Chateau Elan in Braselton, Georgia. Photo by @chateau_elan
The Café on Lumpkin in Athens
Just around the corner from the University of Georgia’s campus, you’ll find a happy blend of the traditional and modern at The Café on Lumpkin’s afternoon tea. Teatime in this prettily renovated 1920s home shows that owner Luke Martineac has done his research. For example, usually only experienced afternoon tea hosts perfectly steep and decant teas before serving, bake their scones using the whey leftover from their homemade clotted cream, or know to call the meal by its historical name: low tea. However, afternoon tea newcomers need not feel intimidated by the authenticity of this entirely scratch-made menu, because it is served in a casual setting.
Tucked inside the front patio’s stone wall border, or inside the teahouse’s cheerful whitewashed rooms with golden wood floors, afternoon tea guests of all ages happily pour tea from white modern porcelain tea sets, or sip bubbly with their royal tea. Don’t be surprised if you see college students with their laptops propped open next to their three-tiered trays. In addition to a breakfast and lunch menu, a children’s tea and cream tea are also among the astonishingly affordable tea menus offered daily (in-house or to-go), which, in another unconventional but glad twist, are available anytime during open hours on weekdays.
Chateau Elan Winery & Resort in Braselton
After its 2020 renovation, Château Élan Winery & Resort revived its afternoon tea service, set in the elegant Versailles Restaurant & Bar. Under a paned glass atrium, in a collection of sleek peacock leather booths, banquettes, traditional tables and modern lounge seating around low tables, guests are expertly tended by service that is attentive without being intrusive. Hundreds of pendants float across the span of the two-story space, which is made more intimate by accent lighting and a harpist’s gentle music. If you are lucky enough to be there when it rains, you will have the pleasure of sipping your tea as you listen to the drops fall.
High-quality teas are served in glossy ivory scalloped tea sets, and the housemade, seasonal afternoon tea menu impresses in presentation and taste. Uniquely, you have the option to plan an entire weekend around this Braselton destination tea visit: perhaps staying overnight at the resort or scheduling a wine tasting at the vineyard.
Chelsea’s on Thornton in Dalton
One of Georgia’s longest-standing teahouses, Chelsea’s on Thornton treats its guests to a quintessential afternoon tea experience in a traditional Southern house. It begins with a historical setting: an 1850s home that remained intact, serving as a field hospital through the Civil War. Antiques, chandeliers, vintage tea sets and curtained floor-to-ceiling windows decorate each of the four tea rooms inside.
Each guest chooses their pot of tea from the 38 loose leaf varieties Chelsea’s imports from Ashbys Teas of London. The entirely homemade afternoon tea menu changes as owner Dottie Ray tries new recipes, but the teahouse’s signature chicken salad with grapes is a mainstay, and their cakes have an online fanbase.
The hardest part of coming here for afternoon tea is walking to your table through the foyer gift shop without stopping to choose a pretty new teapot or teacup. The affordable variety of teaware offered at Chelsea’s is thanks to owner Ralph Ray, who has a background in merchandising. Chelsea’s on Thornton serves lunch and afternoon tea weekdays, opening on weekends only for private parties and special event themed teas.
Dr. Bombay’s Underwater Tea Party in Atlanta
Stepping inside this tearoom in Atlanta's Candler Park neighborhood feels like entering Harry Potter’s magical world, but the true magic is in Dr. Bombay’s mission: to raise funds for female scholars in Darjeeling, India, where the highly prized Darjeeling tea is made. Their women’s education project, The Learning Tea, houses up to 12 young women in their Darjeeling center, covering all living, school, medical and educational expenses. Supporting an important cause was never so much fun or so delicious.
Dr. Bombay’s Underwater Tea Party features loose leaf teas in a range of creative flavors, a tasty collection of homemade tea sandwiches, quiche, and baked goods (all vegetarian), plus large scones you spread with jam and a family-recipe clotted cream you’ll wish you could bottle. Tea is served in mix-n-match vintage china, set out on pretty, colorful linen tablecloths.
Private parties may choose from a garden tea party on the secluded back deck, or join your friends at the long tables in the whimsical piano room, lined with shelves of $1 books, beneath an eclectic mix of dangling lampshades, paper lanterns and parasols. No time to stay? Dr. Bombay’s walk-up window also offers a full picnic tea, light tea menus and cream tea to-go.
Fergusson’s on the Square in Hoschton
Appropriately, ragtime music plays during teatime at Fergusson’s on the Square, housed in an early 1910s building in Hoschton, a small community about 35 minutes northeast of Atlanta. Exposed brick walls, dark wood ceiling and floors, and antique tables and chairs make Fergusson’s a warm, inviting space, dressed up with lace and embroidered white tablecloths, vintage bone china, and fresh posies.
At this remarkably affordable afternoon tea, a soup or salad course is included in addition to tea sandwiches, scones and sweets, all freshly made in-house. Caring service also encourages guests to be at their leisure as they share pots of Harney & Sons’ teas around the table. Full portions of the afternoon tea items are available as lunch dishes, and guests may dine al fresco on the shady brick patio.
The Ginger Room in Alpharetta
Opened in 2021 in Alpharetta’s oldest home (built in 1856), The Ginger Room is run by husband-and-wife Dr. Karl Walbrook and Angela Avery, who know that hosting a memorable afternoon tea is in the details. Preserving the original floors and mantles, the couple made each of the three rooms inside picturesque with light robin’s blue trim and ceilings, antique chandeliers and furniture, and fresh flowers everywhere.
