to match. Opt for the more traditional “Our Old Friend’s Tea,” with the requisite tea, tea sandwiches, scones, and pastries, or get adventurous with A “Blunt and Savory”—a sans-sweets selection of savory tarts, cheddar biscuits and side salad.