Afternoon Tea at the Phoenician

By local contributor
Susan Lanier Graham

Every girl dreams of afternoon tea. It’s a dignified royal tradition filled with sweets and treats. And you don’t even have to cross the pond. Afternoon tea awaits at The Phoenician in Scottsdale.

Every day, The Phoenician serves a traditional British Afternoon Tea. I recently treated my daughter-in-law and two granddaughters, ages 5 and 8, to a girls’ afternoon of proper tea. Even with all the elegant china and scones, there were plenty of giggles to keep these three generations going.

Tea is important in my life. I shared tea with my grandmother. Afternoon tea was one of my first memories of visiting Europe. It brings people together. When I discovered the Afternoon Tea at The Phoenician is open to the public, I did a little dance. And planned an outing for my girls.

The hushed and elegant lobby, with its creamy marble and comfortable chairs in muted shades of sand and champagne, beckons visitors. All of us were thrilled at the beautiful floral china that evoked images of an English garden.

Tea Time

Each tea guest receives her own pot of tea. I’m a purist and opted for Assam, while the others chose a green tea with mint and a sweet berry tea for the youngest. Adults can also add either sparkling wine or Champagne in addition to the traditional tea.

When our soft-spoken waiter offered up a plate of finger sandwiches, I thought Morgan, my 5-year-old granddaughter, was going to burst with excitement. “Would you care for English Cucumber, Scottish Smoked Salmon, Classic Egg Salad, Lemon and Thyme Chicken Salad, Asparagus and Garlic Herb, or one of each?”

Morgan didn’t bother to look at her mother. She was in control for this meal. “I’d like one of each, please.” She gazed at her filled plate with anticipation as mom and grandma were served. By the way, she ended up eating three of the smoked salmon sandwiches.

Afternoon Tea at the the Phoenician 1

The second course is perhaps my favorite. Those perfect buttermilk scones. Sweet, flaky, warm and piled high with Devonshire cream. I think I purred as I savored that sweetness. The girls quietly debated whether they preferred buttermilk with lemon curd or cranberry with strawberry preserves.

As the pianist played soft sounds from big band era to today on a black Steinway, the girls sat, dolls at their sides, watching everything. They noticed all the details. Nothing escaped them. Zoë, my 8-year-old granddaughter, even asked why I put cream in my cup, in the way of the Irish, before I added the tea.

As our waiter showed up with a tray filled with sweets and chocolates, Morgan again asked to try one of each, except for the chocolate-covered strawberries. She needed two of those. While she gazed up with admiration at the plate, she proclaimed happily, “I live for chocolate.” She tried everything, but the éclairs, strawberries, and coffee opera cakes were her favorites (and probably grandma’s as well).

A Lasting Legacy

Afternoon tea at The Phoenician is much more than a meal. It is an experience. We chatted as we nibbled. My daughter-in-law and I laughed at the antics of our two little girls and relaxed as someone else served us for a change.

The best testament of all? Both girls declared they were going to become frequent tea guests at The Phoenician. Zoë even promised to bring her own daughter someday.

For more on Afternoon Tea at The Phoenician, held each day from 2 to 3 pm, click here