To help guests choose their teas (served in mix-n-match bone china), Angela writes up detailed descriptions, including flavor profiles and caffeine levels for each tea in their selection, which changes seasonally. It helps to know the couple started out on the local farmers market scene with their all-natural ginger juice business. This explains their passion for locally sourcing their products, from teas to pastries, and the unique addition of fresh ginger juice and ginger preserve to their afternoon tea menu (whose dainty finger sandwiches are delicious and plentiful: smoked gouda pimiento, Angela’s own coronation chicken, smoked salmon, and more).
Dr. Karl, raised in Central London, is both the Sconemaster — treating guests to a proper British scone, warm from the oven — and the master of ceremonies, coming out of the kitchen to introduce the afternoon tea service and share a bit of tea etiquette. A spacious outdoor patio houses large parties, while groups of six to eight privately take tea in the perfectly sized Walkbrook room.
Gryphon in Savannah
Have you ever wished you could travel back in time for your afternoon tea? At Gryphon, you could actually be seated at a table where a 1926 apothecary ice cream parlor counter once stood. Run by Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), Gryphon’s delicious, affordable afternoon tea menu (including finger sandwiches, warm, fresh scones with cream and jam, and constantly changing mini desserts that taste as dreamy as they look) is entirely prepared and served by SCAD students.
That’s not where the young talent ends: look up to admire the patterned fabric wallpaper on the ceiling, designed by a SCAD student. There is much to capture the eye at Gryphon: vintage lighting, an inset floral stained glass dome, dais seating, ornately carved wall-to-wall mahogany bookcases and the original stained glass apothecary border over the bar. Harney & Sons teas are served in standard white ceramic tea sets, and though the afternoon tea is perfectly satisfying, you can also augment your meal from the brunch or lunch menus.
Ivy Tea House in Norcross
Set in a darling teahouse with blue-grey wood floors, cane tables and mix-n-match china, the creativity of Ivy Tea House’s menu is matched only by its deliciousness. Owner Nicole Outler, as they say, “comes by it honestly,” that is, running a much-loved restaurant. Norcross locals know that this is where Nicole’s parents formerly ran their Bleu House Cafe and Catering (now Bleu House Market, relocated down the street).
Nicole teamed her experience as a pastry chef with Tammy Johnson’s culinary dreamings and finesse to develop amazing afternoon tea menus that are entirely homemade. High-quality loose leaf teas are expertly brewed, and if you order ahead when you reserve, they will be waiting for you on warmers when you arrive.
One of the unique features of this afternoon tea experience — which makes it ideal for introducing newcomers to afternoon tea — is that each guest may choose their own three-course menu, allowing you to sample that many more scrumptious treats, if you agree to share. In addition to a more traditional afternoon tea, The Ivy Tea, you will also want to sample the Southern Brunch Tea (think deviled eggs with chile-honey glaze), Abundance Tea (some highlights: pork tenderloin crostini with cotija, cherry habanero sauce and chimichurri, and raspberry almond tea cake) and Seasonal Tea, which incorporates flavors from a different global cuisine each time.
Ivy Tea House has something for everyone, like their Spa Tea which is vegan, gluten-free, refined sugar-free and delightfully flavorful. Private parties and showers abound here, many of them taking advantage of the teahouse’s ample, outdoor covered patio.
Perry Lane Hotel in Savannah
Hotel guests strolling past an elegant tea party in The Perry Lane Hotel Library admit to a bit of afternoon tea envy. An intimate affair reservable by private parties of eight or less, Sunday to Friday, afternoon tea in the Library begins with a zero-proof welcome cocktail, giving you time to take in your surroundings.
On one wall hangs a portrait of the imagined inspiration for this 21st-century hotel’s historic design: a fictitious, powerful, world-traveled Southern woman dubbed Adelaide Harcourt. Two walls of the Library are entirely made of windows, their light softened by translucent drapes. Oak plank flooring is accented by peacock paneled walls around the built-in bookshelf of a lending library curated by two local bookstores, and a Steinway piano sits in the corner.
At low tables amid richly upholstered lounge seating, guests enjoy artisanally crafted teas served in extravagantly ornate white-and-gold china, and tiered trays of tea sandwiches, scones with jams and sweets, all made in-house. For an additional charge, “those that dare” may “add a touch of booziness” to their experience.
The St. Regis Atlanta in Atlanta
When you want to treat yourself to a luxurious afternoon tea in a glamorous setting, make your tea reservations at the upscale St. Regis Atlanta. Beneath an opulent chandelier, twin winding staircases with wrought-iron banisters take you to the second-floor Astor Court. The loft-like court curls against floor-to-ceiling windows that light the space set with upholstered armchairs around dining tables. Fans of "The Gilded Age" will recognize this family name: Lady Astor’s son opened the first St. Regis in New York City in the late 19th century, when afternoon tea was all the rage.
Today, The St. Regis pastry chefs create seasonally themed afternoon tea menus that are delectable and generously portioned from start to finish. Mini cloches hold ample swirls of clotted cream and creamy lemon curd to pair with some of the best scones in the state, expertly baked with a light, buttery, slightly sweet crumb, and brought warm to the table. In addition to quality teas by Tealeaves, guests may choose to indulge in a royal tea by adding a glass of champagne or mimosa to the experience.
Editor’s note: The author’s website DestinationTea.com has been an online resource featuring a directory for teahouses throughout the United States, tea event news, pictorials, recipes and reviews since its launch in February 2016.