Afternoon Tea, a D.C. Tradition, at The Willard & More

With all the uncertainty surrounding D.C. these days, afternoon tea is one tradition that has survived the test of time, remaining a pastime both locals and tourists can enjoy. The traditions associated with afternoon tea have remained largely the same over the years. When looking for the quintessential D.C. afternoon tea experience, it’s difficult to compete with Peacock Alley at The Willard InterContinental.

The property has been making history since the early 1800s. Around the turn-of-the-century, ladies had their own entrance, where they would escape to the Nest above the lobby while the men handled their business below.Fortunately, the perception of afternoon tea being reserved as an outing for high society women is very much in the past. The hotel will bring back afternoon tea on Oct. 25, and will continue the service throughout the holidays between 1-4 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

At the Willard, the savory tea sandwiches rival any tea sandwiches in the District, with options like orange sesame chicken salad, caramelized onion with goat cheese, cucumber with dill butter and more. These combined with the mini pastries and selection of scones (try the Devonshire Cream) all contribute to the experience.The Willard InterContinental offers a variety of specialized tea services periodically throughout the year – most notably, the Cherry Blossom Tea and the festive Holiday Tea. Attendees can pair a number of different teas — or champagne — with savory and sweet items. Check with Peacock Alley, as they normally offer daily afternoon tea during December (except for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve), and can make special arrangements for larger parties and unique requests. Early reservations are recommended.

The Willard isn’t the only place to give afternoon tea a try in Washington. The Fairmont Washington serves tea in the hotel’s Loggia Lounge, which overlooks a manicured courtyard garden, with services offered on Saturdays between 12-3 p.m. Even kids and dogs can give tea a try here.

Across the street, the Park Hyatt Washington offers afternoon tea on Saturdays and Sundays between 2:30-4:30 p.m., and for a true tea connoisseur looking for the rarest of teas in the area, it’s a must-visit. To best navigate through this impressive collection of teas, be sure to ask for Lukas Marcinowski, the hotel’s resident tea expert. Chef Sebastien Archambault’s savory options and pastry selections by Chef Naomi Gallego can be paired with various teas (a tart filled with vanilla bean pastry cream and topped with fresh raspberries is one highlight from the dessert menu).

The Mandarin Oriental Washington provides yet another alternative in the lavish Empress Lounge, and offer their Tea Fridays through Sundays from 2:30-4:30 p.m. Here, the posh surroundings and views are worth the visit alone, and there are rare selections such as the hotel’s JING tea to enhance the experience.

Afternoon tea at The Jefferson DC is another unique experience within the hotel’s Greenhouse, complete with royal gates and a bright skylight. A lavish tea service in this boutique hotel property is offered on Saturdays and Sundays, with seating’s between 2-2:30 p.m. The Four Seasons in Georgetown also offers an afternoon tea menu for catered events.