High Tea for the Holidays

High Tea for the Holidays

Words by Christiana Roussel

The holidays are synonymous with tradition—we bake together, we layer the mantel with garlands and Christmas cards, we pull out family china for special meals together. Perhaps it is time for a new tradition. Let this be the year you gather your mother and daughter or your best girlfriends for a luxury high tea experience at the Tennessean Hotel in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Adjacent to the historic Sunsphere in downtown Knoxville, the Tennessean Hotel is the only AAA Four Diamond Hotel in Knoxville, as well as a Conde Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice Award recipient and the Southern Living South’s Best Hotel in 2018. Since being renovated and reopening in October 2020, the hotel has been quietly welcoming guests to unparalleled luxury in the oversized sumptuous room, suites and public gathering spaces. The posh Drawing Room on the hotel’s second floor has been thoughtfully designed to feel both clubby and elegant, serene yet vibrant and engaging. The soft slate blue walls pair perfectly with the rich mahogany-hued wood floors, and marble-topped bar. Intimate seating spaces throughout provide structure, balance and harmony to the room. 

While evenings may see this space fill up with business travelers and local residents enjoying pre-prandial cocktails, the Drawing Room transforms for the High Tea Experience, a distinctly British tradition that merits exploration. Picture yourself, walking into the Drawing Room midday with your mother and your daughters, each dressed for the winter holiday, atwitter with expectation. Your youngest practices her best manners while Nana enquires about her list for Santa. Fine custom linens and bespoke china set the mood for an afternoon of catching up and making new memories. The Tennessean’s signature peach noir blend arrives in pre-warmed tea pots, along with three-tiered trays of delicacies not often enjoyed “this side of the pond.” Conversations are properly dotted with ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ causing you to beam with pride and become filled with a happiness from being in the right place at the right time.

Tea sandwiches, scones, petit fours, and fresh berries are decidedly European in nature but are very much at home here in the South, where we still know how to pass a leisurely afternoon with fond friends. The second, late afternoon, seating of the High Tea Experience may be better suited for just you and your girlfriends, wherein the bartender will craft specialty cocktails to pair with the sweet and savory delicacies. The Bee’s Knees or French 75 both go well with lemon custard or other sweet treats while the Mary Pickford’s rum base begs for something savory to be enjoyed alongside. As the afternoon light outside fades, a rich warmth inside takes hold of your senses. Beside you on the soft sofa, lifelong friends’ faces are aglow with a relaxed joy that you haven’t seen in quite some time and it is then that you realize, “this is my favorite new tradition of the season.”

  • Christmas Tea | December 4, 11, 18 & 24 (2021), prices start at $124 per person.

  • Reservations can be made by calling the hotel 865.832.1800 or securing online 

  • Special bridal and Mother’s Day High Tea Experiences also available.