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Alina Tyulyu

15 Cozy Spots for Afternoon Tea in San Francisco and the Bay Area

Where to feast on finger sandwiches and petite sweets

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It’s not quite the glamour of London or Paris, but San Francisco does have a few posh places to enjoy one of the most civilized of dining experiences: afternoon tea. Whether for a special occasion with family and friends or a much-needed shopping break, it’s a reinvigorating and relaxing tradition to sip on fine china and snack on sandwiches and sweets.

Fortunately, the downtown hotels and department stores are back this year with splashy teas. In triumphant returns: The Palace has reopened the historic Garden Court, where guests settle in under a golden dome filled with chandeliers. And Neiman Marcus has relit the Rotunda, that extraordinary glass structure with a sweeping view of Union Square. But whether you require a champagne toast at a dazzling hotel or simply want a cozy cuppa in a neighborhood shop, here’s where to find a truly delightful afternoon tea.

Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; the latest data about the delta variant indicates that it may pose a low-to-moderate risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial transmission. The latest CDC guidance is here; find a COVID-19 vaccination site here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Pardee Home Museum

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This historic mansion, built in 1868, offers tours and tea service for groups with advance reservation. It’s a proper spread of sandwiches, chicken salad in pastry puffs, scones, tarts, and more, all made by volunteers. Every party here is a private party, which means guests get the place entirely to themselves. The wait list is long, so be sure to book well in advance — many fans take spots several months out.

Entrance to the Pardee Home Museum Pardee Home Museum

Laurel Court Restaurant & Bar at the Fairmont

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Befitting its location in what might be San Francisco’s highest-end hotel, the Fairmont’s Laurel Court does a pricey but fully loaded afternoon tea, with tons of tea sandwiches, scones, tarts, chocolates, macarons, and petits fours. During the pandemic, fans were devastated to miss the holiday tea with a view of the lobby and life-size gingerbread house, but after a long winter’s nap, afternoon tea came back in time for Mother’s Day 2021, and they’re pulling out the good china and silver again this winter. 

Afternoon tea at the Fairmont Fairmont Hotel

The Garden Court at the Palace

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This stunning, historic space serves one of the most expensive tea services on this list (a whopping $95 per person, which only rises higher if you decide to add Champagne and caviar to the mix), but it’s hard to beat the opulent, chandelier-decked space, which feels like a trip back in time. Note that this tea is only offered on the weekends.

Scenes Palace Garden Court

The Rotunda at Neiman Marcus

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Join those who lunch for a post-shopping afternoon tea at this swank department-store restaurant with stunning views of Union Square below. The $45 tea service (Thursday to Sunday) comes with mini sandwiches, pastries, petits fours, and the famed popovers with strawberry butter. You can also add a glass of Champagne to the mix, of course.

Maison Danel

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Maison Danel, the sparkly patisserie and tea salon, had a rough opening during the pandemic, but the it’s now fully open and serving afternoon tea under a big chandelier. Husband-and-husband team Danel and David de Betelu are also still boxing up afternoon tea service for takeout, and it includes petite croissant sandwiches, plus macarons and other sweets.

The tea service at Maison Danel Emily Martin Events

Crown & Crumpet Tea Stop Café

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This tearoom's larger Fisherman's Wharf location is no more, but you can still enjoy afternoon tea at the smaller Japantown outpost, located inside the New People mall, as well as a location in Ross in Marin County. The affordable tea service is available again for dining in, and there are a variety of fun packages, including unicorn cakes and personalized crowns for special occasions.

Son & Garden

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The latest restaurant from the Farmhouse Thai group became a viral sensation during the pandemic, thanks to this over-the-top afternoon tea party in a box. It’s a fabulous floral experience, packed with salmon, egg, and cucumber sandwiches, scones, cake, and sweets. Call the restaurant directly to pick up — though the full experience is now available for dine-in, should you prefer to sit on a pink velvet armchair against a backdrop of floral wallpaper.

Afternoon tea from Son and Garden Son and Garden

San Francisco Proper

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The Proper Hotel is maybe best known as a dining destination for brunch at Villon or rooftop cocktails at Charmaine’s, but the modern hotel would not want any guests to go hungry between meals. Afternoon tea is served on the weekends, and includes a selection of sandwiches, sweets, and scones, with the option to add on a glass of bubbles. For the holidays, they’re doing a Nutcracker theme, which seems particularly appropriate given the proximity to the Opera House.

