At the Adolphus Hotel downtown, serving tea is light business taken seriously, and for that the hotel ranks first in Texas for the afternoon tea experience.

For 20 years now, the holiday season has brought hundreds to the Adolphus for Christmas Tea, from those who wish to ogle the magnificent holiday decorations to those who want to be ogled themselves while sipping tea under an original oil portrait of Napoleon.

“In the 17th century, afternoon tea was the event of the day, not the dinner reservation,” says Tea Captain Manuel Adame.

“Tea was meant to be a time when there was no business, and a time in which there was poetry, music and literature. And even,” pauses Adame, lowering his head and his voice ever so slightly, “a little bit of theater.”

Adame not only serves tea, he exalts it: As he brings around the cart of silver tins filled with the sweetest blends of loose tea that will ever waft your way, patrons hear Moonlight Sonata accompanying a poetry reading, Adame’s signature speech, which begins, “In the year 350 B.C. … .”

Full traditional service is offered, consisting of a first course (finger sandwiches, scones, Devonshire cream and seedless raspberry jam), second course (treats, jams and pastries), and third course, which “if you make it that far,” is, quite simply, chocolate truffles accentuated by this season’s Christmas tea blend – a combination of hot cinnamon spice and Earl Grey, served loose.

“Tea bags are cheating,” Adame says.

Booking a reservation for Christmas Tea at the Adolphus has itself become a thing of theatrics. Reservations for those 24 days in December sold out this year in a record two hours.

“I sold out faster than the Springsteen concert,” Adame says in all seriousness.

Afternoon Tea at the Adolphus is extended during the Christmas season for an extra day – Tuesday-Saturday, from 2 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. – but regular season serving days are Wednesday-Saturday. Although December tea is fully booked, you can call the Adolphus and place your name on a stand-by list. And beginning in January, reservations are much easier to come by.




Hotel Adolphus Scones

1 tbsp. Granulated sugar

1 cup All-purpose flour

¾ cup Cake flour

½ tsp. Salt

2 tsp. Baking powder

½ tsp. Orange zest, finely grated

½ cup Dried cherries

4 oz. Cold butter, medium diced

4 oz. Cold milk

Place the sugar, both flours, salt, baking powder and zest in a 3-quart mixing bowl. Put the dried cherries in a separate bowl. Using a paddle attachment on the mixer, turn the mixer on the lowest speed and thoroughly combine the dry ingredients. Add the butter pieces and mix until the dough becomes a crumbly mix. Add the milk. Fold in the dried cherries. Do not over-mix, as it will make the scones become hard and dry.

Place the dough on a floured surface. Roll out to a one-inch thickness and cut with a 2-inch circle cutter. Let the scones rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Bake in a 375-degree oven until the tops turn light brown. Serve warm and fresh with your choice of preserves. Serves 12.