10.22.2014

Washington Duke Inn in Durham, N.C. Ranks Tops for Afternoon Tea says the Tea Lady

I don't like to call myself an expert on afternoon tea, but I get around when it comes to afternoon tea service. It's kind of the thing that I like to do during my travels.

places to have afternoon tea in N.C., afternoon tea at Washington Duke Inn in Durham, N.C.


I make my husband and children partake in it, too. In the past year, we've had tea as a family at The Jefferson Hotel and The Primland  Resort in Virginia,  as well as the Jekyll Island Club in Georgia. We've had tea at the Ritz-Carlton Charlotte and I have had tea at The Umstead in Cary, The Carolina Inn, the Ritz in Paris, The Fearrington House Inn, and at the Empress in Victoria, British Columbia. It's fairly clear. I like afternoon tea.

I've not had tea in every hotel that offers afternoon tea in North Carolina so until that happens, I'm not going on record saying that the Washington Duke has the best afternoon tea service in my home state, but I will publicly declare that the Washington Duke Inn is my favorite place for a traditional English style afternoon tea.

places to have afternoon tea in N.C., afternoon tea at Washington Duke Inn in Durham, N.C., tea sandwiches


Here's why. I'm a tea sandwich and scones kind of girl. Scones and tea sandwiches are my favorite things about having afternoon tea. I am traditional with my tea selection, too. I like black teas served with cream and sugar. I rarely indulge in sweets in afternoon tea, either nor do I chose green teas.  My children love the sweets, but if someone offers me a cucumber sandwich and a scone, I promise you, I will choose those items every time over the sweet offerings.

best place to get scones in N.C, scones, afternoon tea, Durham, N.C, Washington Duke Inn.


The Washington Duke Inn has great scones and sandwiches. They have great sweets, too for its tea service, but I'm always too full on Devonshire cream and strawberry preserves to take a bite.

Constance Lue, the Tea Lady of N.C.


On my last visit to the Inn, I was introduced to a true tea expert. For the media, the hotel had Constance Lue,founder of the Old North State Tea Society, as special guest. She's like a living encyclopedia for tea facts. She likes Darjeeling tea, and she tells me that if you purchase tea from a grocery store then "darling, you aren't drinking tea!"

She loves scones as much as me, and she said, "if a hotel tells me they make their own clotted cream then I know it's not true clotted cream and is probably not very good. Devonshire is the only place that makes true clotted cream." She says there is a lady in N.C. that is originally from Devonshire, England and she can make good clotted cream, but she's about the only person that can get that homemade clotted cream pass from the tea lady.

Afternoon tea is a very social meal. Ms. Lue taught us to break up our scones into tiny bites, and put cream and jam on every bite.

Savory and Sweet tea bites, places for afternoon tea, Washington Duke Inn,


Ms. Lue adds that the Washington Duke Inn is one of her favorite places for afternoon tea, and she hosts the annual Old North Tea Society tea at the Inn every year. I think she agrees with me on my assessment of the Inn's tea. She says the desserts are an important part of the afternoon tea process, too and the Washington Duke Inn balances its offerings of savory and sweet perfectly. I think that is what I like about the hotel's tea service, too. Some hotel teas that I've attended for tea like to showcase the desserts more than than the scones and sandwich bites. I have enjoyed those teas, but I prefer the traditional English style. Honestly, some days I would be fine with just scones and tea, which is called a cream tea and is hard to find in North Carolina.

afternoon tea at Washington Duke Inn


I adored meeting Constance Lue, and her travel companion. They live in Oxford, N.C.  Ms. Lue teaches tea etiquette at the local community college to young students.

Personally, I think partaking in afternoon tea is something that every young person should do, and it's a favorite activity of my children now.  It's something I hope they will do with their children one day. I took my son to Washington Duke Inn for tea when he was just seven, and my daughter has yet to have tea there which I need to make happen.

 I love the fact that Washington Duke serves tea in the Fairview Dining Room. A lot of hotels serve afternoon tea in the lobby, and that can be a little distracting, if the lobby is busy.

afternoon tea places for kids in N.C.


And who knows, maybe in 30 years, I can become North Carolina's new tea lady. Right now, we have a wonderful reigning queen, and she is a delight.

The Washington Duke Inn serves afternoon tea daily during the holidays. For more on the Inn's tea service visit the dining page for the Fairview Dining Room.  Reservations for tea are required. The Inn will make a special menu for the children's tea.

Want to Go:
Washington Duke Inn 
3001 Cameron Blvd
Durham, N.C.


Disclosure: My opinions can't be bought about my luxury hotels and afternoon tea. My opinion of afternoon tea at the Washington Duke Inn comes from being both a guest who has paid and also as a member of the media. This story was made possible by a recent complimentary media event and I'm so glad they invited Constance Lue to be the guest speaker. I learned so much from her, and it will always be a great memory of mine. 




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