An Afternoon Steeped in the Delights of D.C.’s Empress Lounge

Pastries at High Tea

When I was a child my family lived in England for three years, and it was there that I learned to love tea culture. Scones with clotted cream and jam.  Chocolate eclairs filled with barely sweetened whipped cream.  In short, I loved everything . . . except for the tea.  But growing up changes tastes, and tea was no exception for me.  Today there is nothing better than a cozy afternoon spent with my best gals, chatting the hours away over a spot of tea.

Which brings me to high tea.  I will use any excuse to visit the hotels in Washington D.C. that have tea rooms, and one of my friends gave me one when she confided she was expecting her first child.  We decided to celebrate in style, and this afternoon our little group of four headed to the elegant Empress Lounge at the Mandarin Oriental.

The Empress Lounge overlooks a lush garden.  We were seated at a sofa and chairs and tea was served at a low cocktail table.  The hotel called several days before our reservation, and took note of dietary restrictions (we had two vegetarians), and separated our trays accordingly.

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Then came the tea.  I had the Flowering Osmanthus, which was the perfect name for this tea creature served in a glass press.

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Americans simply do not make proper scones.  Or if they do, I’ve yet to find one.  We add too much sugar, the wrong fruits, and pretty much turn scones into cake.  The blueberry scones were nevertheless good, and served with the prerequisite jam and cream.

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The rest of the delights were standard high tea fare with a modern twist.  Tiny cakes, raspberry tarts, cucumber & dill open sandwiches.  I think my favorite was the avocado tart.  Two hours were gone before I knew it, and I eaten everything on my tiered plate.  It was a lovely afternoon.

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