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High tea in and around Austin?

  • Helind May 19, 2009 11:53 AM
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Has anyone experienced a particularly good high tea in or around Austin? I'm thinking of taking friend to high tea as a birthday present. I've been to The Steeping Room but that's more Asian inspired. What I'm looking for is English style. Atmosphere is important too. Any ideas?

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  1. The Four Seasons hotel downtown has an excellent tea. Great finger sandwiches, scones, and cookies too. I would definitely take her there if that is in your price range. The hotel is on the lake, too.

    4 Replies
    1. re: nyc_girl13

      i was actually going to post this and you beat me to it!
      this is the only place in austin proper that does high tea, to my knowledge.
      there is some place out in gruene/wimberly, that may make for a nice afternoon trip.
      i can't remember the name of it, but if i remember i will post back.

      1. re: dinaofdoom

        friar tucks pantry a british tea and pastry shop that also serves food.may have high tea .www.friartuckspantry.com

      2. re: nyc_girl13

        nyc_girl13, Do you know how much they charge at the Four Seasons?

        1. re: Helind

          Yes, that is why I wrote, '..if that is in your price range.'

      3. I haven't personally been, but have heard great things about Bawdsey Manor in San Antonio. I could not find a website for them - but did find an article/review from Southern Living -

        http://www.southernliving.com/travel/...

        Good Luck!

        1. This post reminded me of Four Seasons high tea right away, and it had been a long time since I had gone. Today I went. They serve high tea from 1:30-3:30 and you have to make reservations 24 hours in advance so they know how much of the food they'll be needing to make. I went today for a 2:30 reservation with a dear friend. They had our table waiting for us in the lounge already set for high tea, and it had flower petals sprinkled around on it and a 'Reserved' sign. We had a lovely table adjacent to big windows that overlooked their grounds, which are absolutely lovely. We were given a menu with the teas available and on the other side it showed what sandwiches and goodies we would be getting. They also brought a box over with small jars with corks that had the loose tea leaves of each kind of tea for us to look at and smell. The teas were from Mighty Leaf. I had a black tea, Orange Jasmine, and my friend had Chamomile Citron. With our tea they gave us each a plate with the 4 miniature finger sandwiches on it. One was cut in a triangle with smoked salmon on marbled rye, one with portabella mushrooms, squash, parmesan. and sundried tomato pesto, one was just one piece of toasted bread with shrimp salad, and the last had ham, mayo, tomato, and lettuce. Each one was delicious and very pretty. When we were through they brought out the tier dessert tray plus a plate for each of us with three beautiful desserts. One was a layered chocolate torte, one was a layered strawberry cheesecake, and one was a cherry tart. On the first level of the tier dessert tray there was a saucer with creme fraiche and the other with lemon curd. On the next level was 6 scones. 3 kinds, 2 of each. Poppyseed, raisin, and Texas maple pecan. On the top level there were 2 enormous chocolate covered strawberries, a tea cookie, a coconut macaroon, two hazelnut chocolates, and two jellies coated with sugar. We each tried a few things and then got too full and got them to package up the rest. It was a wonderful experience, great service, beautiful view of their grounds, delicious and gorgeous sandwiches and delicacies, great tea, and was very worth $30 a person. However, it is definitely not something you should indulge on very often:)

          3 Replies
          1. re: nyc_girl13

            That sounds wonderful. Thanks for such a thoughtful review! I have a mission.

            Please tell me the attire... High Tea when I visit my mom could be described as southern "country club". I'm just wondering how casual it gets... or not (hopefully).

            1. re: Rene

              You are very welcome. The attire is loose because the tea is in the lounge of the hotel, so there are guests having drinks in their jeans and everyday clothes. However, because you are at the Four Seasons for tea, you definitely want to dress better than usual. I wore a nice J.Crew t-shirt tucked into a skirt with wedges & my friend wore a polo shirt tuchef into khaki's with dress shoes. So I would call the attire 'smart casual'. Haha, I got that from a cruise I took last summer and they described the dresscode for the dining room as 'smart casual' on non-formal nights.

              1. re: nyc_girl13

                Good job... thanks!

          2. Sorry to say the best High Tea I ever experienced was at Bawdsey Manor and they went out of business. However, British Sensations out of San Antonio opened in the quaint Brackenvillage. I have not been since changeover, but B.Village is fun. Lot's of shops. It's near Garden Ridge pottery just before you get into San Antonio. Good map on website. http://www.brackenvillagesa.com/index...
            A new tearoom just opened in downtown Bastrop and I'm going to lunch there Fri. 6/5 and will report back. It is in the old doll shoppe location one block off Main Street where all shoppes and restaurants are located on Old Downtown Main Street.
            http://tanalees-teaandsympathytearoom...
            I went to Gruene with big group and we stopped in the Riverhouse Tea Room only for iced tea. Nice atmosphere and menu looked good. I don't beleive they serve High Tea.
            Also, there is a very pretty tearoom in Salado. Great food and very pretty inside.
            http://www.salado.com/dine_info.cfm?i...
            Lastly, Fredericksburg has a great tearoom.
            http://www.peach-tree.com/restaurant/...
            Hope this helps. Let us know where you went and your thoughts!!

