Destinations, Food, Massachusetts, Restaurants, Travel, USA

Tea at the Boston Public Library

We spent the July 4th weekend in Boston, Massachusetts (how patriotic of us!) wandering the cobblestone streets to celebrate Michael’s (belated) 30th birthday. I love the tradition of afternoon tea, and how could we not have our own Boston Tea Party while in the city?

Several locations in the city serve afternoon tea, but after comparing reviews and menus, we settled on tea at The Courtyard Restaurant located within the Boston Public Library.

We reserved our table for the last seating of the day, 3:00 p.m., to allow for lunch beforehand. We received a phone call a few hours beforehand confirming our reservation and informing us that we would need to arrive on time as it was the last one of the afternoon. I thought it a little strange (after all, afternoon tea is not meant to be lunch, but a way to hold you over until dinner time), but we arrived just in time for our reservation. We had actually stopped by earlier in the day to confirm the dress code since we were out sightseeing in the heat and Michael was wearing shorts (“Clothes,” we were told, is the dress code), and were glad we did. The Courtyard Restaurant is not the easiest to find within the library; once you enter the courtyard area, you’ve gone too far. Instead the entrance is actually located in the Map Room Cafe.

We were quickly seated after arriving, and there were still several tables of guests enjoying tea. There aren’t many choices on the menu (you choose your tea, and then you decide whether you would like the option with or without sparkling wine – we went without), so we quickly ordered. I chose the Blue Flower Earl Grey and Michael opted for the English Breakfast.

We sat back, and enjoyed the library-theme (and air conditioning) in over-sized chairs, chatting about everything we’d seen in the city so far and what we wanted to do next. While waiting for our tea and bites, we watched others in the room around us, realizing that at multiple tables people were getting up to take selfies and photos with the food.

“But that’s what you’re going to do,” Michael insisted. “Don’t judge.”

“Yes, of course I’m going to snap a photo or two,” I admitted. “But none of them are eating.”

It sounds dramatic, but it’s true. The guests at nearly every other table left everything behind on the platters, save for a bite or two here and there. It was fascinating entertainment while we waited, I’ll admit.

I can assure you that none of our food was left behind (though I may have slipped my last couple of bites to Michael, as the food was way more filling than it looked). The tea sandwiches were good, but the pastry was the real star of the show. I was most impressed with the fruit tart and the macaron, and I’m always happy to see scones and clotted cream, which were served on the top tier.

Although no one said anything and we weren’t the last ones out the door, we did feel a bit rushed to leave. We finished earlier than expected, and spent our found time wandering the library.

The library’s famous Bates Hall

I was in awe of the sheer size of the library, and the juxtaposition of the older, more historic rooms with the modern areas, like the large children’s book area. My town’s public libraries offer a lot to our community, but certainly not on the same scale. Seeing these opportunities in the larger cities we visit definitely increases my desire to live in a larger city with great resources like this that add value to their communities.


Have you ever had your own “Boston Tea Party?” Which tea room did you visit?

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