There is something so very civilized about afternoon tea -- the quiet conversation, the aromatic brew and the allure of pastries, scones and tea sandwiches. Throw a tea party at home or venture out to one of these tea houses around the Bay Area. Reservations are a must at virtually all of these.
Afternoon tea in San Francisco
The Palace Hotel Garden Court in San Francisco is famous for its Saturday afternoon teas, which include scones, pastries and tea sandwiches with cucumber and green goddess crÃ¨me, for example, or a smoked salmon roulade ($45 and up). 2 New Montgomery St.; www.sfpalace.com/garden-court.
San Francisco's Craftsman & Wolves serves a more avant-garde afternoon tea on weekdays with a menu ($22) that includes pear walnut scones, salt cod rillettes, beet root madeleines and caramelized hazelnut financiers. This is not a ruffled chintz-and-flowers place. It's a contemporary patisserie housed in an industrial chic, exposed brick building, with a communal table and standing bar. 746 Valencia St. in the Mission district; http://craftsman-wolves.com.
Tea in the South Bay
Afternoon tea at the Fairmont San Jose includes finger sandwiches, scones with Devonshire cream, and French pastries for $32 -- or a children's tea with ginger bears, dream cookies and jelly sandwiches for $18. 170 South Market St., San Jose; www.fairmont.com/san-jose/dining/.
The menu at Lisa's Tea Treasures, a Victorian tea salon, includes the Duchess' Delight -- a fresh scone with Devonshire cream, cucumber-mint and egg-salad tea sandwiches, quiche and dessert for $23.95. 1175 Merrill St., Menlo Park; www.lisasteamenlo.com.
The Quail & Thistle Tea Room serves tea on weekends, but they are moving from their current location in Ben Lomond to Capitola, where they will open at 911 Capitola Ave. in mid-January; http://quailandthistle.com.
Tea in the East Bay
Lafayette's French Bakery offers a Parisian take on the English tea concept. The Demi Tea in the Tuilleries menu ($22), for example, includes a warm scone with jam, clotted cream and lemon curd, tea sandwiches and two "petite sweets." 71 Lafayette Circle; http://thefrenchbakery.biz/.
In Pleasanton, try the English Rose Tea Room for teas, tisanes and all the scones and tea sandwiches any Anglophile could want -- plus a Princess Penelope's Fancy Afternoon Tea option for kids; $12.50-$23. 163 West Neal, Pleasanton; www.theenglishrose-pleasanton.com.