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Feb 26, 2007 04:07 AM

Places for "High Tea"?

Hi, I'm looking for places that offer "High Tea" I know the Ritz used to offer they still under the new management? What are places are there in the Greater Boston area? Are there any worth travelling beyond Metro Boston for?


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    1. In Cambridge they offer afternoon tea at the Monday Club Bar at Upstairs on the Square.

      In Boston you can go to The Bristol Lounge at the Four Seasons and the Ritz. Not sure about the Taj, in the old Ritz location, but I'm sure they have something.

      1. BFP and I had afternoon tea at the Bristol Lounge on Valentine's Day. I had been there quite a few times going back over 25 years, but haven't had a chance for an afternoon tea anyplace in at least five years. I was on vacation that week, so we decided that rather than brave the overpriced restaurant specials and sub-par experience that typify Valentine's Day dinner out, we'd do tea. Not such a faboo experience, I'm afraid. (And, yes, we later read posts from folks who had great dinners out, in the face of lots and lots of cancellations. Oh, well.)

        Admittedly the weather was not pleasant, and we were both wet and feeling a bit harried by the time we arrived, but I was mildly disappointed with the tea, which seemed less opulent than it used to be, and especially with the service, which was reasonably efficient but decidedly chilly. We are not difficult customers, but I had hoped for just a touch of friendliness, warmth, and a little coddling for two people who had obviously slogged through an active storm to get there.

        1. what you're looking for is properly called afternoon tea, not high tea.

          the boston harbor hotel also offers it.

          17 Replies
          1. re: hotoynoodle

            That's right. I just checked wikipedia and they say that high tea is done in the early evening, while low tea is done in the afternoon. Learn something new every day!

            My folks used to go to the Wenham Tea House all the time; they loved it. I don't think they've been in awhile, though....

            1. re: hiddenboston

              I went to the Wenham Tea house last weekend for a baby shower. The tea itself was decent, not fabulous - although the water could have been hotter. We were first served piping hot scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserves - delicious. Next was finger sandwiches - traditional cucumber, egg salad, chicken salad, salmon and dill and one that was a spread of blue cheese, pears and walnuts - all quite tasty and about two bites each. Lastly was a tower of delicate cookies and pastries. I'd definitely go back, although it might be a while as this spot is a bit of a trek from Boston, by my own definition of "trek"

              1. re: heathermb

                Piping hot scones?! They should be no more than warm.

                1. re: chickendhansak

                  Well, they were fresh from the oven...didn't burn fingers or anything. We all enjoyed them mightily.

            2. re: hotoynoodle

              I lived in England for 4 years. Afternoon Tea, simple or elaborate is served between 3-5. High Tea or Tea refers to a meal eaten by the working classes at 6...eggs, sausage, chips, savory pies, etc. They eat their dinner mid-day. Middle and Upper Classes in England eat their dinner from 7-9. They eat lunch mid-day. The Scots use the term Afternoon Tea and High Tea interchageably. The meal at 6 is also called Tea or High Tea. Some English people in the south of the country will bristle if Afternoon Tea is called High Tea. they are not the same. The Welsh and the northern English terminology is similar to or the same as the Scots.

              If you want sandwiches, scones and cakes, this is Afternoon Tea but has a speical name, Cream Tea (refers to whiiped cream in or on the cakes).

              Everybody got this>

              1. re: edward franks

                A good cream tea is likely to involve clotted cream, which is difficult to find (perhaps impossible to find fresh) in Boston. Shaw's in Porter Square have their British and Irish food section which includes jars of long-life clotted cream. This is so far from the real thing it's not worth bothering with.

                I am British and I don't really recognise much of the description above. Like anywhere in the western world, meal times and the form that meals take, are now very flexible, and traditions surrounding afternoon tea are an anachronism at best, though tourists will certainly be invited to enjoy a cream tea in touristy areas.

                There is no current custom of taking afternoon tea in any part of England where I have lived (the north, the midlands and the south east) and I would be entertained to meet anyone born in the latter half of the 20th century who lived a life of regular afternoon teas.

                It is certainly true that in the north of England, the evening meal is commonly known as "tea" but to call it "high tea" would again be very anachronistic.

                1. re: chickendhansak

                  Deluca's Market in Beacon Hill has clotted cream, though I havent tried it so I dont know its authenticity. I adore it- but havent found a justifiable reason for the indulgence :-)

                  Ive seen it at Whole Foods as well...

                  1. re: chickendhansak

                    I think that edward franks' point was that what the original poster was looking for (over a year and a half ago!) was not "high tea" but "afternoon tea." Many Americans are confused about the fact that there is a distinction - they think that "high tea" is a fancy afternoon tea, which is what they are really looking for, but it isn't.

                    1. re: Allstonian

                      The beauty of Edward's posting for me is that I too didn't know there was a distinction. That kind of knowledge is about as scarce in the UK now as it is here.

                    2. re: chickendhansak

                      I lived in the north in Durham City and in the south in Cambridge. Whether anyone still lives a life of "regular afternoon teas" is beside the point. I am talking about Americans who in their confusion call "Afternoon Tea," "High Tea." They are not the same meal. In Scotland the terms are interchangeable according to my Scots friends. Knowing which one they refer to depends on the hour the meal is served. In the north to call Tea High Tea maybe anachronistic now. Times change word usuage as you point out.

