When planning an afternoon tea outing, like most other city dwellers, Atlantans are gifted with many choices. Lucky us! We have many ambiances and menus to explore at a variety of tea rooms, tea houses, tea shops, tea cafes and tea bars, each with its unique charms.
While some of these terms are used interchangeably, here’s how we’ll use them in upcoming Destination Tea reviews.
Tea rooms are typically housed within a larger establishment, such as a hotel, department store, country club, bed & breakfast, inn or historic site like an estate or castle (at the top of my destination tea bucket list). These will reflect the style of their hosts and usually have a set teatime in the afternoons. Oftentimes in-town hotel tea rooms offer a grand, classical setting and prepare their afternoon tea trays much like the British traditionally do.
Tea houses, tea cafes, tea shops and tea bars are locally owned businesses whose decor and afternoon tea offerings vary widely and reflect their proprietor’s creativity. Most offer a combination of brunch, lunch and tea menus (walk-in and by reservation) throughout the late morning and afternoon.
A tea house is often a renovated historic home with several themed rooms, while a tea cafe or tea shop may be tucked into a town square or plaza. At all three, you usually feel a woman’s touch in the decor, which may transport you to the early days of afternoon tea and include antiques, unique tea collections, Victorian pieces, even a vintage hat and boa collection. In her decorating, the owner is sharing with her guests what it is she loves about the tradition of taking tea. Many also sell teas from their menus and include a gift shop worth exploring.
Tea bars are the latest in tea purveyors, usually designed with clean lines and modern or Asian-themed decor. While some do offer the traditional three-tiered afternoon tea, they also offer tea tastings and encourage à la carte teas, for which you go to the counter to order your tea along with some of their displayed baked goods. Tea bars emphasize tea education and exploration. While more traditionalist afternoon tea-goers can very much enjoy a tea bar, so too can the typical coffee shop patron, who sips tea over a business meeting or a good book. Tea bars also keep hours more like a coffee shop, staying open into the evenings and hosting local workshops, classes or music.
Why not see it all and taste it all? And take the advice of Angela’s Aunt Mary Ann: patronize the places that you want to be there for you in future. Any of these afternoon tea venues would be a lovely setting for:
- Showers (Baby, Bridal)
- Holiday Celebrations (Seasonal Afternoon Tea Events)
- Mother-Daughter Outing
- Multi-Generational Family Get-Together
- Children’s Tea
- Book Club, Red Hat or other Group Meetings
- Tea Education
- Locally-Made Lunch
- Relaxed Mini-Getaway
Do you already have a favorite tea venue? Please leave a comment telling us where you love going for afternoon tea.