Abigail Hall’s High Tea Puts a Spin on Tradition

The collaboration with Smith Tea celebrates women’s history year-round with a boozy tea service.


Photos by Katrina Yentch

When many people think of the traditional English high tea experience, common images that come to mind may include stacked porcelain trays of cucumber sandwiches, flowery cup ware, and billowy fascinator hats. Portland, Ore.-based cocktail bar Abigail Hall, however, has been offering a boozy version of high tea that makes it an approachable, culinary exploration of women’s history through high-quality treats.

Guests of Abigail Hall are enthusiastic about brunch and tea on Sunday afternoons.

High Tea in Portland

Up until the pandemic years, high tea had manifested in the Portland food world as an annual holiday tradition, hosted by historic hotels like the Heathman and the deLuxe. However, the crucial presentation and emphasis on grandiose plate ware caused the service to be dropped amid the pandemic. It was phased out of the city’s winter festivities until this past December 2021, when another historic hotel called the Woodlark reintroduced the concept as a Sunday pop-up through its cocktail bar Abigail Hall. After an overwhelmingly successful response, it has since been solidified as a year-round staple.

Teas, cocktails, and towers make for a prime experience.

Smith Tea Lends a Hand

To make this service possible, Abigail Hall relies on pots of Smith Tea to accompany pairings of specific spirits like sparkling wine, Amaro, and golden rum. And while Portland may be a destination for coffee, many baristas in town will recognize Smith Tea, as the wholesale supplier is a reliable staple of many tea programs in Portland coffee shops. Guests who have decided to drink are encouraged by the team to pair smoky teas like Smith’s black lavender with rye whiskey, or Amaro CioCiaro with floral jasmine pearls, thoughtfully curated by general manager Valerie Carrasco.

Abigail Hall maintains the tradition of exquisite plate ware to serve tea and treats on.

Crafting the Best Tea Cocktails

Another strong element of the Sunday service is the cocktail menu, helmed by head mixologist Jared Wegner. Several bright, refreshing, and crisp beverages incorporate tea as a complementary addition to other ingredients, and make for an even boozier accompaniment to Smith teas. The Cosmic Hype is a nonalcoholic drink that combines white tea with cold-pressed tomatillo, lime, ginger, and CBD oil, while the Oolong Sazerac is a strong stirred blend of oolong tea, mezcal, plum brandy, Acqua di Cedro, and absinthe.

The Pastry Tower

The most important element to this service is a pastry tower, and Abigail Hall’s is filled with carb-tastic pastries and sandwiches fashioned by chefs Danielle Bailey and John Baxter. In between sips of tea and cocktails, guests are munching on scones flavored with orange and chamomile, and biscuits stuffed with candied ginger. Traditional tea sandwiches, typically cut into crust-free bite-sized pieces, get an elevated culinary treatment. The cucumber sandwich comes with cultured butter and lime zest, while a golden beet sandwich is a tangy combination of blood orange, tarragon, and goat cheese. Diners will devour the smoked trout sandwich, which will remind many of a take on a classic smoked salmon bagel.

Amid the pastries, cocktails, and teas, pop jams and ballads by female musicians accompany the weekly occasion. And while Abigail Hall’s experience is an approachable, low-key celebration of women’s accomplishments, it’s certainly an opportunity in an evolving pandemic world to ditch the leggings for your brightest attire—and maybe even an ostentatious fascinator hat if you’ve got one.

About Katrina Yentch 221 Articles
Katrina Yentch (she/her) is a freelance writer and Barista Magazine's Online Editor. When she's not writing, you can find her napping, cooking, and drinking whatever's on drip.