            3 Replies
            1. re: redhatcharm

              How did you like Tanalees after your visit? Is it better than the Ambrosia Tea Room in Salado?

              1. re: aquahot

                I visited Tanalee's a couple fo weeks ago...we had a birthday tea party for my Mom. This is a precious shabby chic, whimsical little "dollhouse". Tanalee is a sweetheart and sees to your every need and desire. The table is set with a collection of teacups/saucers, pretty linens...there are several choices of "afternoon tea" we enjoyed the $30 pp party and it was sumptuous. I give the experience a 4 star...we had a fabulous time!

                1. re: caroltis

                  Right. "Afternoon Tea." As a quick Google search will tell you, the formal tea that we "colonials" have mistakenly taken to calling "high tea" is what the Brits (and everybody else in the official tea world) call "Afternoon Tea." No big deal unless you're calling to make reservations someplace and you say, "High Tea blahblahblah..." and they say, "Do you mean 'Afternoon Tea?'" and you're confused so you say, "No, High Tea!" and the conversation continues to repeat itself. This conversation can be particularly galling if you're having it somewhere Veddy British, like, oh say, the Empress Hotel in Victoria, or anywhere else, for that matter, with folks that know the difference.

                  "High Tea" is, in fact, something completely different. A hearty working-class meal with meats, cheeses, breads, etc., served often on a (high) sideboard and eaten at the (high) dining or kitchen table, rather than served prettily to the dainty upper-class ladies on low coffee/tea tables in a fancy parlor or elegant garden of a leisurely afternoon.

                  http://britishfood.about.com/od/faq/f...

            2. Just got back from High Tea at the Four Seasons. I won't go into too much detail because NYCgirl has already done such a great job describing the particulars. I didn't love it as much as she did. Our server, though sweet, wasn't the best. There were long periods of time when she wasn't in the lobby; and because she spoke so softly, I had a hard time understanding what she was saying. My tea companions; and I all very much liked the Orange Jasmine tea. Some of us started out with other teas but all ended up with that one. Our waitress didn't bring the tea over to us to smell and choose; so we just went with the descriptions on the menu. The sandwiches were tasty but the one with sprouts and mushrooms was soggy. The cheesecake moose and torte were all delicious. The scones, however, were extremely salty.

              The atmosphere was surprisingly casual. I thought The Four Seasons was an upscale hotel. I don't mind casual attire but the surroundings were a little ratty looking. I expected something more like The Mandarin Oriental, I guess. It just didn't seem that special. It was $30 per person after all.

              Maybe Austinites just aren't that into the whole high tea thing. But it seems like some clever business person could do well by opening a British style tea room. Maybe something like Alice's Tea Cup in NYC not too formal, not too casual.

              5 Replies
              1. re: Helind

                I don't know about high tea, but Austinites really aren't into anything formal. I really like getting dressed up, but that is just not the thing in Austin unfortunately.

                1. re: Helind

                  I have been following this thread since last month in hopes that someone would discover an awesome place to have a fancy high tea. How fun would it be to get gussied up in a poofy dress, shiny shoes, and gorge oneself on petit fours, right? Right. (Oh, and uh, native Austinite here, I still want to dress up) Well the only thing I have to add to the thread is that last year the Driskill had something called the 12 Days of Driskill, and one of those days was a Victorian Holiday Tea. I wasn't able to make it, but a friend wouldn't shut up about how awesome it was. You can bet your mary janes I am going to be on the watch this December to see if they do it again, although I realize this doesn't do us a lot of good now. From the Driskill web archive:

                  "A traditional European-style holiday tea is served each afternoon in our elegant Grand Lobby. With a harpist playing in the background, guests are treated to a four-course tea service, including a glass of sparkling wine. The menu includes: assorted tea sandwiches, fruit tartlettes, petit fours, truffles and freshly baked scones served with Devonshire cream, lemon curd and fruit preserves. Teas custom blended by The Tea Embassy.

                  $48 Adults ; $18 Children, 3-12
                  Reservations required"

                  1. re: femmenikita

                    The Tea Embassy also hosts monthly teas and "tea brunches": http://teaembassy.com/page/Tea-Embass... I wonder if anybody could report their experience? I'm curious.

                    1. re: angusb

                      The Tea Embassy is having a Christmas Tea:

                      http://teaembassy.com/page/Tea-Embass...

                    2. re: femmenikita

                      The Driskill is doing a tea again this year. It's part of their "12 days of Driskill":

                      http://www.driskillhotel.com/austin-t...

