Afternoon tea aficionados know that the iconic service can span an entire afternoon and encompass much more than tea. This distinctly British custom traces back to the mid-19th century when Anna the seventh Duchess of Bedford would feel peckish between lunch and dinner. She began calling for a tray of tea with sandwiches and cake around 4 o’clock, eventually inviting friends to join for the deliciousness.

Underscored by ceremony and commentary, the practice quickly caught on and became a fixture of British society. Today, the traditions of afternoon tea are alive and well, preserved and reimagined in parlors the world over — sometimes opulent, often elegant, always indulgent. Whatever your personality type, you’ll savor these quirky takes on traditional afternoon tea.

1. For a View: The Shelbourne

With nearly every plush seat facing St. Stephen’s Green, The Lord Mayor’s Lounge inside The Shelbourne hotel is as much of a feast for the eyes as it is for the tastebuds once afternoon tea commences underneath the glittering crystal chandeliers. The highly curated tea selection includes several green, herbal, and black varieties led by the Shelbourne Blend, a hearty Assam golden mélange. After one sip, it’s easy to see why literary greats like George Moore, Oscar Wilde, and James Joyce relished this place.

2. For “Queen Charlotte” Superfans: The Lanesborough

Regency-era England makes a return at The Lanesborough, the London address synonymous with grandeur. The hotel’s special Queen Charlotte Afternoon Tea pays homage to the Shondaland series’ beloved characters through dazzling pastry creations: a jasmine chocolate ganache glazed blue for King George’s love of astronomy; Lady Violet’s floral, fruity bavarois tinged deep violet; a Danbury Delight that captures the lady’s love of hats and jewels; and Your Majesty, the pièce de résistance that is more crown than confection.

3. For the Undecided: TWG Tea

This luxury label has become a fixture in upscale restaurants, hotels, spas, and lounges. At the company’s home base in Singapore, TWG Tea boutiques sell more than 800 varieties of loose leaf, any of which can be ordered with the teatime set menus. Should making that decision not be daunting enough, there are also macarons, chocolate bonbons, patisseries, and ice creams galore, each infused with fragrant, heavenly teas.

4. For All-You-Can-Eaters: Fortnum & Mason

Fortnum & Mason has been the purveyor of exquisite British foods since 1707. Get lost in the bewildering London gourmet food hall en route to the tea salon. Consider it an added opportunity to work up an appetite for the feast that awaits, as here lives one of the finest scones known to humanity. Two will not suffice. Fortunately, everything on offer — including teas, finger sandwiches, and cakes — is replenished until the servers are requested to stop.

5. For Art Lovers: The Merrion

The drawing rooms of The Merrion in Dublin set the stage for a true showstopper. The Art Tea takes its cue from the artwork hanging around the hotel, incidentally home to Ireland’s largest private collection of art. Executive Chef Ed Cooney and his team skillfully sculpt cakes, ice biscuits, and paint chocolate to create miniature masterpieces almost too beautiful to devour. “There is a lot of detail, and it’s very technical work,” Cooney says. But devour one must, for they are, above all, lip-smackingly delectable.

6. For Gin Aficionados: Hyatt Regency Sydney

You don’t have to be crazy about the junipery tipple to appreciate the extravagance of this high tea at the Hyatt Regency Sydney. Yes, there are Australian and British gins with botanical flavors to pair with an array of tonics, but the super-local ethos is what makes this venue a standout. The menu is informed by bush tucker, foods native to Australia, so the white chocolate-aniseed scone comes with strawberry-eucalyptus jam, while juniper cream, licorice sabayon, and orris-root coulis add grace notes to a buffet table laden with temptation.

7. For a Splash of Color: Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse

The most interesting place to take tea in the United States could very well be 5,400 feet above sea level. Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse was a gift from the Tajik capital Dushanbe to Boulder, Colorado, as they established sister city ties in the 1980s. More than 40 artisans worked on the decorative elements of the building, including its painted ceiling and carved plaster panels. The interiors become increasingly bewitching as one sinks into a pot of more than 100 carefully curated teas.

