Hoping to have high tea to celebrate a birthday on a Friday, tennisboy had a hard time finding the right spot. Taj Boston and L’Espalier both serve their noted teas only on weekends, the teas at the Boston Athenaeum are only for members and invited guests, and tennisboy is unimpressed with the modernized options at other Boston hotels, saying a firm “Nay!” to places with stainless steel teapots instead of classic crockery.

limster suggests Swans Café at Park Plaza, a place tennisboy had spurned because of poor reviews. “The food is very average at PP,” says limster. “But I’ve had carefully brewed teas (temperature, water quality, etc.) there that aren’t so easily found in Boston. Among other things, I had a very high-quality scarlet robe from Wuyi mountains in Fujian that was grown very close to the original bushes, and a very well-aged pu-erh (15 years). If they’re still doing that, and if tea (rather than food) is a priority, it might be worth checking out.”

Ultimately, tennisboy happily chose Novel, the little eatery set incongruously in the Boston Public Library. “Having had afternoon tea all over the world … we are pretty picky when it comes to tea. The actual tea (Earl Grey) was very good, and the scones and accompaniments (cream, excellent raspberry jam, and lemon curd—in most places you usually get cream or curd, so having both was a bonus) were excellent,” says tennisboy. The sandwiches were not as fantastic (“Since when is a slice of cucumber with a mozzarella ball considered a sandwich?” asks tennisboy), and the sweets weren’t up to par. But for the atmosphere, the beauty of the setting, tea, and scones, tennisboy says he’d return.

High tea with sandwiches, fruit, and scones is $19.95; tea with scones is $10.

The Taj Boston [Back Bay]
15 Arlington Street, Boston

L’Espalier [Back Bay]
774 Boylston Street, Boston

Boston Athenaeum [Downtown]
10 1/2 Beacon Street, Boston

Swans Café at Park Plaza [Downtown]
50 Park Plaza, Boston

Novel [Back Bay]
700 Boylston Street, Boston

Board Link: New Info on WEEKDAY Afternoon Tea in Boston

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