Indulge in afternoon tea at Camellias at The Bennett
The Camellias Cake, a comely confection, is also available at Hotel Bennett’s La Pâtisserie.
Afternoon tea has come a long way since the early 1800s, when famished seventh Duchess of Bedford, Anna Maria Russell, requested for beverages and snacks to be sent to her boudoir. She and her ladies-in-waiting gathered there in the ravenous stretch between lunch and dinner for a light repast, and so the tradition of midday tea supposedly was born.
In the many decades since, afternoon tea (typically taken between 2 and 5 p.m.) has made its way across the pond as a popular pastime for the well-heeled. Often called “low tea” for the low profile settees and chairs upon which many elegant women, children, and men alike have rested for their refreshments, the event is a social affair, and one that revels in the ritual of indulgence.
Charlestonians can partake in proper afternoon tea service by visiting the Hotel Bennett, adjacent to Marion Square. Camellias, a sight in its own right, is a champagne bar built from pink marble, salvaged from the old Charleston Library. Strands of crystals dangle from the mirrored ceiling, refracting light in the ovate room, inspired in shape and design by an ornately jeweled Fabergé egg. While this perhaps exhaustingly photographed, rosy-hued space makes for a popular nighttime destination, the opulent room is an ideal special occasion spot in daylight hours, fit for a shared pot of tea with mum and gran, or fanciful festivities for a kid’s birthday—a perhaps uniquely luxurious experience in the Holy City.
(Left) Walls of the opulent interior feature hand-painted blooms of the establishment’s namesake; (Right) A classic tier stand filled with sweets and savories
Guests can enjoy Camellias Tea ($48), a selection of both sweet and savory morsels such as scones with lemon curd and clotted cream presented alongside Southern additions like Anson Mills grit cakes topped with spirals of pimento cheese or Storey Farms deviled eggs dotted with black pepper caviar.
Blends by Vancouver luxury brand Tealeaves (popular amongst upscale establishments like the Ritz) include Russian Earl Grey (spicy bergamot) and Ginger Yuzu (citrusy and herbaceous) infusions. Hotel Bennett’s pâtisserie, helmed by French pastry chef Remy Funrock, adds delicate, sculptural confections to the tea menu. The Camellias Cake is a particularly eye-catching and delicate dome, made of light lemon-almond sponge, layered with strawberry marmalade and velvety cheesecake mousse, glazed with pink chocolate, and capped, béret-like, with a teeny macaron.
The Crown Tea ($59) adds a coupe of rosé champagne and rounds out the meal with a “Sweet Remembrance”: fresh strawberries and whipped cream with Grand Marnier drizzle.
And for the kiddos, Peter Rabbit Tea ($28) is a junior take, offering several sweets and classic sandwiches like grilled cheese or PB&J, as well as mocktails and homemade hot chocolate with marshmallows.
No matter your choice, remember: pinkies up are optional.
Pencil in Your Teatime: Camellias at Hotel Bennett, 404 King St. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday only for seatings that last from 2 to 4 p.m. (843) 313-1798, hotelbennett.com