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 Napolean.

“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 lose tea that will ever waft your way, patrons hear Moonlight Sonata accompanying a poetry, 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.


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