Nothing feels fancier than getting dressed up to nibble on tiny sandwiches and sip tea with all of the trappings. So when I found out about a monthly afternoon tea served in a historic mansion in Tulsa, I knew I had to check it out.
Is it Afternoon Tea or High Tea?
First things first, here’s a lesson I learned recently. While the terms “afternoon tea” and “high tea” are often used interchangeably, they’re actually quite different.
Afternoon tea started as a tradition to fill the sometimes long gap between luncheon and a late dinner. A fancy tea service with sandwiches, scones, and sometimes sweet treats became a hallmark of British high society. “High tea” is actually a custom started by the working class. After a long day’s work they wanted a sit down, but needed heartier food with their tea. It’s what we would think of as a regular dinner, but with tea. The “high” term came about as they often had their tea sitting at higher top tables.
So the sought out experience that’s offered in a charming setting with tea pots and tiered serving trays with tiny sandwiches, scones, macarons, etc and often a piano playing in the background is actually “afternoon tea,” not high tea. The things you learn.
Afternoon Tea at the Historic Harwelden Mansion
Harwelden Mansion has long since been a popular destination for weddings and other parties, but after new ownership did a complete refurbishment of the upper and basement floors (the main floor is just as charming as ever), they’ve opened the property up for afternoon tea and it really is just perfect.
Harwelden hosts afternoon tea on the first Tuesday of every month. It’s scheduled from 2:30-4:30 with just one seating so it usually sells out in advance. There are two ticket options. $50 is the base price for everyone (including children), but if you’d like to add on the champagne and Pimm’s Cup option then your ticket is $65. Several times a year they also host a Disney princess tea party that’s geared towards kids.
How the Afternoon Went
In my opinion, the most important factor to having a fun afternoon tea is picking the right partner. And does anyone enjoy something like this more than a kid? I don’t think so. So I borrowed my 9 year old friend, Maya, for a fun girls afternoon.
After plenty of discussion about our outfits (we decided on fashionably chic but not over the top tea party vibes), we arrived at Harwelden a little before 2:30. There’s plenty of parking in the lot out front so you don’t need to worry about street parking. We checked in and were shown to our table (a cute table for two by the bookcase!) and we had a few minutes to wander around the mansion before the tea service started.
We checked out the library where they had hats and fascinators you could wear if you didn’t bring your own (only one group of ladies ended up wearing them), and then wandered over to a cute little bar cart where I got a glass of champagne and they made Maya the fanciest glass of Sprite we’d ever seen (a tall tumbler glass complete with mixed fruit and a fancy straw).
When the tea was ready to be served, we were all called back into the main room and our hostess gave us a little pep talk about afternoon tea traditions and what to expect. She was British and Maya thought that was pretty cool.
Our tables were already all laid except for the tea pots and towers so once it started it all moved pretty quickly. They brought our teas (two pots with two different blends) and our towers with all of our goodies. Our hostess explained the order to eat everything in and a bit about the different ways to fix your scones (we tried both ways on each half) and then the piano player opened with the theme song from Downton Abbey which was a big hit ; )
We were left to go at our own pace for the rest of the time with very attentive servers coming around to bring more teapots and offer to refill my champagne. There were a couple of dozen different groups seated in the two main rooms and Maya and I were the dead last to get up from our tables. Chock it up to a chatty 9 year old being in awe over everything that came across the table. Needless to say, we got our money’s worth.
The tea hours are 2:30-4:30, but included in that time you can get a tour of the mansion. And it really is something to see. Since we were the last table to finish, most of the other groups were already touring the mansion with the volunteers so we just kind of poked around ourselves.
There really is nothing like looking around a really big, old house.
The upstairs has been converted into four different suites that can be rented, but since they were all empty we were able to look in them all. This would be so perfect if you had a weekend event at the mansion.
The basement of the mansion has been renovated to really cater to weddings and it’s spectacular. There’s a bridal suite, a groom’s suite and several different rooms to hold the wedding party, family, etc.
This event is REALLY well done. It feels luxurious, the setting is fantastic, and the service couldn’t be better. It’s not a cheesy tea party ; ) And I felt like the offerings were on par with the price. The $50/65 price tag seems reasonable for what’s provided and apart from the actual tea service, I think a big part of that is the setting. If the tea was located in a restaurant or even a hotel, I don’t think it would be nearly as special as being set at Harwelden Mansion.
Book your spot at Harwelden’s next afternoon tea here.
Other Afternoon Teas in Tulsa
Well at the moment there aren’t really any. The Stonehorse restaurant at Utica Square used to host an afternoon tea pre COVID, but it hasn’t returned yet. But the Pink House at the Belvidere Mansion in Claremore looks like a good option if you don’t mind a drive.
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