                      "There is no current custom of taking afternoon tea in any part of England where I have live." No custom? I am not talking about the current customs, but the nomenclature of a meal. If someone eats pastry and drinks tea at a certain hour of the day, once a year, once a week or everyday, they're having Afternoon Tea, not Tea. I guess in these it's a snack.

                      I enjoy Afternoon Tea once in a while, when I am in England. I am retired. I don't have to order fast food as do so many people who have busy schedules. A proper Afternoon Tea is a treat and brings back fond memories of being a student at Durham and Cambridge Universities. It's a great Egnlish invention of 200 hundred years ago (Duchess of Devonshire?). Too bad it's in danger of becoming a tourist draw or a parody. Cake and coffee in northern European countries. Yummy!

                      I don't have to go to touristy areas in England to find it: It's easy to have a good piece of cake or other pastry and a pot of tea or something more substantial.

                      Finding a good Afternoon Tea in America is 'iff'y,' becase Americans can't resist messing about with a good formula.

                      1. re: edward franks

                        Since I grew up close to Durham and have spent many years living in Cambridge, our experiences may be similar (though I am far from the traditional retirement age).

                        I'm afraid that your post reads as if a definitive description of current regional dining customs in the U.K. The point of my reply was to say that times have changed.

                        I cannot disagree with your point about the terms high tea and afternoon tea differing, not least because I was not aware of the distinction myself before your post. But I cannot agree that by eating a slice of cake and drinking a cup of tea, in the UK, between certain hours of the day, and perhaps by virtue of being British, I am inescapably "having Afternoon Tea". As you say, "a snack" is more like it.

                        As for tea, the drink, itself, I have never liked it. I understand however from numerous fellow Brits that they despair of the tea they are served in the USA, because it is so often prepared with hot, not boiling, water -- leaving the tea insipid. One was even moved to complain at a Kendall Square hotel breakfast where not only was the tea wrong, but there was no toast rack, which led to the hot toast getting damp.

                        Nonetheless, when served with coffee, I enjoy a good cream tea too.

                        1. re: teaTomE

                          Thanks for a wonderful resource with your great site! Obviously you both know and love tea.

                          My first exposure to afternoon tea was at the Ritz many years ago. Since then I grew to prefer the Four Seasons but after reading your review of the Taj, I think I'll try going back to my first place to love tea.

                          If you or Hana are in town and would like to attend tea at the Athenaeum again, I'm a member and would be honored to have you as a guest. You can reach me through my site in the signature below.


                          1. re: chickendhansak

                            I find this very puzzling. I lived in the UK for 9 years and am married to a Brit, so I can claim some familiarity. The term "high tea" would never be used for a fancy afternoon sit-down with cakes etc -- this would always been known as a "cream tea". While not an everyday thing, it is certainly a universally recognized treat. My husband's family traditionally does cream tea at the Ritz for Mothering Sunday (aka Mother's Day). But then there is the much less formal type of "tea" -- never a meal! (Horrors, terribly working class.) When I was a student, I would often meet people for tea -- just a break in the afternoon where we would have tea and maybe toast or biscuits. And I worked at a place where once a week we would have tea -- usually just tea and biscuits, nothing fancy, but a nice social occasion. When I visit my inlaws, we might pause in the afternoon and take tea. Once again, nothing fancy. Perhaps my experience is atypical, but I would argue that the habit isn't all that anachronistic.

                            1. re: chickendhansak

                              i don't hear a recommendation for a tea spot....

                            2. re: edward franks

                              Customs have changed and England has changed in 40 years since I lived there.

                              I'm always surprised by the number of British people who don't like tea, but then I was surprised to learn that a fair number of Italians do not drink wine, because they do not like it.

                              Finding a good cup of tea in this ocuntry in a cafe or restaurant is not easy. a bad cup of tea in England is hard to find,

                              Pieces of toasted bread piled on top of each other make for soggy toast. Restaurants should use toast racks. Hot buttered toast is delicious. Toast in the toast rack will be warm or room temperature. The butter will not melt and the jam, if used, will sit on top of the unmelted butter. BUT, to my taste buds it produces a offers a delicious alternative to hot toast with melted butter and jam. I like them both, but each deliveres a different flavor sensation!

                              I love a good cup of coffee. American coffee is coffee water. It's hard to find a bad cup of coffee in Italy or Vienna.

                              I am glad you enjoy a cream tea with coffee. It's comfort food. Relax and enjoy!

                              1. re: edward franks

                                I agree wholeheartedly on the toast and unmelted butter with jam. It is its own thing.

                        2. Novel, the restaurant in the Boston Public Library, also offers afternoon tea on weekdays -- and while it's in a pretty space and reasonably priced, I wouldn't recommend it because the service was slow and confused, food and tea were so-so, and the crockery seemed less than clean. Not exactly a pleasantly pampered circumstance, which should be part of the whole teatime experience.

                          Much preferred tea at the Bristol Lounge at the Four Seasons.