I love a good tea, and I love holiday teas even more. My loyalty for PG Tips tea was so strong that I had to wean myself off a caffeine addiction last winter. And I have a soft spot for the Sorrento Hotel’s holiday tea, as growing up it was a family tradition to dress up, drink tea by the fire, and help light the chanukkiah next to the Christmas tree. So, nearly a decade later, I’ve made a return trip.
For those of you not as obsessed with tea ceremony, in the UK there is more than one type of tea service. Afternoon Tea is what the Sorrento serves, and what you probably think of when you think of British tea. Small finger foods, mainly scones or thinly-sliced sandwiches, served on a tiered platter with a large pot of tea, and it is a formal or semi-formal occasion. In the US this is often served during brunch hours to match when we like to go out and eat sweet things.
When Chris and I walked in early to the Sorrento’s Fireside Room on a Saturday morning, there was a fireplace roaring, with clusters of high-backed chairs and inviting sofas centered around crisp linen table settings. It was cozy, not too formal, and we had the whole space to ourselves. (Michelle, the tea server, warned us that it gets much busier in the holiday season.) Soft pop and modern music drifted over the speakers; I was itching for an excuse to request some Bach.
First, the tea – they use Mighty Leaf loose leaf teas, which were floral and delicate. We had the White Lotus and Mint Melange, with individual strainers for each cup. If you’re unsure what the strainer is for or how to use it, please ask – it’ll improve your experience immensely.
The food arrived on a three tiered tray. It was a progression from light to savory to sweet, from lemon and blueberry scones, to goat cheese with honey and almond on toast, to chocolate truffles. The scones with the juicy huckleberries were delightful, with just enough heft and lemon as a background note. The true knockouts were the caprese sandwiches and the goat cheese on toast, with honey for a hint of sweetness against the fresh cheese.
Finishing the meal were lemon tarts topped with raspberries, lavender shortbread, macerated strawberries, and Theo chocolates truffles. The shortbread was crisp and buttery, with a light hand on the lavender that worked great against the strawberries.
It was exactly what I love about a formal tea – great tea, light snacks that were delicious but not overpowering the tea’s delicacy, and a wonderful space to enjoy it in. My only frustration is that it wasn’t necessarily seasonal. With the Farmer’s Market literally blocks away and an amazing tea shop within walking distance, I’d love to see the tea reflect Washington’s local bounty.
After Thanksgiving, the Sorrento switches to its Holiday Tea until January ($39 per person). Expect great things – eclairs, cucumber mint sandwiches, and tartlets have all made appearances on past menus. With a roaring fire, chairs you only dreamed of sitting on as a kid, and a pot of tea, it’s an intimate experience you rarely get to enjoy in Seattle.
900 Madison Street Seattle, WA 98104