I went to high tea at The Ballantyne on Saturday with my mom and sister. We weren’t quite sure what to expect, how to behave or what to wear. Although afternoon tea is technically a formal affair, I found this experience to be approachable, light-hearted and really not stuffy at all.
Here’s a play by play on what to expect if you want to try it yourself.
Make a reservation.
Tea is served Wednesday through Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m. and reservations are required in advance. Call (704) 248-4100 to reserve a table. The cost is $36 for adults and $18 for juniors.
There are also specialty teas hosted throughout the year which include additional optional cocktails, themed foods and opportunities to dress in costume.
Easter Tea: March 23 – 26
Queen Elizabeth’s 90th Birthday Tea: April 20 – 23
Mother’s Day Tea: May 4 – 7
Summertime Tea in the Carolinas: July 20 – 23
Champagne Tea with Jane Austen (period costumes encouraged): September 14 – 17
Alice in Wonderland Mad Hatter’s Tea: October 5 – 8
Psychic Tea with a fortune teller: November 9 – 12
Holiday Afternoon Tea: November 30 – December 31 (Sunday service added, no service on Christmas Day)
Get there a little early and stroll around the hotel.
Pay no mind to the Rolls Royce in the lobby. Totally normal. (I think this was for an event but I prefer to assume that all Ballantyne residents park their luxury vehicles inside buildings at all times.)
Relive Ballantyne’s early days as a dirt hole in the ground.
Grab a seat in the lobby to wait for your mom and sister to arrive.
It’s ideal to be seated when your mom strolls in to this formal occasion carrying her shoes in her hand because they’re “too slippery.”
Pose with the cast of Downton Abbey. Regret not adhering to the period costume dress code.
On this particular day, The Ballantyne was hosting a special Downtown Abbey themed tea and invited guests to wear 1920s-era clothing. It looked like about half the guests took the opportunity to dress up but I am no fun so I didn’t.
Take your seat and select your tea.
Each guest gets their own pot and can choose from about a dozen different loose-leaf teas. My mom got mint verbena, my sister got a Paris blend with black tea and hints of caramel and I got a Carolina peach blend.
Do not say no to the optional champagne add-on.
Get ready to eat lots of dainty little miniature foods.
We got a selection of sweet and savory snacks, including traditional cucumber sandwiches, egg salad sandwiches, mini quiches, fig scones, strawberry cream puffs, macarons, chocolates and more. (Although almost everything is already vegetarian, they made an extra plate of tomato pesto, portobello and roasted red pepper sandwiches for me.)
Two crowd pleasers were the blueberry macarons and the strawberry cream puffs.
The mix of sweet treat + fresh fruit was a winner.
Scoff at the tininess of everything but struggle to actually consume it all.
Admit defeat and ask for a to-go box.
Choose your seat wisely and walk away with a little theme prize.
I won a jar of Downton Abbey black currant jam because I beat my sister in a hot tea chugging contest. NOT TRUE. DO NOT ATTEMPT. I won the jam because there was a Bissell sticker under my tea cup. Surprise and delight.
This was a really delightful mother-daughter afternoon out because it’s different, difficult/impossible to replicate anywhere else and definitely not something you’d do every day.
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