On a dark winter’s day, there’s nothing better than a hot cup of tea or hot cocoa served with dainty sandwiches and sweet treats. Special events or spur of the moment outings, frilly to casual – we’ve got a list of Seattle’s best tea houses fit for every occasion.

If you’re feeling experimental, and want to try something you may not have been exposed to before, give Vital Tea Leaf a shot. They’re a “modern twist on the age-old tradition of Chinese drinking.” This doesn’t mean you won’t find the canon of white, green and black teas, but you’ll also find others that you haven’t tried before, like their underground fermented Pu-erh Tea. They’ve got two locations in the Seattle area, on 1st and on Western avenue, but both are guaranteed to provide excellent service and knowledge to the tradition of Chinese tea drinking.

Take your little princess to Queen Mary Tea in Ravenna, it’s is the spot for princesses of all sizes. The decor is far from understated, with chintz, lace, and flowers covering nearly every square inch of space; the tables are set with silver trays and sparkling bowls of colored sugar. The children’s tea includes fruit, cookies, and kid friendly sandwiches (PB&J or grilled cheese) complete with a pot of tea, cocoa or juice. Insider tip:  for the full princess experience, ask for a tiara to wear while you sip your tea. If you just can’t bear to part with the sparkly headpiece, they’re sold in the gift shop, alongside sweets, tea sets, and other tea-related goodies. Be sure to make a reservation, as seats fill up quickly.

The Georgian Tea, served in the opulent Georgian Room at the Fairmont, is a Seattle institution. Tea service here is an exercise in etiquette and all things proper; chairs are pulled out for you and napkins are placed in your lap. Take advantage of the occasion to dress in your finest and enjoy the royal treatment. Price ranges between $39  – $49 for adults and $19 for children aged 6-12.

Looking something slightly more casual? Located in the heart of downtown Seattle, the Panama Hotel’s Tea House serves up a menu stacked with grilled panini sandwiches and fresh pastries and teas of a wide variety including white, green, oolong, black and herbal. But that’s not all, take time to soak in the atmosphere of a picture museum that covers the walls. They’ve worked hard to preserve the old time feel of the Panama’s original construction from 1910.

The Tuscan Tea Room Bistro is a popular choice among tea room enthusiasts, and it’s no surprise when you step into their tear room, decorated in exquisite Italian style. Hand made fresh pastas, house baked breads and decadent crepes are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the TTRB’s menu! See what everyone is talking about and come on down to their highly fashionable tea room. Experience all the delicate features of high tea experience in the Italian fashion.

If you just feel like a tasty cup of tea without any pomp and circumstance, check out Remedy Teas on Capitol Hill. The vibe here is cool and modern; a “casual high tea” is sold all day. No reservations are necessary; the children’s tea service is presented on a kid-style tray and includes tea sandwiches, fruit, carrot sticks with cream cheese, and animal crackers. The tea itself is served in special tot-sized cups and pots; children can either choose from fun tea flavors like baked apple and banana split or have an organic juice or hot chocolate instead. Remedy is a favorite spot for grownups, with more than 150 organic teas and a fully customizable tea service –  be sure to try out a Theo chocolate truffle!

Tea Republik, located 45th and 47th street on University Way, is a dimly lit shop where one can take the kids for a laid back cup of tea. If the lacy table cloth, the super delicate china and the stiff posture of high tea is not something you and the kiddos are in the mood for, this place fits the bill. You won’t find a website for them, but their facebook is always updated with recent promos. Take time to try the vast array of loose teas and fruit and juice infused iced teas. Sizes come in medium and large, and are piping hot, so sit back, relax with the little ones while the tea steeps and cools off a bit.

What’s better than tea and sweets? Tea, sweets and story time, of course! Three Cups of Tea in Bothell features a variety of special events for kids, such as story time with fruit tea and scones or lunch with Raggedy Ann. Check out their event schedule for details.

The Village Eatery and Tea Company in Bothell has a “Jack and Jill’s Favorite English Afternoon Tea” for a reasonable $9.50 per child.  This tea includes tea sandwiches, lemon curd and jam “soldiers”, fruit and cookies, and a pot of tea, hot chocolate, or cider. The staff pride themselves on “homemade everything”, right down to the bread for the sandwiches.

If you just can’t get enough of tea parties, why not learn how to throw your own at the PCC Cooks class “PCC Tea Parties for Boys and Girls?’ Learn how to make cinnamon twists, finger sandwiches, fruit cups, and fruity sweet tea. The class is geared to ages 4 to 6, with one adult guest allowed. This session is offered on various dates between January and March 2011 at various PCC locations in Seattle and the East Side.

—Heidi Unruh