Four Local Places to Take Part in the Luxurious Tradition of Afternoon Tea
The tradition of afternoon tea—a midday smattering of tea and small cakes, finger sandwiches and pastries—began in 19th-century England. The Duchess of Bedford (1783-1857), a lady in waiting of Queen Victoria, is credited with the ritual. Those in the upper echelons of society in London would invite friends to come by for an “open house” tea in the afternoon, at times hosting around 200 guests.
Though the origins of the tradition are British, the ritual lives on to this day, even in St. Louis.
1. The London Tea Room
Alan and Pat Richardson, owners of The London Tea Room, have an undeniable passion for tea. Their 12-year-old café on the corner of Morganford and Hartford in Tower Grove South sells more than 90 varieties of loose-leaf tea—such as black, white, green, herbal, pu-ehr, rooibos and oolong—carefully selected by their certified sommeliers. The menu offers savory items like a variety of housemade English quiches, sandwiches and soups as well as British pastries that are baked fresh daily. Reservations are required for afternoon tea, and for $32.50, each person will receive a pot of tea from the menu and a selection of petit fours, cakes and pastries, scones with Devonshire cream and jam, and tea sandwiches.
2. MaryAnn’s Tea Room
MaryAnn’s Tea Room looks tiny from the outside, but it’s surprisingly extravagant inside a sizeable building in the Central West End, complete with skylights, slowly spinning British colonial ceiling fans and Majesty palm trees that tower over each corner of the room. The Tea Room offers a full menu for standard hours, Sunday brunch for $19.95 a person, and high tea for $38.50 a person. Black, green, red and white teas are offered in an extensive list, as well as herbal infusions. High tea service comes with your selection of tea with lemon, honey, and cream, scones with jam, lemon curd, and Devonshire cream, and your selection of four entree varieties which change quarterly due to chef Jeffrey Crider’s seasonal menu.
3. La Pâtisserie Chouquette
Owned by Simone Faure, La Pâtisserie Chouquette is an elegant French bakery with bright yellow walls and windows where guests can peer in and see an array of tantalizing and decadent pastries. Open since 2013, the bakery is a partnership between Faure and Ben Poremba—the owner of several neighboring restaurants and shops in Botanical Heights, including Nixta, Olio and Elaia. Though lauded for her cakes, chocolate croissants and French macarons, Faure also offers afternoon tea service every Saturday at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., by reservation only for $35 per person and $20 for children under 10 years. The current menu is stacked with sweet and savory favorites like Yorkshire pudding, blackberry-lavender scones, chicken and egg salads, the Swan Puff (with pate choux, passion-fruit cream), the chef’s-choice petite quiche, dark-chocolate truffle cake, Macaron du Jour, strawberry-champagne cheesecake, and a pot of tea from a menu of well-traveled teas.
4. The Ritz Carlton Hotel
The Ritz Carlton in downtown Clayton offers afternoon tea every Saturday at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., with the exception of private events. The menu includes a variety of savory snacks, salads and spreads, scones with Devonshire cream, lemon curd and preserves, plus a number of pastries and cakes for dessert. Afternoon tea costs $29 per person for children or Cream Tea, $39 per person for the Ritz Afternoon Tea, or $54 per person for the Royal Tea with glass of champagne.