Top 3 restaurants for afternoon tea in San Francisco

Annie Chang/Staff
Desserts at Dartealing. Alfajores, shortbread cookies, and pumpkin scones with devonshire cream, part of the Dartealing's Afternoon Tea Service for Two.

When I was ten years old, my parents and I took the first of many trips to Europe. While in London, my father, being the epicure he is, decided to get afternoon tea at The Ritz, and it was with that first experience with afternoon tea that a new love was formed. Below are some of the best tea places I found in San Francisco that reminded me of that first European excursion.

1. Laurel Court Restaurant and Bar at The Fairmont San Francisco Hotel (950 Mason St. San Francisco, CA 94108)

Since opening in 1907, the glitzy grandeur hotel provides a beautiful palace-like interior that complements one of the top afternoon teas I have enjoyed. With nine tea selections ranging from “jasmine butterfly” to “Kyoto cherry rose”, and with sandwiches such as smoked salmon with chive cream cheese and egg salad with scallion and radish, the culinary selections provide exquisite taste. The tea experience also comes with freshly baked housemade scones that are served with Devonshire cream, lemon curd, and a quince and pear compote. The seemingly never ending desserts range from French macarons to chocolate mousse. Even though this afternoon tea comes with the traditional three tiers of sandwiches and desserts, the amount of food is overwhelming; the expensive $39 price per person seems less expensive nearing the end of the meal since one person receives two meals worth of food. A great selection is what truly makes this afternoon tea stand out.

2. Crown and Crumpet (1746 Post St. San Francisco, CA 94115)

Opening in 2008, originally at Ghirardelli Square, this tea stop and cafe has now relocated to Japantown while working towards a second cafe opening in Union Square. One of the most noticeable features of this afternoon tea shop is its charming and colorful pastel decorations – a colorful tea cup clock and patterned tablecloths and chairs. The afternoon tea set consists of finger sandwiches, various savory treats, scones served with varieties of jam, toasted crumpets with butter, and sweet treats. The tea flavors and names are also unique: “Alice Drink Me Tea” blended with champagne and small sugar crystals, “Marie Antoinette” with roses and a bit of strawberry, and “Stardust” with silver glitter dragees, crystal sugar, and vanilla. At a lower price of $24 per person, the afternoon tea here is more affordable and definitely fills one up, but the delicious food leaves one wanting more.

3. Dartealing Lounge (470 3rd Street San Francisco, CA 94107)

Tucked in on a smaller street of San Francisco, Dartealing Lounge is a cute and cozy place to relax and enjoy afternoon tea with friends and family. The pastel-colored decorations, the floral settings and the teaware add a royal touch, making one feel indulgent and pampered. There are four different afternoon teas with different prices. The “Dartealing’s afternoon tea service for two” provides the most food and tea, and in decreasing order of the price and the amount of food are the “taste-tea service for two”, the “ploughman’s service for two”, and the “paninis and tea service for two”. The Dartealing’s afternoon tea service for two, priced at $48, focuses on sandwiches – with the choice of three sandwich flavors out of sixteen different ones. The flavors range from Dartealing curried chicken to tuna, egg, and olives a la Nicoise. Scones and desserts come next on one platter. The pumpkin scones came with Devonshire cream, lemon curd, and berry jam, and the desserts consisted of shortbread cookies and an assortment of cakes and tarts. The menu has 45 tea choices ranging from white tea with ripe pomegranates to green tea with strawberry and papaya. The tea and sandwich varieties alone make it worth the trip to Dartealing Lounge for a relaxing afternoon, whether it be catching up with a friend or enjoying time with relatives.