Savannah’s top tea rooms are serving up some delightful seasonal flavors. Here are eight places for superb sipping.
Written by ALLISON STICE
Photography by JASON B. JAMES
YOU NEVER OUTGROW A TEA PARTY. And there’s no better time to lift your pinkies and clink china than during the holiday season.
The ritual of gathering with your nearest and dearest around a steaming pot of brew is a cherished tradition across cultures and centuries. The custom of afternoon tea paired with light bites originated in Great Britain in the 19th century as a pick-me-up between meals, and it soon became a fashionable way to entertain.
Though the tradition has expanded over the years, “The beautiful thing about tea is it’s very flexible and adaptable — you can carve out your own culture with it,” says Ashford Tea Company founder and tea sommelier Wayne Ashford.
In Savannah, he encourages enjoying a cup before a viewing of “The Nutcracker” or when surrounded by parcels of post-holiday shopping on Broughton Street. Peruse Savannah’s premier tasting rooms and tea purveyors to find a spot for your new favorite tradition.
Sip & Stay
Located within the 1926 Scottish Rite building on Madison Square, Gryphon’s afternoon tea is as elegant and charming as its interior. The design of this Savannah College of Art and Design-owned tea room honors its origins as an apothecary, featuring mahogany bookshelves lined with curios, upholstered seating and stained glass. Petit fours, finger sandwiches and scones with clotted cream arrive on three-tiered trays courtesy of charming servers who are happy to share the architectural history of the building and point out the namesake gryphons hidden in the decor. Teas by master tea blenders Harney & Sons complete the experience.
Agatha’s Coffee and Tea House
Stepping into Agatha’s Coffee and Tea House is like stepping back in time — before smartphones and streaming services were the default sources of entertainment. The inspiration for the cafè? An early 20th-century British murder mystery centered around fictional serial killer Agatha Harper. The cozy quarters on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard was devised by Jonathan Clark, Taia Harris and former Disney Imagineer Darin Farr, who outfitted the space with an eclectic mix of antiques and art from his personal collection. Each visit may unveil new “evidence” — or clues — to solve the case du jour. “We wanted to create a story and give customers something fun to play with,” Clark says. Besides becoming sleuths themselves, guests can also pluck cozy mystery novels by authors like Nancy Drew’s Carolyn Keene from the shelves to read while sipping.
Perry Lane Library
Another fictional muse inspires the private afternoon tea experience at Perry Lane Hotel on Drayton Street. An imagined seventh-generation Savannahian, art collector and avid traveler named Adelaide Harcourt serves as the guiding light for the hotel and also is the illusory hostess behind a private tea party available to book in the hotel’s library. Guests can enjoy exquisite drinks (with a touch of spirits available for those who indulge) alongside house-baked pastries and savory hors d’oeuvres in sumptuous surroundings reminiscent of Harcourt’s fantastical voyages.
Serving scratch-made, authentic British food, Pie Society is not only renowned for their meat pies — their breads, scones and desserts from across the pond make a fabulous complement to a pot of tea, too. Sure to delight fans of “The Great British Baking Show,” Victoria sponge cake, bakewell tarts, pasties and millionaire shortbread are just a sampling of the offerings available at locations in Savannah and Pooler.
Ashford Tea Company
With 30 years in the industry under his belt, tea sommelier Wayne Ashford operates his business with a side of education. With tastings held at his tea studio surrounded by local art on East Oglethorpe Avenue, he takes guests on a journey through the history of tea and shows them the health benefits of this ancient beverage. Along with local baked goods, customers will find pairings with designer teas unavailable in the wider area, like purple tea from Kenya.
“The beautiful thing about tea is it’s very flexible and adaptable — you can carve out your own culture with it.”— Wayne Ashford, founder & sommelier, Ashford Tea Company
“Tea is more like a wine than it is like a coffee — the soil, elevation and the weather all play a big part in the quality,” Ashford says. “Whether it’s a traditional assam or a sencha, rooibos and oolong, we have been able to find great single-estate teas and tisanes that most people haven’t experienced.” According to Ashford, you don’t have to be an enthusiast to find a blend you’ll want to incorporate all year round.
More Tea to Go
Yaupon Tea House + Apothecary
Yaupon Holly, a tree native to the southeastern United States and the only indigenous source of caffeine in the country, forms the basis for loose-leaf teas, skincare products and more available in this modern apothecary on Abercorn Street. The ancient Yaupon leaves used by Native Americans for ceremonies, traditional medicine and as a stimulating beverage belong in the same family as yerba mate and have a variety of wellness applications, including boosting energy, focus and mental clarity.
The Tea Room
Nestled adjacent to E. Shaver Booksellers on Madison Square, The Tea Room carries fine teas from around the world as well as beautifully designed teaware to elevate your sipping experience. Along with a signature Christmas Tea blend — China black tea with spices like cinnamon, clove and dried orange peel — choose from tea kettles in handblown glass, porcelain and Japanese tetsubin cast iron, or bone China cups from the brand Miss Havisham’s Curiosities, with saucy slogans scrawled inside the rim.
Hale Tea Company
This 150-year-old tea brand with London, England, got a modern twist when owner and Savannah College of Art and Design graduate Megan Miller took the helm in 2019. Hale Tea Company pairs beautiful design with globally sourced, organic blends — artisan flavors like Georgia Peach, Jones Street Jasmine and Savannah Grey come in collectible tin boxes featuring local scenes by artist Natalie Guillet and are eminently giftable. Discover your favorite flavors at local retailers and cafes, including Cup to Cup, Mirabelle, Provisions and shopSCAD.