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Three spots for the tea set

The noisy assault of 'Kung Fu Fighting' hamsters, Singing Starz Video Karaoke Machines and Xbox games during this most gay of seasons cries out for a civilizing influence. Tea is just the thing. Haul yourself, your kids, your cousins and whoever else away from the mall or TV and try a crumpet on for size at these afternoon tea retreats.

In Good Taste

The beauty of stopping in for a spot of tea at In Good Taste is that you can shop for cool kitchen accessories and wine at the same time. The bistro's cheerful atmosphere will rejuvenate tired shoppers and stimulate ever-bored teenagers, making it a good choice for groups of all ages. In fact, pleas from hungry gift-trollers in the Pearl inspired the new tea service, which will be continued throughout the year. Stout pots of tea are $6 per person, with the tea from the Tea Zone down the street; selections range from organic Darjeeling to Dragon Pearl Jasmine. A festive pastry platter containing stellar panforte, nutty meringues, biscotti and lemon custard ($5) is perfect for sharing, and single cookies also are available. For a more British experience, try the scones with clotted cream and jam ($3.50).

231 N.W. 11th Ave., 503-248-2015

The Heathman Restaurant

The Heathman puts its beautifully renovated tea court to good use during the holidays, offering a full-service afternoon tea daily from Thanksgiving through December. But before you get too excited, please note that it is booked until Dec. 29. The good news is that you can go once the yuletide mayhem has subsided as the tea will be available weekend afternoons through January. The intimate, jewel-toned tea court accommodates parties of four or fewer, while the restaurant takes larger groups. At $18 per person ($8.95 per child), it may seem pricey, but this tea service is a bargain compared to comparable options in larger cities. And it's worth it. A full selection of savories and sweets (heavier on the sweets) soars above ordinary cucumber sandwiches and petit fours. But then, you'd expect nothing less than divine smoked salmon napoleons, sophisticated finger sandwiches, opera cakes and tiny lemon tarts from acclaimed Heathman chef Philippe Boulot.

1001 S.W. Broadway, 503-790-7752

Tao of Tea

Three locations of the Tao of Tea provide an alternative to a traditional, petit four-laden high tea.

Tao of Tea's encyclopedic tea menu, which guides you through pages of white, black, green, red and oolong varieties, beckons you to try teas you've probably never heard of, such as Liquid Jade 'Matcha Uji,' a Japanese powdered green tea.

Individual pots start at about $4. They are served with gaiwan cups, vessels that include lids used for stirring and straining. For eats, try the aromatic dal with rice, hearty samosas, Medjool dates and gingerbread with blueberry sauce.

2112 N.W. Hoyt St., 503-223-3563; 3430 S.E. Belmont St., 503-736-0019; inside the Chinese Garden,

239 N.W. Everett St., 503-224-8455