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What to Order at New York's Top Tea Houses

By Lauren Saxe | September 23, 2015 | Food & Drink

Much more than petite treats and pinkies out, each of these destinations exudes an individual style and specialty, offering a unique tea experience that’s perfect for celebrating the start of fall.

A Mother-Daughter Date at Alice’s Tea Cup

Alice's Tea Cup.

Why: Indulge in this tea timer’s fantasy complete with fairy wings, cupcakes, and a menu that would be approved by the Mad Hatter himself.

Passion Project: “We spent our lives going to teahouses and tearooms, and our biggest complaint was always that we left still hungry—everything was always so dainty and small!” says co-owner Lauren Fox. “We decided that when our servers brought a tea service out at Alice’s Tea Cup, the proper reaction should be one wide-eyed excitement.”

Must Order: “Our scones!” Fox says. “The most famed one being our being our pumpkin scone with caramel glaze. It was a seasonal offering when it first came out, but our customers demanded we have it year-round, and we listened.” 102 W. 73 St., 212-799-3006

A Midday Shopping Stop at Harney & Sons in Soho

Harney and Sons SoHo Tea bar.

Why: Located in the heart of SoHo, this teashop offers 250 varieties of tea and houses a quaint café in the back.

A Family Affair: “My grandfather's mission was to make tea in America an affordable luxury,” explains general manager Emeric Harney. “We offer all of our teas from our website and catalog, complimentary tastings, and most importantly, we strive to help our customers better understand the wide world of tea out there.”

Must Order: “Paris is one of our most popular teas and is very indicative of the quality of our flavored teas,” says Harney. “It has black currant, bergamot, vanilla, and caramel flavors. In our lounge, I would definitely recommend our vanilla scones. They are to die for and have been noted as the best scones this side of the Atlantic!” 433 Broome St., 212-933-4853

A Ladies’ Lunch at Ladurée


Why: Release your inner savoir-faire at this elegant slice of Paris in Soho.

A Brief History: “Ladurée’s rich history is really what makes it a special house,” explains co-president of Ladurée US, Elisabeth Holder. “We opened our first tea salon in Paris in 1862, the first Parisian tea salon. Our expertise and passion for pastries, food, and l'art de vivre have been the foundation of what makes Ladurée such a unique place. It is a very gourmand place.”

Must Order: “We have a new cocktail and bar menu with refreshing drinks and savory small bites—the perfect place to meet friends alfresco after work,” says Holder. 398 W. Broadway, 646-392-7868

A Weekend Treat at The Palm Court at The Plaza Hotel

The Palm Court Afternoon Tea.

Why: Don your best for a luxurious experience in one of New York’s most famous hotels, and be on the lookout for everyone’s favorite penthouse darling, Eloise.

It’s in the Details: “For the kid in all of us, the bright pink cotton candy served with The Eloise Tea is always a hit,” famed restaurateur and culinary director at The Plaza Hotel, Geoffrey Zakarian, advises. “For something more adult, the Leche Dulce cocktail for two is a treat. We crack open a fresh coconut right before your eyes, and serve the cocktail to you—fresh coconut water included—in the coconut shell.”

Must Order: “We carry a very sought-after variety of tea called Meng Hai Shu Cha Pu Erh from the Yunnan Province of China,” says Zakarian. “The tea arrives from Palais des Thés, our exclusive tea partner, in a pressed cake, and we flake off a portion of the leaves each time it is ordered. We are currently the only establishment serving this tea in the United States—it is not to be missed!” 768 Fifth Ave., 212-546-5300

Relaxation at Tea Drunk

Tea Drunk.

Why: The teas at Tea Drunk are hand-selected by owner Shunan Teng each year during a multiple-month backpacking trip from more than 20 mountains in the underbelly of China.

Aroma Academy: “We offer academic-style tea courses that start with introductory tasting, then take more ambitious students all the way to rigorous professional training on tea judging, geography, processing, and biochemistry,” Teng explains.

Must Order: “For first-timers, we highly recommend our Light Tie Guan Yin, which is a light Wu Long that is often mistaken for a smooth and aromatic green tea,” says Teng. “We’ve had guests who circle back to Tea Drunk just to compliment on the floral sweetness that still lingers after walking for blocks.” 123 E. Seventh St., 917-573-9936