The holiday season is all about embracing traditions. And one tradition that is flourishing in the Washington area this year is the holiday tea. The ritual, which typically features petite sandwiches and scones set amid a festive backdrop, is returning to some of DC’s most legendary hotels (such as the Willard and St. Regis), historic homes, and restaurants, as well as kicking off at some new spots.
As Angela Renals, the founder of Destination Tea, a directory of afternoon tea in America, says, “It is a popular holiday tradition for many friends and families because it’s the perfect time to snap a group photo and to slow down to catch up with one another, which is why generations often gather at annual holiday teas, and taking someone to tea is also a perfect holiday gift.”
Whether you book a tea experience for yourself, or gift teatime to a loved one, here are ten terrific places in the DC area to take a cuppa and enjoy some holiday cheer.
The Willard hotel—which, legend has it, was where the first mint julep outside of Kentucky was served and where the term lobbying was born—has earned a following for its holiday tea. The classic holiday ritual is served along with harp music in the Willard’s festively decorated grand hall, Peacock Alley. The tea is available on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays throughout December. If you can’t make it in on a weekend, the Willard offers tea-to-go during the week, which they suggest pairing with their curated harp-heavy Spotify playlist.
$112 a person, or $125 with a glass of Champagne.
Green Spring Gardens
A historic home and public park, Green Spring Gardens hosts a holiday tea in its 18th-century house, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. The event, which is offered this year on December 8, 10, and 11, follows a traditional English afternoon tea service with finger sandwiches, pastries, and scones with cream and jam. Green Spring’s tea includes a short presentation about the origins of afternoon tea as well as a take-home favor.
$48 a person (children over six welcome).
The Four Seasons’s family-friendly holiday tea is served for a cause each December. The hotel’s “Teddy Bear Tea” will be offered on Dec. 3, 10, and 17, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit Children’s National Hospital. Guests are invited to indulge in tea sandwiches, scones, petits fours, and a choice of tea, hot chocolate, and sparkling wine; an entire dessert room will be filled with cotton candy, holiday sweets, and cakes. Costumed dancers from the Metropolitan School of the Arts will entertain guests; each child will get a Children’s National teddy bear.
$95 for adults, $45 for children under 12, free for children 3 and under.
The Plains, Virginia
Virginia tea room Crest Hill is teaming up with Larkin Tea Company to present a Victorian Christmas Tea on December 13, 18, and 21. Guests are encouraged to dress up for the event, which will have both afternoon and evening settings and will include carols, games, entertainment, and English trifle along with the usual tea spreads.
$59 a person.
Salamander Washington DC
The new Salamander Hotel is welcoming guests with holiday teas each Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoon through the end of the year. Held in the hotel’s lounge and accompanied by live piano music, the teas feature Champagne, house-made scones, tea sandwiches, and loose-leaf teas.
$89 for adults, $65 for children under 10.
Holiday tea at the Hay-Adams’s Lafayette Dining room happens at three o’clock every Sunday afternoon in December. In the luxe dining room, you’ll be treated to options for Champagne, tea, or hot chocolate, as well as sandwiches and house-made gingerbread cookies. They also offer a children’s tea menu.
$65 for adults ($75 with Champagne), $35 for children under 12.
Montpelier House Museum
Montpelier Mansion in Laurel, which dates to the 1780s and is a National Historic Landmark, will offer a holiday tea the weekend of December 10 and 11. On the menu are finger sandwiches, desserts, and scones with clotted cream, lemon curd, and jam. Proceeds form the tea benefit the house museum’s programs.
$32 a person.
The St. Regis
Take a short stroll from the White House to the St. Regis Hotel to luxuriate in the hotel’s lobby for afternoon tea. The lobby itself is a treat, with a Christmas tree that has been decorated in partnership with the White House Historical Association and a front desk area that has been transformed into a floor-to-ceiling gingerbread house façade, complete with an aroma of spices, gingerbread bricks, fondant and royal icing, and candies. Expect a selection of Dammann Frères tea, along with sandwiches, pastries, and an optional Champagne pairing. All afternoon tea guests are gifted an official 2022 White House Christmas Ornament to bring home.
From $99 a person.
The Henley Park Hotel
The historic Henley Park Hotel holds a holiday tea in its Tudor-inspired tavern. It features variety of Harney & Sons teas with house-made scones, finger sandwiches, and seasonal cocktails every afternoon from through December 30.
From $45 a person.
The French restaurant Opaline Bar and Brasserie offers a Francophone twist on afternoon tea. Thé de l’après-midi des Fêtes will be served every Saturday afternoon from 2 to 4 p.m. Expect treats such as pear frangipane tarts, assorted French macarons, pumpkin-spice crème brûlée, and tea sandwiches on brioche bread. Choose from a selection of Metz teas, cocktails, or hot chocolate.
$65 a person, $32.50 for children under 12 years old.