Alina Tyulyu

Malaya Tea Room

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This new tea room in Alameda takes the British afternoon tradition and infuses it with Malaysian flavors, spreading rendang curry and kaya jam on sandwiches, and folding pandan into chiffon cakes. They’re now open for sit-down dining, but the pandemic-inspired takeout boxes are still beautifully arranged, and include sandwiches, canapés, cake, and more.

Holiday tea from Malaya Malaya Tea Room

Japanese Tea Garden

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A historic fixture of Golden Gate Park, this exquisite garden also offers a small tea cafe, which has always been a largely outdoor experience. The green tea or matcha are accompanied by traditional Japanese snacks like dorayaki (red bean pancake), edamame, and arare (savory rice crackers), as well as afternoon tea staples like petits fours and finger sandwiches on white bread. Every order comes with a fortune cookie, which was introduced to the U.S. right here (way back in the 1890s).

Sip Tea Room

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A relative newcomer to San Francisco’s afternoon tea scene, Sip Tea Room replaces Secret Garden Tea House with a more modern setting. The tea service itself leans traditional though, arriving on a three-tier stand with sandwiches, scones, clotted cream, strawberry preserves, lemon curd, and sweets.

Stonemill Matcha

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While it doesn’t offer afternoon tea in the traditional sense, the sleek Stonemill Matcha is a prime place to assemble your own green-tinted version. Meticulously prepared stone-ground matcha tea — served hand-whisked, cold brewed, or even sparkling — can be paired with Japanese and Japanese-inspired treats, such as soufflé cheesecake, black sesame cream puffs, and pork katsu sandwiches.

Lovejoy's Tearoom

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This shabby-chic tea room feels like the best version of a grandmother's attic, with mismatched china, hodgepodge furniture, and even hats you can borrow for the full effect. Bottomless tea can be accompanied by two simple scones, jam, and clotted cream all the way up to an all-out Queen's Tea with sandwiches, crumpets, salad, fruit, and petit fours. The parklet on Church is a quiet spot for outdoor dining, and takeout boxes are still lovely.

Lovey's Tea Shoppe

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From the same owners at Lovejoy’s in San Francisco, baby sister Lovey’s in Pacifica also offers tea, scones, sandwiches, and mismatched doilies, but with much easier parking just off Highway One. At the moment, the shop is open for browsing, tea parties can be boxed up for takeout, or there are a few outdoor tables, if you want to take your tea in the fresh coastal fog.

Tray of tea sandwiches Lovey’s Tea Shoppe Pacifica

Filoli Historic House & Garden

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Built in 1917 by gold mine owners, Filoli is a historic house and garden tucked away on 654 serene acres. Much like with English country homes, a wander through the garden isn’t complete without a restorative cup of tea at the end, complete with sandwiches, scones, clotted cream, and tart cherry jam. They aren’t doing their wildly popular holiday teas this year, but it is still possible to get a ticket to see the gardens, and have a more casual “tea for two” in the Quail’s Nest Cafe, which includes a pot of tea and two sweets, choosing between a macaron, mini chocolate cake, and lemon meringue tartlet. 

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Pardee Home Museum

Entrance to the Pardee Home Museum Pardee Home Museum

This historic mansion, built in 1868, offers tours and tea service for groups with advance reservation. It’s a proper spread of sandwiches, chicken salad in pastry puffs, scones, tarts, and more, all made by volunteers. Every party here is a private party, which means guests get the place entirely to themselves. The wait list is long, so be sure to book well in advance — many fans take spots several months out.

Entrance to the Pardee Home Museum Pardee Home Museum

Laurel Court Restaurant & Bar at the Fairmont

Afternoon tea at the Fairmont Fairmont Hotel

Befitting its location in what might be San Francisco’s highest-end hotel, the Fairmont’s Laurel Court does a pricey but fully loaded afternoon tea, with tons of tea sandwiches, scones, tarts, chocolates, macarons, and petits fours. During the pandemic, fans were devastated to miss the holiday tea with a view of the lobby and life-size gingerbread house, but after a long winter’s nap, afternoon tea came back in time for Mother’s Day 2021, and they’re pulling out the good china and silver again this winter. 

Afternoon tea at the Fairmont Fairmont Hotel

The Garden Court at the Palace

Scenes Palace Garden Court

This stunning, historic space serves one of the most expensive tea services on this list (a whopping $95 per person, which only rises higher if you decide to add Champagne and caviar to the mix), but it’s hard to beat the opulent, chandelier-decked space, which feels like a trip back in time. Note that this tea is only offered on the weekends.

