Afternoon tea. You’d think that it’s a very English experience, and indeed the custom dates back to 1840. Anna, Duchess of Bedford, would become hungry at around 4pm, and requested a tray of tea, bread and butter and cake. The pause for tea became fashionable, and by the 1880s, society was buzzing with talk of afternoon tea.
“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the ceremony known as afternoon tea”
― Henry James
Traditionally, afternoon tea comprises a pot of freshly brewed tea, served in fine china, some delicate sandwiches, scones served with clotted cream and preserves, and cakes. Growing up in Devon in the UK, one of my first jobs was to set and later skim the clotted cream for a Devonshire cream tea.
I’m delighted to say that the fashion for afternoon tea persists, and it’s spread across the world. From Birmingham to Bali, we’re all raising a cup – and a delicate china cup at that – to Anna, Duchess of Bedford, and her fine idea. Bring your best appetites; the clock just struck 4pm somewhere in the world, and it’s time for tea.
the Shard, London
By Tasha of Tasha’s Oyster
Afternoon tea up the Shard was like no other experience. For one thing, the views over London were spectacular. I visited with my boyfriend’s family a couple of years ago and was treated to a ‘champagne afternoon tea’. It took place in the Shangri-La Hotel and we were lucky to get a table by the window which made the experience even more fantastic.
The champagne was lovely but it was the sandwiches which won me over. There were smoked salmon and cream cheese (my former favourite as I am now a vegetarian). There was also an apple and mayonnaise sandwich which tasted surprisingly good. There were brioche buns filled with egg mayonnaise, and another with crab meat. I must have eaten over 10 sandwiches. I just couldn’t resist. I had a green tea alongside the food which tasted so pure, nothing like the green tea I have at home.
The next layer of the afternoon tea consisted of scones; freshly-baked, warm, melt-in-your-mouth scones. I could have eaten 10 of those as well! The final tier was, of course, the desserts. There was a pannacotta topped with a macaroon, a mango cheesecake and more. These tasted good but my heart was already taken by the sandwiches. I loved the experience of eating afternoon tea ‘on top of London’, my camera couldn’t get enough of the glorious views.
B Bakery Afternoon Tea Bus Tour Of London
By Liliane of My Toronto My World
The B Bakery Afternoon Tea Bus Tour is an absolute must do when in London. I love London and on my 4th visit last fall I realized that somehow I had yet to have an afternoon tea in London. Shocking right? It had to be remedied immediately. I’ve had afternoon teas elsewhere so I was on the lookout for something a little bit more unique and when I came across some Instagram pictures on the B Bakery Afternoon Tea Bus Tour I was absolutely sold. Afternoon tea? Check. Double decker bus tour? Check. Taking in the main sights of London? Check.
It seemed like a very cool experience so I quickly booked a table on the upper deck for me and my husband to enjoy during our last day in London. The entire tour is about 1.5 hours and hits up some major sights like Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the London Eye, Harrods, Notting Hill, Piccadilly Circus and so much more. The best part is that you get to sit down and eat some fantastic treats while taking it all in.
I had only one concern prior to the tour which was whether the tea would spill or not but luckily the tea is served in plastic cups that have a lid on them and have a dedicated portion on the table for them so there’s no risk of spilling! The food is all served on one platter on your table prior to the tour starting so you don’t have to worry about the hostess spilling anything while the bus is driving. The only slight con is that the tour is on the pricier side (it was about 100 pounds for 2 people) but it’s a really unique experience and one I’d highly recommend!
The Russian Tea Room, New York
By Kelly Duhigg from Girl With The Passport
Trying to find a decent scone and clotted cream in New York City is like trying to find a restaurant that serves deep-dish pizza…virtually impossible. So when I found myself devouring scones at the Russian Tea Room, I felt like I had died and went to heaven.
It was like I had finally found the one heavenly food item that New York City had deprived me of my whole life. Gone were the, sawdust like, scones of my youth, that were always accompanied by a rather tepid cup of Lipton tea (gag).
The divine cuisine and tea is only enhanced by the opulent décor in the Russian Tea Room. As you walk in, you are dazzled by crisp table linens, chic chairs, and traditional wall décor that transports you back in time.
But really made me fall in love with their afternoon tea service is the fact that this restaurant offers patrons the choice of a traditional or vegetarian style afternoon tea menu.
