Destination Tea: Polly Claire’s

Where:  Chattanooga, Tennessee
Style:  19th century antebellum
Tea Selection:  30+ loose leaf teas
Teatimes:  Monday to Friday 11-4; Saturday 11-5
Reservations:  Walk-ins welcome, reservations recommended
Contact:  423-521-4832 or Reserve Here
Cost:  $42 Victorian Christmas Tea; $32 Afternoon Tea; $22 Taste of Tea
Destination Tea Tips:
  If you book a late afternoon teatime, arrive early to first visit the gift shop in the former carriage house behind the teahouse, so that it doesn’t close while you are lingering at the tea table. Follow Polly Claire’s on Facebook to learn of special event dinners and teatime specials throughout the year.

Prices and teatimes are subject to change. Please see our Tennessee afternoon tea directory for the latest details.

afternoon tea at Polly Claire's in Chattanooga, TN

Destination Tea Notes: In 2016, when Destination Tea was newborn, Tennessee was the 2nd state we researched for our afternoon tea directories, and I had the pleasure of speaking with Rashelle Stafford, who had just opened Polly Claire’s. Her passion for developing a teahouse and menu to her high standards was evident as she told of the planning her daughters — Polly and Claire — and she had done: roadtripping to do industry research at scores of tearooms, testing recipes, and selecting their china pattern relying on the daughters’ expertise as china collectors since childhood. Since then, Polly Claire’s has been on the Destination Tea bucket list, and three years later, we (finally!) arrive, all the more excited because the stars align and we are there for their seasonal Victorian Christmas Tea.

Exceeding the afternoon tea meal which we so anticipated, our biggest gasp is for the picture-perfect setting. This teahouse is gorgeous. Rashelle kept the original hardwood floors, hand-hewn fireplaces and hand-blown windows intact during the renovation of this 1854 home, which last served, from 1895-1985, as the well-loved Bonny Oaks Children’s Home. Appointing the stylishly painted rooms with stained-glass transoms, framed mirrors, china plate collections, vintage frames and chandeliers, Rashelle has given the tearooms an authentic elegance.

Sisters Polly and Claire serve our table, sharing a bit of afternoon tea lore with us along the way, and I’m happy to meet the ladies who have selected the beautiful Royal Albert China teasets Polly Claire’s uses. While we experience a few missteps in its execution, we appreciate Polly Claire’s creative tea menu that seeks to balance the flour- and sugar-rich traditional afternoon tea by adding protein-rich savories, and relies heavily on locally-sourced ingredients. Note that a full scratchmade lunch menu is also served, (imagine Polly Claire’s as your local lunch place!!). As we sit fireside, we soak in the warmth of being with good friends over a homemade tea in this festive atmosphere and decide that the Stafford ladies should be proud of what they’ve created. Taking tea at Polly Claire’s feels like a special occasion.

foyer at afternoon tea at Polly Claire's in Chattanooga, TN
An unapologetically feminine Christmas tree adorned in shimmering white and fuschia graces the foyer.
tea hats at afternoon tea at Polly Claire's in Chattanooga, TN
Trying on the tea hats displayed in the foyer to properly complete your tea outfit.
setting the tea table at afternoon tea at Polly Claire's in Chattanooga, TN
One of seven beautifully appointed dining rooms with floor-to-ceiling paned windows.
salmon wing chairs at afternoon tea at Polly Claire's in Chattanooga, TN
Salmon wingback chairs at a table for two
room 2 at afternoon tea at Polly Claire's in Chattanooga, TN
Love the pale grey walls, and making the room feel festive, the mantle garlands and Christmas decorations.
wall art at afternoon tea at Polly Claire's in Chattanooga, TN
Empty assorted frame and vintage mirror collections add personality above chairs with bright red upholstered armrests.
beautiful Christmas tea table at afternoon tea at Polly Claire's in Chattanooga, TN
An ornate gold mirror pairs with gold Chiavari (aka Tiffany) chairs at our fireside table

Tea Service

tea selection at afternoon tea at Polly Claire's in Chattanooga, TN
The four of us are invited to share two big teapots around the table and we begin tea selection negotiations.
sniffing jars at afternoon tea at Polly Claire's in Chattanooga, TN
We love this idea, making vials of teas available to help guests discover their favorites.
Royal Albert china at afternoon tea at Polly Claire's in Chattanooga, TN
Admiring this Rose Confetti Royal Albert China teacup and saucer
pouring tea at afternoon tea at Polly Claire's in Chattanooga, TN
Love the detail of the flowers on our pot, pouring our Sencha Green Cherry Rose, which has the bitterness of a green tea a bit oversteeped.

Scones & Spreads, Savories and Sweets

scones at afternoon tea at Polly Claire's in Chattanooga, TN
The Stafford family recipe vanilla bean scone is large, soft and slightly sweet.
lemon curd, cream and jam at afternoon tea at Polly Claire's in Chattanooga, TN
Housemade lemon curd, “Americanized clotted cream” and strawberry jam for our scones
three-tiered stand at at afternoon tea at Polly Claire's in Chattanooga, TN
We like the creativity of tea curates composed of mix-n-match Royal Albert China.
tea sandwiches at afternoon tea at Polly Claire's in Chattanooga, TN
Finger sandwiches include Cranberry Walnut Chicken Salad, Cucumber Dill Stack and the innovative Classic Greek Madame. Also pictured here is a Beef Wellington Pastry, served toasty warm, though inside we find the dough is undercooked.
savories at afternoon tea at Polly Claire's in Chattanooga, TN
We appreciate the tasty savories of the “Nibblers” course: pimento tarts with crispy bacon and scallion; black truffle salted deviled egg; hot buttered sourdough crumpets and Maryland crab cakes with chipotle aioli.
dessert at afternoon tea at Polly Claire's in Chattanooga, TN
Dessert includes Mayan spiced dark chocolate shooter with coconut cream, chewy-soft peppermint meringue kisses, Santa’s Lost Hat strawberry, a chocolate gingerbread cookie unfortunately with burnt bottom, and the standout pecan sandy shortbreads – so good!
gift shop at afternoon tea at Polly Claire's in Chattanooga, TN
DestinationTea
Tea Voyageuse, discovering the world of afternoon tea, based in Atlanta, Georgia.

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