Tea at The Plaza is what comes to mind when anyone suggests afternoon tea in New York City. Is it worth the hype? Let’s find out — read on for my review of the service, the tea, and the food.
Palm Court at The Plaza Hotel New York
The Plaza is the one place most people think of when they think of afternoon tea in New York City.
Situated directly across from Central Park, the luxury hotel’s location can’t be beat. Looking majestic and regal, The Plaza is a sight to behold for tourists and locals alike.
The hotel is iconic and the afternoon tea served inside the Palm Court is considered a quintessential New York experience.
Because The Plaza is well aware how popular their afternoon tea is, they can charge a lot more than most afternoon tea places, and they do.
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What is Afternoon Tea?
Afternoon tea started as a way for a Duchess in England in the 18040s to have a small bite to fend off hunger between lunch and dinner. This habit of having a light meal became afternoon tea.
Afternoon tea is a set menu. You order per person and each order comes with a pot of tea and three courses of food that consist of tea sandwiches, scones, and sweets on a three-tiered tray.
You don’t pick the food items because afternoon tea is a set menu — you get what everyone else gets.
All food items can usually be eaten in two bites with your fingers, from the tea sandwiches to the sweets.
Just a quick mention that afternoon tea is definitely not the same thing as high tea. If you want high tea at The Plaza, that meal would involve meat dishes and baked beans, not finger sandwiches and mini desserts.
If you want learn more about the history of afternoon tea, I recommend this book.
The Plaza Afternoon Tea Menu
The Plaza has three afternoon tea options. Prices as of 2019.
The New Yorker Tea
$95 per person
This is the classic and what I always order. Six small tea sandwiches, scones, and a variety of bite-sized sweets. Add Champagne and it goes up to $110 per person.
The Champagne Tea
$125 per person
Comes with more higher-end food options like foie gras and lobster and of course, includes champagne. You can add caviar for an extra cost.
The Children’s Eloise Tea
$79 per child under 12 years old
Hot fruity and herbal teas are listed but lemonade and iced tea are also options. This tea service is very kid-friendly with peanut butter and jelly tea sandwiches and cotton candy.
The menu and prices may change at any time so please contact the hotel or check their site for latest info.
Do I Need to Make a Reservation for Afternoon Tea?
It’s always a good idea to make a reservation for afternoon tea. Call 212-546-5300 or email [email protected] to book a reservation.
What Do I Wear for Tea at The Plaza?
The suggested dress code is smart casual. If you have a nice party dress you’ve been wanting to wear, this is the place. Jeans and sneakers are to be avoided.
How Long is Afternoon Tea at The Plaza?
Afternoon tea usually lasts about two hours. It’s a very relaxed and civilized way to spend an afternoon.
What Time is Afternoon Tea at The Plaza?
Tea service is every day from noon until 4:30PM.
I like to go for tea at 3PM since I won’t feel rushed and so I won’t be too full for a light dinner.
Good for Large Parties?
The Plaza can accommodate large parties in semi-private areas from 20 – 70 guests.
How Does Afternoon Tea at the Plaza Work?
The food listed in each of those afternoon teas all come out together — you don’t pick and choose.
The only thing you need to pick with your order is tea, which is listed on a tea menu. Black tea is usually the most popular to get with your afternoon tea.
The Plaza Afternoon Tea Tips
- Don’t go for the pricier teas listed at an extra cost — it’s not worth it.
- If you don’t finish everything, ask for it to be packaged to take home.
- Afternoon tea is served until 4:30PM but don’t make too late of a reservation since the vibe changes to more of a lounge for cocktails the closer it gets to 5PM.
Staying at The Plaza Hotel
To take your afternoon tea to the next level, stay at the legendary The Plaza hotel! Centrally located next to Central Park (literally across the street) and 5th Avenue, it’s steps away from all the best luxury shopping.
Because the hotel is a landmark building, it looks almost exactly how it looked when it first opened in 1907, but with modern updates.
The rooms are elegant with luxurious touches like the 24-carat gold-plated fixtures in the bathroom, which is something that I cannot live without, darling.