                  2. I took my daughter to high tea at the Four Seasons last year for Mothers day. We had a wonderful time, they had a special menu which included gummy bears and PB & J. After we walked down to the lake and relaxed in the hammocks. The price was kinda steep, but it was great service and it is the Four Seasons. They are the only place in Austin that does a high tea. There is a place I have heard about in the Domain but I am not sure if they do a high tea.

                    1. The Tea Embassy is hosting a Halloween Tea:

                      http://teaembassy.com/page/Tea-Embass...

                      1. I suspect Austinities are not only resisting dressing up for high tea (which, BTW, is NOT a necessity), but they are resisting the ridiculously high prices being charged by places like the Tea Embassy viz viz "high tea" value aka bang for your buck aka awe in your Assam. I love a good high tea and have sampled 'em in Texas from Beau's at the Crescent in Dallas to Cafe M. Bloomers in Navasota, and, to my mind, no one puts on a great high tea here, but that's fine. I wouldn't expect London to have great Tex-Mex either. But what crumbles my crumpet, are the skimpy stale portions, poor atmosphere and service, tea bag teas, etc. that are offered regionally for high prices with little value. Why can't a tea be priced at least about $25 pp? I like to sample high teas when travelling (see links below); recent (August 2009 - October 2009) terrific high teas at or under $25 US or less that I've had were in Harrogate, UK - Betty's Tea Room - and Vancouver, BC - Secret Garden Tea Room. Earlier this year I enjoyed a great high tea, for $41 (the highest level out of many to choose from), at the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco, but it included champagne. I've also been willing to spend the dinero when talking high tea as theatre - say, the Empress High Tea in Victoria, BC or Claridge's in London - but even they offer views, music, scrumptiousness, service and luxury for about $50 US. (Such experiences put the ding-a-ling in my Darjeeling.) But $35 for the Tea Embassy??? I personally would prefer to take my lumps elsewhere - like the Demerara in my cup' o Nilgiri.

                        Menu & Links

                        Bettys Traditional Afternoon Tea
                        A pot of Tea Room Blend Tea;
                        sandwiches with a choice of two of the following fillings:
                        Smoked Scottish Salmon, Roast Yorkshire Ham,
                        Roast Free-Range Chicken Breast or Egg Mayonnaise;
                        a Sultana Scone, strawberry preserve and Yorkshire clotted cream;
                        a selection of miniature cakes.
                        £15.75

                        http://www.bettys.co.uk/

                        http://www.secretgardentea.com/highte...

                        http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Propert...

                        http://www.secretgardentea.com/highte...

                        http://www.fairmont.com/empress/Guest...

                        http://www.claridges.co.uk/page.aspx?...

                         
                        3 Replies
                        1. re: xalapenocharlie

                          My high tea knowledge comes to a grinding halt after Windsor Court http://www.windsorcourthotel.com/web/...

                          But I love xalapeno's post.Lots of information,lots of valuable descriptors.Great contribution.

                          1. re: scrumptiouschef

                            From Wickipedia:
                            High tea
                            High tea (also known as meat tea[5]) is an early evening meal, typically eaten between 5pm and 6pm in the evening. It would be eaten as a substitute for both afternoon tea and the evening meal. It is now largely replaced by a later evening meal.

                            It would usually consist of cold meats, eggs or fish, cakes and sandwiches. In a family, it tends to be less formal and is an informal snack (featuring sandwiches, biscuits, pastry, fruit and the like) or else it is the main evening meal.

                            On farms or other working class environments, "high tea" would be the traditional, substantial meal eaten by the workers immediately after nightfall, and would combine afternoon tea with the main evening meal. See also The UK Tea Council Definition.

                            In recent years, high tea has become a term for elaborate afternoon tea, though this is American usage and mainly unrecognised in Britain. Such usage is disfavored by etiquette advisors, such as Miss Manners (see below).

                            1. re: Cher Martin

                              NOW I read this. After having posted essentially the same thing.

                              Ah well, doesn't hurt to repeat it.

                        2. Not high tea, but the Tea Embassy is now serving scones and muffins Thursday through Saturday. Can't wait to try it.

                          -----
                          Tea Embassy Tea Treasures
                          900 Rio Grande St, Austin, TX 78701

                          1. Edible Austin Tea Festival
                            The Edible Austin Tea Festival is a gathering of the Austin area’s fine tea purveyors and tea rooms who will sample and demonstrate all that is mysterious and wonderful about tea. Chef Jesse Bloom of Ecstatic Cuisine will offer tea-paired food plates for $10/ plate. Also featuring tea talks, demonstrations, traditional tea ceremonies and tea products for sale. The Tea Festival is also a stop on the Urban Farm Bicycle Tour. Free. 10 am to 2 pm at the Zhi Tea Gallery, 4607 Bolm Rd.

                            1. Not that you asked but San Antonio is as scarce for good tea rooms as Austin appears to be. Such a pity.

                              1. I haven't tried it but Full English serves High Tea and apparently some or every aspect of it requires a 24 hr notice. Must be some serious-ass tea.