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Five great American tearooms

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  • Specialty tea sales in the U.S. have quadrupled since 1990
  • Cape Cod's Dunbar Tea Shop serves hearty lunches and afternoon tea
  • The Tea Room in Savannah is inspired by Charles Rennie Mackintosh designs
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By Marnie Hunter
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(CNN) -- If you've got cabin fever and are looking for a cozy outing, afternoon tea is bound to hit the spot.

The Queen Mary in Seattle is a popular spot for birthdays, bridal and baby showers.

The afternoon tea service in the Palm Court of New York's Plaza Hotel is an elegant affair.

From Seattle, Washington, to Sandwich, Massachusetts, tearooms are serving up savory treats, warm scones and delicious desserts in high style. Sales of specialty teas have quadrupled since 1990, according to the Tea Association of the USA, and these tranquil retreats don't skimp on the headliner. Gourmet tea lists in the United States are becoming more lengthy and sophisticated as American palettes evolve.

CNN spoke with Bruce Richardson, owner of Elmwood Inn Fine Teas and tea book publisher Benjamin Press, for five tearoom recommendations:

Dunbar Tea Shop, Sandwich, Massachusetts

Warm up near the fireplace in this cozy wood-paneled tearoom on Cape Cod.

"This has been one of my favorite places for years, and it's very comfortable, very English-style," Richardson said.

The menu resembles something you might find in England's Lake District, featuring items such as a ploughman's lunch and a smoked Scottish salmon platter.

The afternoon tea with assorted finger sandwiches, a fresh-baked scone with strawberry jam and cream and a selection of desserts is served from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for $11.95. Teas are priced separately.

Palm Court at the Plaza Hotel, New York

Before this historic hotel's recent $400 million renovation, the Palm Court's tea service had become a little dowdy, Richardson said.

"Now it's been completely refurbished and the tea service here is probably one of the freshest in America," he said. At $60 per person, it's likely also the most expensive.

New furnishings, linens and china as well as an upgraded tea selection have raised the elegant Palm Court to a new level. The tea list features several completely unblended "single estate" teas and other premium black, green, oolong and white teas.

Warm scones with double Devonshire cream and preserves are accompanied by a beautiful selection of sweets, seasonal fruit and savory dishes such as roasted lamb loin on grilled pita and peekytoe crab salad with avocado and fresh coriander on toasted brioche.

The Tea Room, Savannah, Georgia

Inspired by a Glasgow tearoom designed by Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Elizabeth Ruby set out to capture his spare organic aesthetic at The Tea Room in Savannah, Georgia.

The Web site says the restaurant "creates a gender-friendly atmosphere perfect for today's tea generation." The room is minimal, but the foods are not, Richardson said.

Lunch items include a seafood melange and an heirloom tomato Napolean. Afternoon tea with finger sandwiches, scones, sweets and premium tea is $20.

St. James Tearoom, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Mary Alice Higbie and her son, Daniel, run this charming tearoom where guests are tucked into intimate seating areas inspired by English spots such as Stow on the Wold, in the Cotswolds, and Magdalen, for the college in Oxford.

"In the middle of the Southwest, they have created a British storybook setting," Richardson said.

While very feminine, the business does not discriminate.

"It is fairly man-friendly to the point where a couple of times a year Daniel hosts a cigar tea," Richardson said. The event is the only one of its kind he knows of.

Saturday afternoon tea, with savories, finger sandwiches, scones and sweets is $28.

Queen Mary Tea Room, Seattle, Washington

The Queen Mary Tea Room serves afternoon tea with an added flourish: Guests can request a tiara to wear for the occasion. Florals and lace heighten the dainty atmosphere.


"If you want to feel like a queen, this is the place to go," Richardson said.

Shepherd's pie, curry beef pasties and smoked salmon quiche are among the items on the lunch menu. The holiday afternoon tea with fruit sorbet, scones, cookies and other sweets and savory snacks is $28.99 per person.

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