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Classic Afternoon Teas to Enjoy at Top Hotels

BOSTON ( MainStreet) -- You don't have to be a British monarch or a Mad Hatter to enjoy a good tea party these days.

That's because more and more five-star U.S. hotels are adding British-style afternoon tea service to their offerings, providing patrons with an aristocratic snack between lunch and supper.

Posh American hotels offer delightful upscale versions of afternoon tea, including some -- like The Plaza's "Eloise," with its colorful shortbread pastries -- just for kids.

"Afternoon tea service is a nice amenity for hotel guests, but it's just as popular with locals looking for a leisurely but sophisticated setting for gathering with friends and business associates," says Bruce Wallin, who oversees travel coverage for the upscale-lifestyles magazine The Robb Report.

Long an English tradition, afternoon tea generally features finger sandwiches, pastries, scones, clotted cream and, of course, tea.

But many posh American hotels have begun offering upscale versions of the afternoon snack, with menus featuring salmon-and-caviar sandwiches, expensive champagne and rare teas from exotic locations.

Five-star hotels also typically hold their afternoon teas in well-appointed lobbies or outdoor verandas, with string quartets or other live music adding to the upper-crust feel.

"The three keys to afternoon tea are setting, service and selection," Wallin says. "The best examples evoke the Old World, with a classical atmosphere and a range of teas from around the world."

Here's a look at four hotels with great afternoon tea service, from New York's Plaza Hotel on the East Coast to Honolulu's Halekulani Waikiki Parc Hotel in the Pacific:

The Plaza Hotel, New York
Price: $48-$78 per person ($28-$58 for kids under 12)
The Plaza offers perhaps America's best-known afternoon tea, held every day in the hotel's recently renovated $6.5 million Palm Court restaurant.

A scene in F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 novel The Great Gatsby involves two characters enjoying afternoon tea at the Palm Court. The Eloise series of children's books -- about a fictional 6-year-old girl who supposedly lives at the Plaza -- also helped make the Palm Court's tea service famous.

These days, the restaurant offers four prix-fixe tea menus: "The Classic," "The New Yorker," "The Eloise Tea" and "The Chocolate Tea."   

The $48 Classic menu features pastries, warm scones and a selection of tea sandwiches ranging from truffled quail-egg salad to Maine lobster with sturgeon caviar.

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