Destination Tea: The Ballantyne Hotel

Where: Charlotte, North Carolina
Style:  Traditional luxury
Tea Selection:  10+ loose leaf teas by Rare Tea Company
Teatimes:  Saturday to Sunday, 1 to 4
Reservations: 24-hour notice
Contact: 704-248-4100
Cost:  $64 Royal Afternoon Tea; $49 Afternoon Tea; $29 Children’s Afternoon Tea
Destination Tea Tips: The children’s afternoon tea typically features different “kid-friendly” items on the tiered tray, so be sure to clarify if you’d like your kids to enjoy the same themed tea menu as the adults. For anyone with back or mobility issues who may prefer a traditional dining table over a low couch, we’d also recommend making this request when you reserve.

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

afternoon tea at The Ballantyne Hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina

Destination Tea Notes: Ever since we first assembled the North Carolina Afternoon Tea directory, The Ballantyne’s seasonal afternoon tea menus have been on our destination tea bucket list. In many ways, afternoon tea at The Ballantyne Hotel is picture perfect (as you’ll see), with pretty china set at a variety of elegant seating arrangements from high-backed chairs to tufted sofas around low tables. Watching the happy diners around us, we believe our experience at this luxury hotel was an anomaly, possibly due to staffing issues that have plagued the restaurant industry lately. Forty-five minutes after our reservation time, our tea and food arrived all at once, and less than 30 minutes later, another server asked us to “handle” the bill, mentioning guests arriving for the seating after ours. Choreographing a flawless afternoon tea service is no easy feat, but we hope to see this done expertly at higher priced afternoon tea services like this one, especially when there is a 24% service charge automatically added. While we love that The Ballantyne dreams up creative scratchmade themed menus that include premium teas and feature local ingredients, we would have liked the teas to be served differently to prevent oversteeping, and the tiered tray treats to be freshly made (a few showed signs of having sat out). Though we had an unfortunate experience related to the meal’s execution, everybody has an off day, and a few tweaks could make this an afternoon tea to remember.

interior at afternoon tea at The Ballantyne Hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina
Fresh flowers in the lobby; floor-to-ceiling paned window allows sunlight to pour over afternoon tea guests
tea for two at afternoon tea at The Ballantyne Hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina
Wingback chairs and a small round table set for tea for two
cozy tea table at afternoon tea at The Ballantyne Hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina
Navy blue couch and upholstered chairs create a cozy tea setting.
tea by the fireplace at afternoon tea at The Ballantyne Hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina
Our favorite spot recalls the early days of afternoon tea, served at low tables in the drawing room or parlor, near the fireplace.
Romeo and Juliet afternoon tea at afternoon tea at The Ballantyne Hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina
For February’s Romeo and Juliet theme, tables are set with fresh flowers and heart gems.
tea for two at afternoon tea at The Ballantyne Hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina
More modern, velvety grey and gold chairs create another tea table for two.
the ladies at afternoon tea at The Ballantyne Hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina
In the very center of the space, we are seated at long tufted navy sofas around a low, wide table.

Tea Selection

tea trolley at afternoon tea at The Ballantyne Hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina
We love the tea trolley concept at work here, though perhaps serving each table’s entire menu at once creates a delay in service.
three-tiered tray at afternoon tea at The Ballantyne Hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina
Tea leaves steep loose inside teapots (one per guest), with silver strainers at the ready. We like that the tea list describes the flavors and origins of its premium selections in a balanced variety from green to black, as well as herbals grown in Cornwall, England. The Ballantyne’s signature blend is a single estate English Breakfast with lemon verbena, but these and other black teas especially will become bitter during the course of the tea unless the entire pot is poured out in the first couple minutes.

Scones & Spreads, Savories and Sweets

teapot and teacups at afternoon tea at The Ballantyne Hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina
What a spread!
tea sandwiches at afternoon tea at The Ballantyne Hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina
The tea sandwich breads had begun to harden, but we agreed that this course was delicious nonetheless: Ham, Granny Smith Apples and Cream Brie on Whole Wheat; Olive Tapenade on Cranberry Toast; Chicken Salad Tarts garnished with Red Grapes; and Smoked Salmon with Dill Cream Cheese on Marble Rye.
Tea sandwich plate at afternoon tea at The Ballantyne Hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina
How cute are these dishes?
scones at afternoon tea at The Ballantyne Hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina
Scrumptious maraschino cherry and chocolate scones are served with lemon curd, “devonshire cream” (whipped cream) and house made mixed berry preserves. Vanilla mousse cups (in the background) are too densely buttery for us to call “mousse.”
desserts at afternoon tea at The Ballantyne Hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina
Love-themed desserts include vanilla cupcakes with purple icing and pearls, and raspberry and chocolate heart macarons that look darling but are crunchy-hard.
desserts and chocolates at afternoon tea at The Ballantyne Hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina
The perfect creamy bite, vanilla tarts are the table favorite, served with homemade white chocolate heart truffles.
DestinationTea
Tea Voyageuse, discovering the world of afternoon tea, based in Atlanta, Georgia.

8 Comments

  1. I’m impressed that you called this experience as you saw it. A 45 minute wait, and bread sitting out long enough to begin to stale?? Not what I expect for $64. Or any price, really. You have showcased so many great places, that for this icon to fail so resoundingly is their issue, not yours. Good for you that you let us know what happen s.

    1. Britton, thank you for reading! I appreciate your encouragement – I do not write critical reviews with any joy. I just learned something new on your blog: Shoshin (beginner’s mind) is the Buddhist idea to just begin with an open mind and heart. Beautiful, and something that helps overcome fear. Thank you, I will look forward to reading more of your posts!

  2. I love the whole vibe The Ballantyne Hotel projects. This destination for us tea lovers certainly created an upscale environment for good friends & families to sit and converse, while enjoying all of The Ballantyne’s offerings. I look forward to attending afternoon tea here when in the area. Fabulous post Angela!

  3. We have tried this location for afternoon tea twice, both with similar results to your experience. Both times were pre-Covid, so that wasn’t a consideration. Food was beautiful but sub-par quality & taste, service negligible, and rushed experience. Thank you for your gracious but honest comments in your reviews.

    1. Rose, thank you for your reply. We are always interested to hear others’ reviews of afternoon tea venues because we often are asked to make recommendations. We were hoping our experience was a one-off. It’s a challenge to write an honest and kind review at times, so thank you for your encouragement!

  4. I am local and have had tea pre-Covid at The Ballantyne Hotel. My experience was very similar to yours. So my best guess is that’s just how they do things there. I’m glad you gave an honest review.

    1. Ginger, thank you for letting us know about your experience at The Ballantyne. You are not the only one to say so, which is unfortunate because it is a lovely setting for afternoon tea. Thanks too for the support, honesty can be unkind, which is never our intent.

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