Destination Tea: Mandarin Oriental Atlanta

Where: Buckhead, Atlanta, Georgia
Style:  Classic luxury
Tea Selection:  12 loose leaf teas by Tealeaves
Teatimes: Thursday to Sunday, 2:30-4:30
Reservations:  Required
Contact:  404-995-7500 or online
Cost: $38 Traditional Afternoon Tea
Destination Tea Tips:  Though the Mandarin has a Peachtree Road address, you’ll actually turn onto Stratford Road to enter the hotel driveway. Reminder to bring cash to tip the valet.exterior Mandarin Oriental Atlanta

Destination Tea Notes:  We celebrated when the Mandarin Oriental Atlanta reinstated its afternoon tea service this summer, especially given that an icon of afternoon tea – the Ritz-Carlton – closed its Buckhead hotel earlier this year. At the Mandarin, you will find every component of a traditional afternoon tea at an upscale hotel:  gracious service, leisurely pace, elegant decor, luxury tea selection and an elevated culinary take on the standard sweets and savories. Fancified girlfriends laugh over their royal teas (champagne added) in the ivory rotunda while other guests step through to the sunlit, charcoal grey bar room to take a late lunch or cocktail. As our servers encourage an unrushed affair, we happily settle into our quiet alcove for a private, uninterrupted teatime chat.

paper fans in Mandarin Oriental foyer
Trademark grey and cream paper fans with bouquet sentinels in the entryway
Cafe & Bar in Mandarin Oriental Atlanta
The Mandarin’s Café & Bar is comprised of seating areas round and grand, long and sleek, and quietly tucked away in alcoves and beneath stairs.
Table at Cafe & Bar at Mandarin Oriental Atlanta
Coveting this table under a winding staircase

Tea Service

Sample tea jars from Tealeaves at Mandarin Oriental Atlanta
Our favorite way to choose our teas:  by smell!
french presses at Mandarin Oriental Atlanta
Teas are served in French presses, which must be poured with confidence to avoid dripping. We start with masala chai and organic lychee green, and finish with the Shanghai rose – all delicious.

Scones & Spreads, Sandwiches and Savories

Scones and preserves at Mandarin Oriental Atlanta
Our scones arrive nestled in a cloth napkin to keep warm, paired with strawberry preserves, clotted cream and marmalade.
Tea sandwiches at Mandarin Oriental Atlanta
Apart from the cucumber being a bit watery, all the sandwiches are scrumptious, including smoked salmon with American Hackleback caviar on sourdough, truffle egg salad with chopped shallots on white, cucumber dill with boursin on rye, and curry chicken salad on wheat. Yum!
Desserts at Mandarin Oriental Atlanta
Desserts bear a British influence, such as the Royal Wedding lemon elderflower cake and the petite Vicki (miniature Victoria sponge cake). They bookend a chocolate brownie that is nearer to a fudge in its density. Fruit tarts and filled, buttery cookies finish this generous dessert course.

Destination Tea: Twenty Six Divine

Where: Charleston, South Carolina
Style:  Coastal charm
Tea Selection:  6 loose leaf teas by Charleston Tea Plantation
Teatimes: Monday to Saturday, 11:30-4:30
Reservations:  24-hour notice minimum
Contact:  843-297-8118
Cost: $28 Afternoon Tea
Destination Tea Tips:  You’ll find the entrance to the tearoom at the building’s rear, near the parking area, which is tight to maneuver, so consider parking on the street nearby.front of Twenty Six Divine in Charleston, SC

twenty six divine mosaic sign in Charleston, SC
Awesome mosaic signage

Destination Tea Notes:  Our hosts, chefs Enan and Jenn Parenzo have, like any good marriage, the perfect division of labor, with Jenn whipping up delicious desserts and Enan crafting the savories. Prepare yourself for an extraordinary culinary treat with these two professional chefs in the kitchen. Also, guests will delight in spotting artistic touches like the custom branded “Twenty Six Divine” tables, outdoor signage, eclectic teaware and locally sourced gifts. We couldn’t help purchasing a piece of the beautiful local artwork decorating the walls of the cozy, prettily painted tearoom, found at the back of this Charleston single house (so named because it is one-room wide). While the tearoom seats about 20, it is no amateur affair. Rather, it feels like we have lucked into a secret afternoon tea club, with Jenn herself as our hostess, friendly and ready to present a creatively crafted, exquisite menu to her guests. This tearoom earns its moniker:  divine!

Rear entrance at twenty six divine in Charleston, SC
Coral entrance at the building’s rear and glimpse of the warm-weather outdoor patio
interior twenty-six divine in Charleston, SC
Love that green cake plate! Jenn serves in this intimate setting, with local artwork and wares for sale.
Table at twenty-six divine in Charleston, SC
Set with the traditional Charleston palmetto rose, our table welcomes us to the local scene.

Tea Service

Tea selection at twenty-six divine in Charleston, SC
The list of add-on adult beverages is tempting, but we stick with the Charleston Tea Plantation’s Rockville Raspberry. Jenn graciously brings out the tea tin to see if this is actually a tisane and we happily discover it to be a flavored black tea. (We like caffeine!)
Teapot at twenty-six divine in Charleston, SC
Pretty nature-themed teaware. Smart use of a removable t-sac prevents oversteeping of black teas.

