Lift a little finger. It’s teatime.

Phoebe Cheong and Jude Andam, friends who live on opposite coasts, recently started a tradition every time they see each other.

They have tea.

Recently, Ms. Andam, a makeup artist in Los Angeles, joined Ms. Cheong, a commercial photographer, at Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon, which occupies the living room of a Georgian house in Manhattan’s Gramercy Park neighborhood.

The two friends may have met for coffee or lunch, but they prefer the more formal experience of tea.

“Cafes are casual,” Ms. Andam, 42, said. “You go there in your athleisure or whatever. It’s more of a special occasion.

Ms Cheong, 31, noted the maximalist decor at Lady Mendl’s, which includes Victorian fringed lampshades and gold leaf on the moldings. She also liked how the waiter announced that the filling on their scones was Devonshire cream.

“There is mystery here, there is storytelling,” Ms Cheong said.

The elaborate afternoon tea service is a main attraction at more than a dozen locations in New York and Los Angeles. HAS Brooklyn high low, which has two locations near Prospect Park, costs $48 for the prix fixe “Classic” tea service, which lasts 75 minutes. HAS Cottage Rose Bush in Pasadena, California, a man in a tuxedo serves cucumber sandwiches and sticky toffee pudding. The three New York sites of Alice’s cup of tea have the theme “Alice in Wonderland”.

It’s curious to note that in a decidedly uncivil age, where people have become accustomed to arguing with strangers on social media and wearing sweatshirts on planes, this noble ritual has made a comeback .

A new service in New York, Tea in town, hosts afternoon tea aboard a pink and white double-decker bus for those who want to admire the views while sipping organic Earl Gray with lavender. The interior of the bus has soft pink bench seats in place of seats you might find on a Greyhound.

This rolling lounge joins long-standing establishments known for their elaborate tea service – a group of establishments that includes The Beverly Hills Peninsula, London West Hollywood And The Plaza Hotel. The Plaza’s Palm Court looks a lot like the tea rooms of the 1920s, when tables were divided by tall palm trees, creating spaces within a room where guests might be inclined to share their most intimate thoughts.

Bruce Richardson, the master blender of Elmwood Inn Fine Teas in Danville, Kentucky, and co-author of “A social history of tea“, has been following the tea scene for around thirty years.

“I was in London last month,” Mr Richardson said. “Hell, all hotels have afternoon tea again, even over 20 years ago. There is a real resurgence of customers looking for sit-down tea time.

Mr Richardson, 70, put forward a theory as to why afternoon tea, which has become a tradition among the English nobility in the 1840s, has persevered in the modern world. “In the ritual of making tea,” he said, “we rediscover our humanity, which has become obscured in the midst of a life that often moves too fast and is filled with too many things.”

Honey Moon Udarbe, the owner of Brooklyn high lowsaid she took tea alone as a sort of escape, then later did it with her daughters and friends, before opening her first salon in the Prospect Heights neighborhood, in 2020.

Business has been so good that Ms. Udarbe, 47, recently saw fit to open a second teahouse 12 blocks from the original location. The new salon – called Brooklyn High Low, the Parlor – is on the ground floor of a brownstone in Park Slope. She calls it a “talk-teasy” because she doesn’t do any advertising.

“I love that nostalgic moment of unplugging, sitting down and chatting with people,” Ms. Udarbe said. She went on to say that a tea room has a lot in common with the corner bar, except that it manages to encourage a sense of camaraderie “without the alcohol”.

Mary Fry opened Rose Tree Cottage, a tea room in Southern California, 50 years ago with her British husband, Edward. They created a timeless atmosphere, not only by having Edward wear a tuxedo whenever he serves customers, but also by ensuring that digital devices had no place at the table.

“Let me just say that we are forcing you to turn off your phones,” Ms Fry said. “You can’t watch the Dodgers game and have tea. This is the time to calm down, enjoy the conversation with family and friends, and get yourself back to where your brain should be.

Maybe that’s why her living room has been so busy lately and she’s noticed many guests in their 20s and 30s. They arrive wearing fancy hats and fascinators – the formal headdresses popularized by Kate Middleton. In its gift shop, Rose Tree Cottage stocks a variety of elaborate hats and fascinators in pink, yellow, green and blue, as well as jackets from British clothier Barbour.

“My husband called it a sanctuary,” Ms. Fry said. “It’s a sanctuary in a crazy, crazy world that’s happening right now. People want to escape with something traditional.

In a separate interview, Ms. Udarbe made much the same point.

“Really,” she says, “the basis of afternoon tea is time. It’s about escaping the iPhone, the subway, your job, or whatever is bothering you. A lady came to me and said it was really about self-care.

Proponents of this trend note that a tea room is very different from a cafe or restaurant, in which one may be assaulted by the din of clanging cutlery or by pop music blaring from the speakers in the room. ceiling.

“Someone took the time to make it a setting for great discussions and memories,” said Mr. Richardson, the tea expert. “It could be like entering a cathedral. There’s just a presence you feel there.

HAS Floating Mountain Tea House On the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the tea ceremony has a meditative aspect influenced by Chinese and Japanese tea culture. Guests are asked to remove their shoes upon entering the sparsely furnished room, where they can choose from 67 teas sourced from China. A special service on Saturdays and Sundays involves sitting on the floor and drinking tea in silence.

“Guests come here out of curiosity and have an experience they have never had before,” said Elina Medvedeva, the owner. “The energy is so serene.”

No food is served. The idea is spiritual nourishment. “The space I offer allows you to connect with yourself,” said Ms. Medvedeva, 48.

Although peaceful in its own way, Lady Mendl’s, with its upholstered living room furniture, upright piano and portrait of Queen Elizabeth, evokes a different mood. The tea service, at $78 per person, begins with a selection of teas, followed by snacks including sandwiches and scones. The show fairly ensures an atmosphere conducive to mature discourse thanks to a policy that prohibits entry to children under 12 years old.

While social media is abuzz with arguments about wars and upcoming elections lately, a major debate at the Manhattan living room on a recent afternoon centered on the age-old question of what to put first on your scone: clotted cream or jam. At Lady Mendl’s, it is suggested to apply the cream first.

Two women seated at a table in the back were celebrating their pregnancies. Ms. Cheong and Ms. Andam, seated near the piano, lingered over cups of Wonderland Rooibos, a variety of tea with chocolate notes. They talked until closing at 4 p.m. No in-flight personnel pushed them to leave.

“In a coffee shop, everyone is working,” Ms. Andam said as she and her friend walked out of the quiet townhouse and toward the noise of New York. “When does anyone take the time to do that?” »