8. For “Derry Girls” Devotees: Everglades Hotel

Before Nicola Coughlan warmed her way into our hearts as Penelope Featherington in Bridgerton, she played Clare Devlin in the riotous comedy Derry Girls. The cast stayed at the Everglades Hotel whenever they filmed on location, eventually inspiring the Derry Girls Afternoon Tea. Among the culinary highlights: Derry’s iconic sausage roll bap; a cheese and onion Tayto potato chip sandwich; and cream horn, which show fans will associate with a certain senior’s dating life.

9. For History Buffs: The Russian Tea Room

A visit to this Manhattan institution is a step back in time. The Russian Tea Room’s scarlet leather booths, plush carpeting, and gilded frames hearken to the days of its founding when Soviet defectors from the Imperial Russian Ballet made a new home next to Carnegie Hall. Today, the restaurant is still championing democracy and speaking out against the aggression in Ukraine, as guests flock here for a distinctly continental afternoon tea featuring the likes of caviar on blini and smoked sturgeon sandwiches.

10. For Art Deco Ambiance: Bettys York

Crowds patiently queue for a table inside Bettys’ legendary York café tearoom mimicking the Art Deco interiors of the RMS Queen Mary ocean liner. Bettys has been in business for more than a century, and it continues to keep up with the times by offering vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options of its afternoon tea. A pared-down Yorkshire cream tea intimates the experience without the need for elastic trousers: just two scones plus a pot of tea.

11. For Flower Power: Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas

Exclusivity is the overarching theme of the Maldives, where private accommodation is de rigueur. It’s only fitting that an afternoon tea here would be no different. At the Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas, access is granted to only one party at a time enjoying tea in the Nala Orchid Garden. Be enveloped in the scent from more than a thousand orchids while sipping champagne, as taste buds are tantalized with local specialties such as curried chicken pastry and lobster mas huni in chapati bread.

12. For Politicos: Willard InterContinental

The afternoon tea offerings at Washington, D.C.’s Willard InterContinental — smoked duck on beet onion crostini, pepper-crusted tuna loin sandwich, rosemary apricot scone — could easily be part of any White House banquet. And for good reason: The property has hosted every commander in chief since the 1850s. The proximity to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue makes the hotel a haunt for policy wonks and lobbyists, a term popularized by Ulysses S. Grant because of those pestering him as he enjoyed his cigar in the Willard lobby.

13. For Melomaniacs: Middle Eight

A symphony of sweets and sandwiches is deliciously in tune at the musically inspired afternoon tea at Middle Eight, a luxury hotel in London’s Covent Garden whose name references the term for a contrasting section of a song. The sumptuous offerings include the Blood Orange Opera, a citrus panna cotta with layers of blood orange jelly, and the Hazelnut Harmony, head pastry chef Clanny Rodrigues’ twist on the classic éclair topped with chocolate piano keys. The selection of Tea Palace loose-leaf teas makes for a fine duet.

14. For Wannabe A-Listers: The Biltmore

After it opened in 1923 as the United States’ largest hotel west of Chicago, The Biltmore welcomed the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, and Ginger Rogers and cemented downtown Los Angeles as a hotspot. Now, visitors can pretend to be stars themselves at the property’s recently relaunched afternoon tea service held adjacent to the dramatic baroque stairwell and a rose marble fountain at the Rendezvous Court Café.

15. For Night Owls: Fairmont Empress

What would happen if you combined afternoon tea with happy hour? That’s the thinking behind the Fairmont Empress’ timely new twist on a classic: a cocktail and culinary experience inspired by the time-honored tradition of sipping tea before the sun sets. After serving afternoon tea for more than a century, the chateau-style Victoria, British Columbia, hotel designed by architect Francis Rattenbury now offers a boozy evening service for those who desire a little something extra later in the day.

16. For a Spicy Time: Taj Mahal Palace

Afternoon tea at Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Palace’s Sea Lounge appears designed with maharajas and maharanis in mind. For traditionalists, the Victorian set with dainty sandwiches, savories, and sweets delivers. But the real draw is the high-tea buffet, where one can sample Indian street snacks, ranging from chaat to farsan. Either route ensures a pleasurable afternoon, particularly when paired with any of the excellent Assam and Darjeeling teas on tap and topped with a sweeping view of the Arabian Sea.

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