With so many wonderful locations around the world, Fairmont Hotels have become known for their traditional, yet creative Afternoon Tea service… While it’s almost impossible to secure a reservation at many of their properties, a recent afternoon with the Fairmont DC reminded me why so many of us enjoy this simple, yet luxurious indulgence.
Afternoon Tea is growing in popularity, and continues to be offered in an increasing number of hotels and resorts worldwide. Many have realized that Afternoon Tea is not just for groups of ladies with big hats, but an enjoyable getaway from the busy day to relax and enjoy time with friends and family. Even during my most recent visit to The Fairmont, the other guests included a small group of businessmen, a large gathering of women planning a wedding, a mother with her teenage son and several young couples; proving that the art of Afternoon Tea is enjoyed by an ever-broadening demographic.
Many tea service virgins mistakenly refer to Afternoon Tea as High Tea – this is often because they feel “High Tea” sounds more sophisticated and royal, or simply because they have no clue of the differences. Here’s a short “Tea 101” lesson to get answer a few of the general questions. According to the historians, Afternoon Tea began in the mid-1800’s at the time that kerosine lanterns had been introduced, and it became fashionable to have dinner later in the evening. This left many very hungry between the primary meals at that time of breakfast and dinner, and needed an afternoon snack. Over the years it continued to evolve and was not only part of the daily routine for many everyday people and families, but also became a favorite pastime for the ladies of leisure.
Afternoon Tea, also known as Low Tea, was enjoyed on lower tables, such as coffee tables, while relaxing in comfortable chairs and enjoying the tea service. Typically, you have the option of three Afternoon Tea services: Cream Tea includes the tea with a light selection of scones and cream, Light Tea also includes a selection of sweet treats and/or fruit, and finally the tea service we generally see is Full Tea that includes all of these along with savory selections and finger sandwiches. High Tea was originally served on high tables, with a meat and fish dishes, as well as additional heavier dishes. Originally, High Tea was for the working class, and served after they returned from work… Of course, many today use the term High Tea simply to sound more regal, without taking the time to educate themselves about the history of tea service.
The beautiful atrium, manicured courtyard and exceptional service makes The Fairmont DC a fantastic location for Afternoon Tea – providing a simply elegant afternoon getaway. We were privileged to be served by Lino Rodrigues, the hotel’s food & beverage director. With his impressive history of service at multiple Fairmont properties and wide knowledge of tea, he is a perfect host for Afternoon Tea. We opt for Full Tea, and begin with the difficult decision of choosing from a menu of almost twenty teas, and this is before we learn of Fairmont’s new limited edition blends and a few rare teas kept to meet the demand of their global guests. We each choose our tea, which includes the Vanilla Orchid Black Tea, Montebello Apple Spice Herbal Tea and a special combination recommended by Lino of the Kea Lani Orange Pineapple and Berry Berry Herbal Teas – one of his personal favorites. The tea is served with precision and expertise, providing an instant sense of relaxation as we settle into our chairs in preparation of what’s to come…
The service is continued with a beautiful array of fruits, delicious scones with devonshire cream, finger sandwiches, savory selections and delectable sweets to end the service. Though everything is enjoyed, the scones are a hit, as well as my favorites being the finger sandwiches prepared with prosciutto, salami, manchego cheese, roasted tomato and olive tapenade and the moist earl grey tea cake. Also not to be missed is their very exclusive honey, which is actually produced on the roof of the hotel by several thousand Japanese Honey Bees… and a local claim to fame by the chefs. Like many hotels today, The Fairmont DC has several variations of tea, including the traditional options, as well as Champagne Tea, Kids Tea, Doggie Tea and a very special Holiday Tea to provide all ages and desires a perfect afternoon tea getaway. So, for all of you out there who have not yet entered the world of Afternoon Tea, make a point to grab a loved one, or a group of friends and family to take the time to savor an afternoon getaway at one of the Fairmont properties, or another restaurant or hotel offering this treasured tradition.
- Pros: Beautiful location, great service and the impressive variety of teas and food
- Cons: It can be busy with the close proximity to the lobby
- Note: For older persons, or someone with a handicap, you can request a high table be prepared