Update: In 2022, Polly Claire’s came under new management and reopened as Genesis House of Tea.
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.
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.