Check rate: booking.com
Palm Court Setting: ★★★☆☆
The Palm Court is in the dining area on The Plaza’s first floor where afternoon tea is served.
They had a remodel a couple of years ago and the room had a distinct tea room feel — intimate seating with high-back chairs, back then.
The redesign of the room has more of a lounge look to it with the giant circular bar in the center of the room.
Gone are the white tablecloths (replaced with mirrored surface tables), the tables are much closer together, and overall, the space feels more casual.
I preferred the look of the Palm Court before their remodel, when it was more of a formal tea room and the Palm Court was exclusively for tea in the afternoon.
The Plaza Afternoon Tea Service: ★★★★★
The service was very friendly and our server did a great job explaining the items on the menu that we had questions about. Everything was done with a smile.
The Plaza Tea & Tea Selection: ★★★☆☆
The Plaza serves tea from Palais des Thes. The tea menu consists mostly of blends but if you want to get any higher-end whole leaf tea, you have to pay a supplement that ranges from $8 to $30.
I’m going to start a rant here. You’ve been warned.
WHY? FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WOULD YOU CHARGE ME $8 MORE WHEN I’M ALREADY PAYING $75 FOR AFTERNOON TEA???
I have a huge issue with afternoon teas charging extra for certain types of teas. Why do you need to nickel and dime?
Tea blends like English Breakfast and Earl Grey are cheaper than whole leaf teas and that’s why they’re included in the price of afternoon teas. Whole/pure leaf teas like Yunnan Buds are better quality tea but it’s out of place on an afternoon tea menu.
Serving whole leaf teas in giant teapots is completely the wrong way to prepare and serve really expensive tea since you’re not getting the full experience and taste.
I’m basically mad that The Plaza is trying to trick you. If you’re knowledgeable about tea, you would never order such an expensive one that had a $30 extra charge with afternoon tea. It’s there for people who may want to splurge and try something new but don’t know the proper way it is supposed to be served. Tsk, tsk, The Plaza.
Ok, rant over.
Let’s talk about the magical teapot (same exact one but in all white). It looks normal sized but somehow poured endless cups of tea. (I didn’t even need to ask for more hot water which is rare!)
I liked how they used a piece of paper, placed under the teapot, with the name of the tea.
The Plaza Afternoon Tea Savories: ★★★☆☆
I ordered “The New Yorker Tea” and it came out on a circular three-tiered tray. The sweets at the top, savories in the middle, and scones on the bottom tray. The presentation is lovely.
Let me first start by saying that the afternoon tea at The Plaza is a whopping $75, which is more than most other hotel afternoon tea services. With the premium pricing, I want DAMN good tea sandwiches and The Plaza failed to deliver.
For that price I want my savories prepared tableside! (Haha, ok, that may be taking it too far.) The tea sandwiches looked a little sloppy, although they tasted perfectly fine, they were NOT “$75 for afternoon tea” fine.
The Plaza Afternoon Tea Scones: ★★★★☆
The scones came out warm, wrapped in a cloth napkin. I knocked off a star since they brought out one set of clotted cream and jams even though we were a party of three.
I really wish they had brought out three sets. One set was definitely not enough, so we did ask for another.
The Plaza Afternoon Tea Sweets: ★★★★★
The sweets were excellent, with a nice variety — delicate and tasty. Each mini sweet treat was perfectly portioned and adorable. This was my favorite course.
The Plaza Afternoon Tea Overall: ★★★★☆
Is it overpriced? YES. Is it worth going to at least once? YES.
The Palm Court, The Plaza
Fifth Avenue at Central Park South
New York, NY 10019
AFTERNOON TEA HOURS:
Daily from 12PM – 4:30PM
The New Yorker Tea, $95 (as of 2019)
Call 212-546-5300 or email [email protected] to book a reservation.
Afternoon Tea at The Plaza in 2013
The Palm Court back in 2013.
Blue velvet high-back chairs on the outer tables and armchairs in the middle tables.
Their three-tier stand when the afternoon tea was just $50.