By Jonathan Ortiz, Sabrina Sucato, and Barbara Reina
Tea, in its many forms, seems to be a miraculous, almost supernatural, substance. Its ambrosial qualities are known to allay ailment, lower health risks, promote sound snoozing, and, in rare cases, incite political revolution.
Yet its oldest and most widely accepted function is a social one, with elaborate afternoon tea parties becoming a popular occasion among the affluent in the 17th century. And while caffeinated beverages becoming accessible to lower classes turned it into a daily tradition in most homes, you can still have the cordial, upscale experience of afternoon tea right here in the Hudson Valley. The many tea rooms scattered across the region offer a unique experience, complete with delicious finger foods, delicate china, and loose leaf varieties from all over the globe. Purists can sample loose leaf imports alongside small plates, while fans of the bubble tea craze will find plenty of colorful options across the region.
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15 Oakland Ave, Warwick
With her favorite board game in mind, owner Joanne Graney created the Clue-inspired shabby-chic Garden Room; The Library, complete with hardwood tables and a gas fireplace; and The Blue Willow Room, featuring a 1780 Thomas Minton pattern. Recipes from England, Ireland, and Graney’s grandmother introduce guests to a proper cup. The Tea for Two comes with 12 assorted tea sandwiches, scones with butter, a fresh pot, and two desserts for $44. There’s also a Wee Tea for children under 10, complete with sandwiches, a beverage, and a vanilla ice cream sundae or mudslide brownie.
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69 Gleneida Ave, Carmel
“We wanted to create a space where people could step back in time,” says owner Samantha Ramos. Fresh flowers and antiques create a warm, relaxing atmosphere in which to enjoy an afternoon tea ($30) of assorted sandwiches, scones, miniature cakes, pastries, and a choice from 90 different varieties of loose-leaf tea. House-made desserts, using recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation, are baked daily.
Florrie Kaye’s is an extremely welcoming Victorian tea shop staffed by family and friends with a love for the herbal beverage. It serves loose leaf varieties from all over the world, including India, Africa, China, and Japan. Expect classic cute sandwiches that vary daily, like the signature coronation chicken salad on zucchini nut bread, ham and brie on a croissant, plus scones, jam and cream, and even prosecco. Florrie Kaye’s is also a popular venue for bridal and baby showers, as well as for birthday parties and anniversaries.
13 Main St, Millerton
No Hudson Valley tea tour is complete without a trip to the OG. In fact, Harney & Sons teas are what many of the region’s tea rooms choose to serve in their pots. A longtime local favorite, Harney is known for its beautiful flavors sourced from across the globe. In Millerton, the tasting bar and lounge stocks 250 varietals to pair with an elegant brunch or lunch.
Expect all the brand’s signature sips, including Elyse’s Blend, Hot Cinnamon Spice, Tower of London, and more. They’re just the thing to wash down smoked salmon sandwiches or salads tossed with orange poppyseed vinaigrette and pecans. The Millerton space is cozy and quaint, making it a dream for afternoon dates and classy brunches with friends in eastern Dutchess County. While Harney’s black and greens are understandably popular, its fermented pu-erhs are like the champagnes of the tea world. Try any of its sips in this range for a cup of nuanced flavor.
235 Main St, White Plains
At this cozy shop, co-owners Joan Jia and Robert Peirce offer only organic and natural loose-leaf tea. The complex, earthy aroma of oolong partners well with pastries like vanilla pound cake and biscotti. Pair Earl Grey, Darjeeling, and English breakfast with lemon cookies or something rich and decadent like New York-style cheesecake or chocolate mousse. Fragrant, floral, Chinese jasmine and Japanese greens bring out the fruity flavors of dark chocolate. And Dragonwell, a nutty green tea, pairs well with freshly baked alfajores, silky smooth dulce de leche sandwiched between two short bread-like cookies.
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979 Main St, Peekskill
This river town mainstay offers a cozy English experience complete with floral wallpaper, mismatched china, and more than 60 herbal, black, green, and wellness teas from all over the world. Owner Vivian McKenzie boasts that Kathleen’s has “the best scones this side of the pond.” All food is seasonal, fresh, and prepared in-house. The menu changes regularly and features cozy treats like spinach salad with sliced apples and smoked gouda and a decadent shortcake trio with miniature mixed berry, strawberry, and peach melba bites.
For a guaranteed seat, call ahead for a reservation.
302 Warren St, Hudson
“A refined Mad Hatter’s Tea Party” is how executive chef Michael Poiarkoff describes his afternoon tea. Try the $55 Topsy menu, including a stand of savory and sweet offerings, like scones with clotted cream and seasonal jam and savory crumpets with confit egg yolk, country ham, brown butter béarnaise, and chives. Or, upgrade to the $85 Turvy tea for added osetra caviar, foie gras, and Champagne. Either way, the most requested item is the dark-chocolate-coffee truffle with salted burnt-sugar shatter.
1736A Western Ave, Albany
A sweet and cozy shop in the Capital Region, Short and Stout began as an online business and gained a reputation at craft fairs before moving into its own brick-and-mortar in Albany circa 2013. It also runs a matcha bar and retail storefront inside the Crossgates Mall in Guilderland.
With more than 130 loose teas, the shop is a paradise for sippers in the Hudson Valley. Pair a matcha with a savory chicken curry puff or a sweet macaron for an ideal afternoon nibble. Along with standard cups of hot and iced sips, the shop is known for its vast array of inventive bubble tea flavors, including cherry blossom, taro, berries and cream, and more.
2600 South Rd, Poughkeepsie
Tea Talk features more than 100 loose teas, bags, and satchets, as well as more than 35 flavors of bubble tea that can be further customized with assorted tea bases and flavored boba. The Poughkeepsie spot crafts themed flavors around movies and TV shows. Everything from Disney to Pokémon to Sailor Moon is immortalized in flavorful sips. On their house menu, inventive creations like Fruit Loops combine Indian Nimbu with taro, almond, and strawberry milk for a delicious concoction. Purists can sample specialty teas straight-up, or indulge in basics like green matcha lattes or healthy kale smoothies.