Afternoon tea is more than hot water and leaves. It doesn’t have to be snooty or just for refined ladies, either. So what if you haven’t had an indulgent experience at the Chesterfield Mayfair Hotel in London? You may never have sampled the fare at the Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed Willow Tea Room in Glasgow. Take heart! Your cravings for afternoon tea, with all of its miniature sweet and savory delights, can be satisfied on this island. Granted, it will never be as if you’re in Great Britain, but a relaxing afternoon with fragrant tea and delicious treats can still be a reality. Just be sure to reserve your spot (o’ tea).
If you’re missing the casual availability of just a pot of tea and a scone, you can order a la carte from many tea venues. The Halekulani and Mariposa aren’t included in this round-up, but don’t overlook the more casual places included in this gastronomic survey, either.
Tea at 1024
The go-to downtown tea spot since 1999, Tea at 1024 remodeled its interior in December. That’s a good thing—for all of its childhood tea party charm—getting to choose your own cup and saucer as well as having the option to select hat and boas from a costume corner—one had to work to ignore the odd smell of the old Tea at 1024. Since the remodeling, the place is bright, clean and cheery. Bold but unobtrusive reds balance the natural daylight and airy feeling the high ceilings provide. At $15.95 per full tea set with a $6.95 sharing charge, Tea at 1024 is probably the best afternoon tea value in town.
With a standard offering of teas from the black, green, red and herbal families, blends to pay attention to are the House Blend, consisting of black tea, raspberries and sweet rose petals, and the Rooibus—a blend of African red tea and lavender. The lavender’s perky effects make it easy to forget the tea is caffeine-free.
A pleasantly blended baby spinach, feta and strawberry salad lightly dressed in a vinaigrette precedes the tea. One then gets a choice of two of four types of sandwiches: crab and olive, tomato and cheddar, egg salad or chicken curry, with the latter probably being the most popular choice. The sandwiches are served on light fluffy soft bread, with one side wheat and the other side white.
The triangular scones vary—this day’s selection being orange-cranberry—and are heated through and served with clotted cream and strawberry jam. The pastry selection varies as well, with this day’s featuring including a brownie with a raspberry jelly topping and a chocolate-covered hazelnut cream puff.
Enjoy the soundtrack of light piano music in background and try not to dip your boa feathers into your tea.
A Cup of Tea
For those on the Windward side, A Cup of Tea provides a leisurely, lacy and pink experience. The venue takes leisure to the extreme, which would explain the majority of patrons on one visit consisting mostly of retired ladies enjoying one another’s company.
A tea cart sits right outside the seating areas for patrons to smell and select before being seated. Volcano Flower Burst, blueberry, bubblegum, Bourbon Street Vanilla and Le Marche Spice demonstrate the great variety available.
A Victorian charm lies in the crystal water glasses awaiting your delicate handling. The tea is served first, followed by a small porcelain basket of mini cinnamon scones, which are buttery and straight from the oven, but more reminiscent of pancakes than of traditional scones. Clotted cream and strawberry jam make anything better, though.
The sandwiches that follow only after you finish the mini scones include ham, tuna and two varieties of vegetable. The veggie ones are more complex tasting, with thin slices and vinaigrettes tasting better than the canned tuna.
The pastries on this day were two varieties of shortbread cookies, fresh fruit and a chocolate pudding tart with a cookie-like crust.
While this venue is slightly more expensive than its non-hotel peers, its elaborately lacy décor, mini shop in the front and kind service are a Windward treat.
Waioli Tea Room
Charming Waioli Tea Room’s outdoor seating can either be pleasant in cool weather or humid and hot. Either way, it’s a smart move on the restaurant’s part to take advantage of the mostly unobtrusive weather in the lush green setting.
A tea cart with loose leaf tea travels from table to table, ranging from chocolate mint to peach and ginger blends.
Waioli takes a greater inclusive approach to tea, as long as the food items are miniature. This explains the impressive range of savory treats, which on this day were a potato-herb quiche (with a slightly soggy crust), vegetarian Vietnamese spring roll (messy and watery but good for variety’s sake), bacon crostini and corned beef on rye bread with mayonnaise.
The warm, buttery cinnamon raisin scone accompanied by Devonshire cream and lemon curd outshines the accompanying pastries. But this speaks to the quality of the scone, as the desserts are still a delight. A lemon bar, fruit salad, chocolate cheesecake, apple tart with flaky crust and Waioli Cake (fruit cake, not in disguise) fill a long line-up in a parade of desserts.
If you’re hooked on Waioli, the tea room shop provides you with some of its signature tea, scones, guava and lilikoi bread and fine bone china tea pots and sets.
Tea on the Veranda, Beachcomber Restaurant, Moana Surfrider
The high expectations of a hotel tea at hotel prices are met in all areas at Waikiki’s oldest inn—view, ambiance, service, sandwiches, scones, pastries and tea. Staking out an outdoor beachfront view on a covered veranda, one has no choice but to relax, gazing out on to the ocean. With trained attentive service, even inexperienced tea patrons can appreciate the service without feeling intimidated or confused.
The selection of teas total only seven, samples of which a server brings to the table before ordering. While the quantity of teas may not match other tea venues, the quality of each tea is exquisite, with both robust and delicate fragrances—each subsequent tea making the choice harder. Jasmine pearls, Darjeeling, lemon herb, a passion fruit blend and the Moana blend of black tea and mango are just a few of the choices. One receives a smaller silver teapot, but with unlimited and unsolicited refilling of hot water.
The sandwiches already come plated and are placed in front of you. Lox, crème fraiche and red onion on a thin slice of baguette provide a spin on the concept of sandwich. A mini croissant filled with turkey curry salad, cucumber and lettuce is flaky perfection. And a soft focaccia sandwich filled with ham, tomato and avocado continue the subtle buttery theme of the meal.
The soft raisin scone accompanied by lemon curd, Devonshire cream and small jars of strawberry jam and orange marmalade is fresh and buttery. The excellent cream puff, mini fruit tart, light Japanese style mango mousse cake and chocolate-nut cookies are then followed by a green tea and lemon grass sorbet in a stemmed crystal glass. If you’ve ever wanted to wear a pair of white gloves, Tea on the Veranda provides the perfect opportunity.