everything british – high tea at the grand america hotel

by jani on August 8, 2012

Whenever I think of a British high tea, images of Eliza Doolittle and Professor Higgins come racing to my mind. Poor Audrey Hepburn was looking so famished as Colonel Pickering and Higgins were enjoying their… “Then say ‘cup,cup,cup,cup, of,of,of,of’. By Jove, Higgins, that was a glorious tea!”

Visiting different tearooms throughout the U.S. and Canada has always been on HB’s and my itinerary. What better time to enjoy British high tea, than during the inspiring 2012 London Olympic games! We’ve enjoyed this tradition at The Empress Hotel, Ye Olde England Inn,  the White Heather Tea Room and Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island, to name a few. But we have always loved the quiet, dignified ambience of The Grand America Hotel afternoon tea in downtown Salt Lake City.

 The three-tiered silver platter arrived featuring finger sandwiches, scones and the usual scone condiments. The tea sandwiches were delightful. We had ham and cheddar on marbled rye, smoked salmon crepes with horseradish, cucumber olive salad and our favorite… chicken mango on white bread.

As we sat down, we observed a large goblet with an unusual dried pod sitting at its base.  Our charming hostess, Danealle Plascencia, explained that is was a blossom tea flower from China. She added hot water, and after a few moments passed the little pod blossomed into a beautiful and intricate flower with a bright red center, floating in the glass.

Our favorite tea plate has always been the scones with  clotted cream, fresh homemade jam and lemon curd. These  baked sweet biscuits are q perfect fit with a cup of  hot tea. HB chose the herbal mint lemongrass while I enjoyed the fruity chamomile. There is a variety of traditional English teas to select from and several choices of hot chocolate flavors.

When the dessert platter arrived… we were in heaven! The paté de fruits (gumdrops) were raspberry, green apple, and mango. We loved the subtle favors of the citrus madeleines, linzer cookies, and strawberry pistachio gateaux. With no more room for dessert, we boxed up the lemon cream tartlets and praline gateaux. That was a good thing, as we probably would have purchased every one of their praline gateaux, being filled with the most decadent chocolate you can imagine (with a distinctive crunch in each bite)… oh my, how we enjoyed these!

The harpist was excellent, playing soft and gentle melodies… a perfect complement to our peaceful, serene and satisfying afternoon.

We have been frequent visitors to the Grand America and always enjoyed their afternoon tea. This is indeed a special treat any time of the year – but in keeping with the English tradition of high tea, the Grand America did not disappoint.

I would especially like to thank managers Roberto Martinas and Zeljra for attending to all our needs. Service at the Grand is always exemplary.

I’d love to hear any comments. Have you or your family engaged in anything British during these Olympics you’d like to share? 

*Disclosure: Thanks to Grand America for sponsoring this post. The ideas and content are my own.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Taralyn Parker August 8, 2012 at 11:33 am

What a delightful post! Makes me want to go to the Grand America with my daughter when she is a little bit older.


jani August 8, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Thanks Taralyn. It is a great place to enjoy family and friends.


Aimee August 8, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Wow! I have always wanted to do high tea there! It looks awesome.


jani August 8, 2012 at 5:11 pm

Aimee, go with some friends; it’s such a lovely way to spend an afternoon! Thanks for the comment!


Staci August 8, 2012 at 5:54 pm

I am so going to try this. Looks like a blast!


jani August 8, 2012 at 11:12 pm

I’d be so fun with a group of friends!


Adam August 9, 2012 at 4:52 pm

I’m a big fan of teatime! You had me at the Doolittle reference 🙂


jani August 9, 2012 at 10:53 pm

I love it when Eliza swallows the marble! 🙂 Thanks for the visit, Adam. I love your blog, by the way!