Scones & Spreads, Savories and Sweets

Spreads at twenty-six divine in Charleston, SC
Jenn’s homemade strawberry compote bursts with flavor (spy the bright red dollop next to the butter). We make sure not to leave any behind. Other spreads include raspberry jam and whipped cream.
afternoon tea curate at Twenty Six Divine in Charleston, SC
Freshly baked vanilla bean scones are paired with orange chocolate chip biscotti on the top tier.
savories at afternoon tea at Twenty Six Divine in Charleston, SC
There is no weak link in this afternoon tea menu. Our creatively flavored savories are each as delicious as the next, including: pimiento cheese and cucumber sandwiches, curry deviled eggs with marinated carrots, roasted red pepper chicken salad sandwiches with spinach and tomatoes, and smoked salmon, caper and dill cream cheese hearts.
Desserts at Twenty Six Divine in Charleston, SC
Oftentimes the dessert course of afternoon tea can be an overly rich and sweet affair. Not so when Jenn is baking! Your palate exclaims at intense flavors that live up to their names: glazed strawberry and custard tartlets, pink champagne petite cakes (yes, we tasted champagne!), apricot linzer tarts and chocolate caramel ganache petite cakes.

Destination Tea: Dromoland Castle

Where: Newmarket-On-Fergus, County Clare, Ireland
Style:  Castle resort
Tea Selection:  18+ loose leaf teas
Teatimes:  Feb.-Nov., Daily 1-4
Reservations:  Highly recommended
Contact:  800-346-7007
Cost: €29+ Mrs. White’s Afternoon Tea
Destination Tea Tips: Dress up and prepare to luxuriate. If you are staying at sister hotel The Inn at Dromoland, there is a paved walking path that cuts through the golf course to reach the castle in about ten minutes.exterior Dromoland Castle in County Clare, Ireland

Destination Tea Notes:  On occasion, I have been known to say “wow-wow-wooey,” and now only slightly apologize for using such an informal turn of speech in describing our reaction to the elegant Dromoland Castle. The ancestral home of Irish royals, Dromoland Castle was transformed into a resort hotel in the ’60s and is now actually Irish-American owned. The historic, majestic backdrop of the castle lends the ritual of taking tea an authentic air. All things served are excellent, from well-executed teatime standards to locally sourced unique flavor combinations. Servers are just as happy to answer questions as to leave us to our leisure. A piano gently plays. The Dromoland Castle afternoon tea experience, full of delicious lavishness and regal ambiance, ranks as one of our all-time favorites.

hallway at Dromoland Castle
Royal reds and golds guide your chandelier-lit approach
afternoon tea room at Dromoland Castle in County Clare, Ireland
The rooms where afternoon tea is taken are appointed with a balance of light and dark tones, and classic touches like fireplaces, ornate crown molding, gilded mirrors, floor-to-ceiling drapery and to our delight, a pianist.
afternoon tea at Dromoland Castle
The rooms feel intimate and grand all at once.

Tea Service

china pattern, tea menu at Dromoland Castle
I derive much joy from the little details in life, and so must compliment Dromoland on carrying over their china pattern onto their printed menus and teapot markers. It hints that we are the guests of attentive, exacting hosts.
silver teaset at Dromoland Castle
Silver tea set and summer garden china pattern
tea is poured at Dromoland Castle in County Clare, Ireland
Each guest has her own branded Dromoland Castle teapot with identifying tag (love this idea), and strainer. Though we would prefer that the kitchen steep and strain black teas to prevent them from overbrewing at the table, it doesn’t stop us from delighting in our Dromoland house blend, Irish Whiskey Cream and Milky Oolong teas we share around the table.

Scones & Spreads, Savories and Sweets

afternoon tea trays at Dromoland Castle in County Clare, Ireland
Feast your eyes on these curates, and try and believe this: our server brings us a variety of 7 sandwiches and invites us to request more of our favorites. I enjoin myself to attempt moderation.
tea sandwiches at Dromoland Castle
Outstanding tea sandwiches include turkey, lettuce, cheese and stuffing wrap; shrimp cocktail with sundried tomatoes and chives; beef slider with horseradish; egg mayo (aka egg salad) with watercress; Galway salmon with capers on homemade brown bread (aka whole wheat); bruschetta with mozzarella, Parma ham and tomato salsa; Limerick ham and white cheddar cheese with onion-tomato chutney; and bruschetta with blue cheese mousse and red onion marmalade. Incredibly, we do not request reinforcements of the blue cheese mousse and mozzarella-ham-tomato bruschettas (the table favorites). Our motives are not so pure:  we have seen the dessert tray.
scones at Dromoland Castle in County Clare, Ireland
The traditional is done well here. Plain scones with clotted cream and raspberry jam are just right.
afternoon tea desserts at Dromoland Castle
It is always a special treat when a pastry chef crafts desserts beyond our imaginings or skill level. Dromoland Castle’s sweet offerings include chocolate mousse tartlet with toasted meringue; orange passionfruit and chocolate délice cake with raspberry meringue domes; chocolate choux pastry with butterscotch glaze; opera cake, vanilla panna cotta, (and not pictured) butterscotch cupcake, lime and chocolate macaron, and orange and lime battenburg cake with marzipan frosting.