Tea Party (Not that Kind)

Where to Have Afternoon Tea in Seattle

From kid-free sophistication to on-site hats and fascinators. With lots of champagne in between.

By Allecia Vermillion

Cedar and Elm turned a vintage seminary dining hall into a period piece backdrop for tea (and champagne).

The menu at Ravenna’s Queen Mary Tea Room helpfully describes afternoon tea as a meal designed for “high-society ladies” looking to fill “the void between lunch and dinner,” presumably in comfortable, regular-level chairs. High tea, on the other hand, dates back to workmen of a bygone century. It’s served at high tables, the kind you find in a pub “to not dirty chairs and table linens with their work boots.”

Might that confuse barbaric coffee-loving Americans? Perhaps. But nomenclature aside, the ritual of afternoon tea has a lot going for it. It’s a holiday tradition, a fun event with kids—perhaps a way to commune with her late majesty Queen Elizabeth, or process everything you just read in Prince Harry’s new memoir. While most afternoon teas are more than happy to throw some champagne in the mix, it’s also a great way to catch up with friends who want to steer away from alcohol. Either way, raise those pinkies and bring on the clotted cream.

Cedar and Elm


Few spaces are better suited to afternoon tea than the dining room inside the Lodge at Saint Edward. Once a seminary dining hall, it’s now an opulent period piece set with arched windows, tall ceilings, and potted palms that suggest an Edwardian drawing room. Afternoon tea happens on Thursdays and Fridays: Mellow live music forms a backdrop as tables dip into a sophisticated spread of tea-driven bites. Multitier towers come arranged with deviled eggs, flaxseed crumpets, macarons, and bite-size roast potatoes dressed with pancetta and crème fraiche. Each tea sandwich and savory toast has the sort of interesting flavor profile you’d expect from this kitchen. Servers offer nine different flavors from Milwaukee-based Rishi Tea, though don’t expect a lot of guidance on whether your selection would benefit from cream or sugar. This tea service isn’t geared toward kids (aka most people partake of champagne) but it is a supremely pleasant way to celebrate or catch up with a group of friends, large or small.

Queen Mary Tea Room


It’s easy to look at the aggressively floral decor and shelves overstuffed with Anglophilia and make certain judgements about Seattle’s oldest continuously operating teahouse. But anyone who writes off the Queen Mary as a grandmotherly hangout for chintz fanatics misses out on truly impressive service and tons of spilt knowledge about tea. The beverage menu (black tea! flavored black tea! oolong! green!) is more thorough than a high-end wine list, and servers can advise on flavor profiles and which blends benefit from milk. Tiny hourglasses help ensure your pot steeps for the proper amount of time. Queen Mary’s kitchen pulls off an entire brunch and lunch menu, plus an afternoon tea service loaded with tiny cookies, fruit with chantilly cream, and classic finger sandwiches. A kids version swaps in cocoa and tiny PB&Js. Servers circulate with samples of unusual teas like strawberry-pepper or root beer rooibos...all definitely for sale at the sibling tea shop down the street.

Fairmont Olympic


Tea is a longtime tradition at the downtown hotel. After a lengthy renovation, weekend-only tea service now happens in the lounge area of the lobby's extremely handsome Olympic Bar, where armchairs and love seats deliver a more relaxed feel. Each person receives a personal tower of sweets, sandwiches, and savory bites that reflect the polished fare inside the George restaurant just up the stairs. Your selection from the dozen loose-leaf tea offerings gets steeped in the pot, so the outcome is finessed, but not overly complicated. The bookshelf-heavy atmosphere skews decidedly adult, but the Fairmont has a tea menu for kids that trades crab profiteroles for cake pops (and even tea for cocoa or lemonade). Reservations open one month in advance and book up fast.

Tea-takers at the Fairmont Olympic get personal towers of snacks, and the assured service of a hotel that's done tea service forever.

Graham's RoyalTea


Technically this longtime local haunt in downtown Bothell is a tea-centered event venue—a place awash in lace and floral china that hosts parties, showers, even the occasional wedding. But on event-free days, owner Christy Graham opens the dining room for regular high-tea service. You have to pick up the phone and call to gauge availability (425-686-7670) but tea-takers here can choose from five different menus, which focus on scones, finger sandwiches, and bottomless pots of tea. (A kids menu lets you swap in lemonade or cocoa, and more child-friendly sweets.) Covid retired the popular costume room, but you can still dress for the occasion by borrowing from the house collection of fancy hats and fascinators. Seasonal teas for holidays like Mother's Day sell out fast.

Show Comments