Scenes Palace Garden Court

The Rotunda at Neiman Marcus

Join those who lunch for a post-shopping afternoon tea at this swank department-store restaurant with stunning views of Union Square below. The $45 tea service (Thursday to Sunday) comes with mini sandwiches, pastries, petits fours, and the famed popovers with strawberry butter. You can also add a glass of Champagne to the mix, of course.

Maison Danel

The tea service at Maison Danel Emily Martin Events

Maison Danel, the sparkly patisserie and tea salon, had a rough opening during the pandemic, but the it’s now fully open and serving afternoon tea under a big chandelier. Husband-and-husband team Danel and David de Betelu are also still boxing up afternoon tea service for takeout, and it includes petite croissant sandwiches, plus macarons and other sweets.

The tea service at Maison Danel Emily Martin Events

Crown & Crumpet Tea Stop Café

This tearoom's larger Fisherman's Wharf location is no more, but you can still enjoy afternoon tea at the smaller Japantown outpost, located inside the New People mall, as well as a location in Ross in Marin County. The affordable tea service is available again for dining in, and there are a variety of fun packages, including unicorn cakes and personalized crowns for special occasions.

Son & Garden

Afternoon tea from Son and Garden Son and Garden

The latest restaurant from the Farmhouse Thai group became a viral sensation during the pandemic, thanks to this over-the-top afternoon tea party in a box. It’s a fabulous floral experience, packed with salmon, egg, and cucumber sandwiches, scones, cake, and sweets. Call the restaurant directly to pick up — though the full experience is now available for dine-in, should you prefer to sit on a pink velvet armchair against a backdrop of floral wallpaper.

Afternoon tea from Son and Garden Son and Garden

San Francisco Proper

Alina Tyulyu

The Proper Hotel is maybe best known as a dining destination for brunch at Villon or rooftop cocktails at Charmaine’s, but the modern hotel would not want any guests to go hungry between meals. Afternoon tea is served on the weekends, and includes a selection of sandwiches, sweets, and scones, with the option to add on a glass of bubbles. For the holidays, they’re doing a Nutcracker theme, which seems particularly appropriate given the proximity to the Opera House.

Alina Tyulyu

Malaya Tea Room

Holiday tea from Malaya Malaya Tea Room

This new tea room in Alameda takes the British afternoon tradition and infuses it with Malaysian flavors, spreading rendang curry and kaya jam on sandwiches, and folding pandan into chiffon cakes. They’re now open for sit-down dining, but the pandemic-inspired takeout boxes are still beautifully arranged, and include sandwiches, canapés, cake, and more.

Holiday tea from Malaya Malaya Tea Room

Japanese Tea Garden

A historic fixture of Golden Gate Park, this exquisite garden also offers a small tea cafe, which has always been a largely outdoor experience. The green tea or matcha are accompanied by traditional Japanese snacks like dorayaki (red bean pancake), edamame, and arare (savory rice crackers), as well as afternoon tea staples like petits fours and finger sandwiches on white bread. Every order comes with a fortune cookie, which was introduced to the U.S. right here (way back in the 1890s).

Sip Tea Room

A relative newcomer to San Francisco’s afternoon tea scene, Sip Tea Room replaces Secret Garden Tea House with a more modern setting. The tea service itself leans traditional though, arriving on a three-tier stand with sandwiches, scones, clotted cream, strawberry preserves, lemon curd, and sweets.

Stonemill Matcha

While it doesn’t offer afternoon tea in the traditional sense, the sleek Stonemill Matcha is a prime place to assemble your own green-tinted version. Meticulously prepared stone-ground matcha tea — served hand-whisked, cold brewed, or even sparkling — can be paired with Japanese and Japanese-inspired treats, such as soufflé cheesecake, black sesame cream puffs, and pork katsu sandwiches.

Lovejoy's Tearoom

This shabby-chic tea room feels like the best version of a grandmother's attic, with mismatched china, hodgepodge furniture, and even hats you can borrow for the full effect. Bottomless tea can be accompanied by two simple scones, jam, and clotted cream all the way up to an all-out Queen's Tea with sandwiches, crumpets, salad, fruit, and petit fours. The parklet on Church is a quiet spot for outdoor dining, and takeout boxes are still lovely.

Lovey's Tea Shoppe

Tray of tea sandwiches Lovey’s Tea Shoppe Pacifica

From the same owners at Lovejoy’s in San Francisco, baby sister Lovey’s in Pacifica also offers tea, scones, sandwiches, and mismatched doilies, but with much easier parking just off Highway One. At the moment, the shop is open for browsing, tea parties can be boxed up for takeout, or there are a few outdoor tables, if you want to take your tea in the fresh coastal fog.