Afternoon high tea is about as Mother's Day-appropriate as it gets. Little pinkie extended. One lump or two, Mother dear? Care for a watercress sandwich? The Tampa Bay area has a number of places to take the lovely lady for an afternoon of crumpets and such.
The Royal Tea Room & Gift Shoppe
(2719 S MacDill Ave., Tampa; (813) 837-3000) was really the first tea room of its type in Tampa, established in 1996 in this location and expanding twice to accommodate the enthusiastic tea-drinking hordes. Part shop (heavy on the Vera Bradley), it is the go-to setting for an afternoon elevated indulgence, complete with flavorful teas and a three-tiered caddy with scones, savory bites and delicious desserts. Traditional afternoon tea is served Tuesday to Saturday with seatings at 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. by reservation.
Victorian Grace Tea Room
(616 N Parsons Ave., Brandon; (813) 653-2662) will offer a special Mother's Day tea 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday for $35 per person, including tax. The festivities include a fluted glass of sparkling Mother's Day punch, unlimited tea refills of two premium Harney & Sons teas, a choice of soup, assorted tea sandwiches, a warm scone with fresh Devonshire cream, and two special desserts. As of this writing there are only a few spots left for Sunday, but plenty of room on Saturday. If Mom will take a rain check, Victorian Grace accepts walk-ins Tuesdays to Fridays for lunch or afternoon tea.
TeBella at the Oxford Exchange
(420 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa; (813) 253-0222) serves tea from 3 to 5 p.m. daily in a beautiful glass conservatory. You can go traditional (assortment of sweet and savory items, scones with clotted cream and house preserves and your choice of tea ($26 per person); goose it up a bit with a champagne tea ($36) or a more sensible tea with scones and preserves ($20). And if mum isn't a fan of the leaves, she can go for a great cup of Buddy Brew coffee.
Empress Tea Room
(12924 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa; (813) 988-9027) has always been the grand dame, its delicate bone china pots of tea accompanied by sandwiches, pastries and scones served in either a formal indoor space or the "garden room." Set your sights on the sinful Devonshire cream or the Regency chicken salad sandwich with almonds. For Mother's Day, there is a brunch ($15.95) in addition to high tea, and all moms are treated to a glass of champagne. Otherwise, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday; $16.95.
Simply Country Gifts & Southern Belles Tea Room
(2214 Thonotosassa Road, Plant City, (813) 754-5683) has been doing a special Mother's Day tea for the past 12 years. It opened in 1983 as a gift shop, and if Mom gets twitterpated about all things Christmas, this gift shop is for her. They've been serving afternoon tea (top offering: strawberry scones), since 2001 in three seatings, Tuesdays through Saturdays, in two lavishly decorated dining rooms in the first floor of an old house. This year, there are seatings on Friday and Saturday, with spots available as of this writing, but reservations are a must. Unlimited tea is all brewed from loose leaf, the fancy tiered tray features two different kinds of scone with lemon curd and clotted cream on the bottom, tea sandwiches on the middle tier and lovely little desserts at the top.
Tilted Teacup Tea Room & Boutique
(103 S Saxon Ave., Brooksville; (352) 593-4111). From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday, they offer both high tea ($22.50) which includes a teacup of soup, an assortment of tea sandwiches, fresh baked scone with cream and a selection of dessert on one of those fancy three-tiered etageres, plus an unlimited pot of tea. Afternoon tea ($19.50) is nearly the same lineup but a little less lavish. They have 39 flavors of loose-leaf tea, so be patient, Mom may dither a bit before deciding. After all, she's the queen for the day.