One of the highlights of the Washington, DC spring season is, of course, the National Cherry Blossom Festival. Many area bars and restaurants celebrate the annual event, adding special cocktails and dishes to their menus. The best of the bunch is the Willard Hotel cherry blossom tea. This exquisite high tea is served in the hotel’s beautiful Peacock Alley during March and April.
To embrace the cherry blossom theme, I selected one of the two special blends available: the Japan Kirsch, a delicate green tea with hints of cherry and blackberry flavor. A small timer was helpfully placed on the table so I knew when my pot of tea was perfectly brewed.
The tea treats were served on a classic three-tier tray, on china custom-made for the Willard Hotel. Cherries or Japanese flavors were playfully incorporated into each bite. Having learned from past mistakes, I started with the sweets on the top tray figuring I would like them least. While technically this turned out to be true, this tray was still a tasty arrangement. My favorite of the bunch was the red bean éclair, surprising since I don’t normally like that flavor. Here it was very subtle, letting the chocolate and flaky pastry shine through. I also enjoyed the crispy green tea shortbread and cherry cake seasoned with brandy. I only wish the latter had been bigger! The least popular flower in the bouquet was the cherry and cream parfait, which seemed to stand in for the Japanese moon cake listed on the menu but was missing in action.
From there I moved onto the scones, one made with dried cherries and the other with ginger. Both were buttery, crumbly and supremely soft. There was an assortment of spreads to go with them, including a delightful cherry jam.
Of the savory treats, I was most enamored of the smoked salmon with dill cream cheese on pumpernickel. The creamy tarragon chicken salad with dried cherries was packed with flavor and a close second. I also thoroughly enjoyed the robustness of the goat cheese roulade, complemented by tart cherries and peppery arugula. The egg salad tasted good, but I found it a bit starchy. I had to check the menu to see if it was actually egg or potato. While a few of these buds didn’t reach peak bloom, this cherry blossom tea is a worthy extravagance.
Opened in 1847 and located one block from the White House, the Willard InterContinental Hotel is as luxurious as it is historic. The hotel hosted the first-ever Japanese delegation to the United States in 1860 and has been visited by nearly every U.S. president since the 1850s. According to local lore, Ulysses S. Grant held court in the lobby, giving birth to the political concept of “lobbying”.
Would you like to indulge in the Willard Hotel Cherry Blossom tea? Visit the hotel’s official website for current dates and pricing. Reservations are essential.
For details on the National Cherry Blossom Festival, check out my guide here.