Sandi H. April 14, 2015 at 4:29 pm

What a lovely review. We will be enjoying Tea at the Grand tomorrow and are hoping our experience is as stellar as yours.


jani January 14, 2016 at 9:44 pm

Thank you Sandi, for your nice comment about the Grand afternoon tea. I apologize for not getting back to you; we’ve had some personal family circumstances that took my time away from my blog. Hope you had a nice experience!


Celtic Cat October 13, 2015 at 7:22 am

Lovely interior.
I would like to add a few comments that might help to understand what actually ‘high tea’ means in Britain.
High tea (also known as meat tea or tea time in Ireland) usually refers to the evening meal or dinner of the working class, typically eaten between 5 pm and 7 pm. High tea typically consists of a hot dish, followed by cakes and bread, butter and jam.
What we see here and in many British-inspired places in America would fall into a category of afternoon tea or low tea.
In English tea history, the Duchess of Bedford first began the habit of taking tea and biscuits on a low side table to help stave off her hunger as she ‘rested’ in the late afternoon before dressing for a late supper. Eventually, her personal ritual evolved into the widely-practiced ‘Low Tea’ (or Cream Tea). Wealthy commoners continued the practice, imitating the formality of the ‘upper crust’ when serving lady friends for tea with biscuits and dainty sandwiches, bringing out their best china and serving in their Sitting Parlors on low tea tables. Low Tea was served from 2-4 o’clock.

For peasant workers and laborers, Low Tea wasn’t possible. When they arrived home, wives would serve “High Tea” or “Meat Tea” at the taller dining table. High Tea was actually in place of a formal Supper. Meat and vegetable dishes (if meat was available), bread and simple dessert were served casually all at once, not by courses.

Eventually, the High Tea worked it’s way back to the British aristocracy who adopted the practice by offering a more lavish and varied version of this meal after hunting parties at their country homes, and eventually bringing it to their city palaces. It was proper to invite guests to High Tea between 5-7 o’clock. The gathering was not intended to go late and guests did not expect the hosts to entertain them all night.

American’s understanding of British Tea somehow got fuzzy after the Victorian era and derailed sometime in the 50s-60s as many Homemaker’s went to work. Today, most people think “High Tea” means a formal afternoon tea (most likely taken in a formal, traditional hotel Tearoom) which more resembles the Low Tea. It’s just one more thing that amuses the British about Americans as High Tea is actually quite the opposite and a casual daily break, and today would be just as likely to be served in a British pub as a Tearoom. Miss Party also finds it interesting that commoners made the Low Tea all the rage imitating royalty and the royalty made the High Tea all the rage imitating the commoners. Just goes to show the grass is always greener on the other side!
And few more things: first, it is very inappropriate for Ladies to be crossing legs when sitting, especially at the low table, and especially while wearing mini-skirt, as it is clearly shown in the website photo. Paying attention to the details and watching photos and videos of Royal events would help to overcome awkwardness and our not so uncommon domestic lack of good manners. Secondly: Ladies, hold your forks with tips down- not like spoon- and do not wave your hands in front of surrounding faces while holding silverware and trying to talk. Eat and hold your forks and knives at the plate level, then put them down and start talking. It is very funny to see nicely dressed women, pretending to be upper class, that don’t know how to handle forks and knives trying to cut and then hands switch (very common problem in The US).


jani January 14, 2016 at 10:03 pm

Thank you Celtic Cat for the insightful background in British tea customs. It was really my mistake in suggesting it was “High Tea”. The Grand America Hotel’s Afternoon Tea is called just that. As for the attire shown in the photo, I wasn’t involved with the advertisement. I would say that I went to a “finishing” prep school in Palo Alto, California and I can assure you we had every probable etiquette scenario taught to us. In a graduating class of 52, 5 of the seniors in our class at Castilleja were San Francisco debutantes. Interestingly enough, in doing my genealogy, I am related to royalty from England – be it many generations past! Thank you again and I look forward to visiting the wonderful British Isles again someday. The people of Great Britain, Scotland and Ireland, I found to be very warm and engaging.


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