Sometimes we all feel like doing something special, celebrating a big event in our lives, treating someone we care about in an out of the ordinary way. One great way to do that is going to afternoon tea at the Carolina Inn. A friend and I have made it an annual tradition to take our daughters (who also happen to be good friends) to tea to celebrate the end of each school year. The girls get to dress up a bit and feel special. And we moms have a good time too.

teafeatureinnThere are other places that offer tea but there is something special about the setting at the Carolina Inn. The rooms are beautiful and the food they serve is wonderful. I’d go so far as to say that the teas I’ve had there have been at least as good as any I’ve had in England. They offer a variety of teas, including decaffeinated. They start you off with a basket with two kinds of warm, homemade scones, two scones per person, along with cream, house-made lemon curd and assorted jams and jellies to spread on them. These are not the type of scones that are hard and dusty; these are melt-in-your-mouth buttery and absolutely delicious. Next comes one of those tiered tea service trays. On the bottom layers there are three kinds of tea sandwiches for everyone. They have a few that they keep in rotation. You might get the dill biscuit turkey sandwich or the chicken salad sandwich on wheat bread. The classic tea sandwich – an open-faced cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches on white bread is often available. The next layer has three different house-made sweets. The pastry chef loves trying new things, so there are lots of different sweets that might show up, and I’ve never had one that wasn’t top notch. Things that have been on the sweet tier in the past include white chocolate macaroons, coconut cake, key lime tarts, German chocolate cake, chocolate mousse cups, truffles, and sugar cookies. On the top layer are chocolate covered strawberries. Is your mouth watering yet?

If you’re thinking that your child doesn’t want tea, or you don’t want to caffeinate your youngster, they also serve a Prince or Princess tea. They’ll offer hot chocolate or lemonade for children (and adults!) and are happy to adjust things to suit your child’s taste (for instance a peanut butter and jelly or a ham and cheese sandwich might go in place of a smoked salmon one, if that seems to fit young tastes buds better).

It bears repeating that they go out of their way to make you happy and will adjust what they serve to almost any diet. If you let them know in advance (and often even if you forget and just mention it when you get there) they can accommodate vegetarians, vegans, gluten free eaters – pretty much anyone.

Go for the Royal Tea if you’d like a glass of sparkling wine on the side. Or indulge a bride-to-be and her wedding party with tea there. Know that they are more than willing to meet any dietary restrictions, and that the food and service will be excellent. Sitting in the warm, inviting and cozy lobby and looking out onto the yard is a truly memorable way to spend an afternoon.

In December they’ll be serving seasonal looking treats and they usually decorate the place beautifully to help get you into the holiday mood. Prices rise a little during December, but it is definitely a special way to warm you and your company into that Christmas feeling and show out of town guests something special in Chapel Hill.

Tea is served at the Carolina Inn starting at 2:30 Thursdays through Sundays. You can call 919-918-2735 or email to check the different options or to make a reservation.