Being a vegetarian, I received a Blini with Lingonberry jam, finger sandwiches (chive cream cheese and cucumber, blue cheese with pear and walnuts, artichoke with red pepper sun dried tomato and goat cheese), diced beet and walnut salad, a grilled trio of cheeses, grilled eggplant and Parmesan salad, and avocado and tomato salad.
This course was quickly followed by two scones that were served with a side of clotted cream and jam; Served warm, these scones were light and fluffy and gone in about two and a half seconds.
And even though I practically licked the crumbs from my scone off my plate, I still managed to partake in the assortment of cupcakes and petit fours that the Russian Tea Room offers at the end of the service. This afternoon tea service was a truly amazing experience that offered not only great food but impeccable service that was elevated by the magnificent design of the restaurant itself.
The Palm Court at the Plaza Hotel, New York
By Jasmine from A Great Big Hunk Of World
I have always had a fascination with the Plaza Hotel, due in a large part to my childhood habit of watching and re-watching Eloise at the Plaza. So this year, a couple of days after 25th birthday, I decided there was no more glamorous way to turn a quarter of a century than by having tea at the Plaza. Despite its popularity, the Palm Court itself is pretty minimal in it’s design and is situated openly within the lobby of the hotel. But the stained-glass dome ceiling and abundance of palm trees and green plants give off a vibe of early glamour.
The menu consists of various signature beverages, wine by the glass, and three different tea options: The New Yorker Tea, The Champagne Tea, and the Eloise Tea. The Eloise Tea is designed for young guests and offers a just as luxurious spread but with a few child-friendly and child-fun options added on, such as a tea sandwich of organic peanut butter and grape jelly and fudge brownies. I ordered the New Yorker Tea with a pot of Mélange du Cap Rooibos Tea. I have very rarely tried red teas and chose this one based on its description of cocoa pod and vanilla flavors. This tea was so delicious that I later scoured the Internet in order to find it.
The New Yorker Tea also comes with six varieties of tea sandwiches, my favorite being the thyme roasted prime rib with balsamic caramelized onions, black pepper aioli, and arugula on an onion brioche; as well as warm freshly baked seasonal scones with a side of double Devonshire cream, lemon curd, and preserves, and an array of mini pastries and desserts. Most of the sandwiches had me wishing that I was able to order them in full-size, and the scones were some of the best I’ve ever had. To top it all off, we had warm and hospitable service from start to finish.
The Hotel DuPont, Wilmington, Delaware
By Corinne at Reverberations
The family that founded the DuPont chemical company have left their collective fingerprints all over the area just outside of Philadelphia. While that mostly means massive mansions that have been turned today into museums, the one major exception is the Hotel DuPont in Wilmington, Delaware.
The over the top luxury hotel opened in 1913 and is still operates as a popular hotel. But my favorite is the afternoon tea that is served daily at the hotel’s Green Room. Oak-paneled ceilings, heavy drapes, golden chandeliers and a grand piano make it a formal affair that feels like a step back in time.
But there’s nothing old fashioned about the afternoon tea at Hotel DuPont! I had the opportunity to enjoy their berry themed afternoon tea. It started with locally blended wild blueberry tea and warm strawberry white chocolate scones that tasted straight out of the oven. The course of finger sandwiches included tasty treats like truffle egg salad filling buttery, flaky miniature croissants and microgreens on top of carefully rolled slices of smoked turkey on white toast with cranberry mayo. The berry-full pastry course spoke loudly with precise execution and popular flavors with the likes of miniature crème brûlée with fresh raspberries and berry coffee cake. Each afternoon tea is topped off with the hotel’s signature chocolate-dipped coconut macaroon.
Hotel DuPont’s afternoon tea service is classic and formal without being stuffy. It’s a chance to step back in time. Oh, and it’s delicious!
Oklahoma Museum of Art’s Museum Cafe
By Natalie Tanner of The Educational Tourist
For all the people in the world that love their coffee, there are people like me who LOVE their tea! Not only do I love to drink it daily, but I love exploring different kinds and my all time favorite way to drink it is at a fancy tea party type experience. One fantastic spot for afternoon tea is at the Oklahoma Museum of Art’s Museum Cafe. When you make your reservation you can choose from 4 different tea experiences and each includes tea and some different treats. I always go for the top choice when I have tea because there is more fun things to try! If you’ve never experienced a formal tea service go all out and try the flowering tea.
Usually tea is created by steeping tea leaves in boiling or almost boiling water. With a flowering tea, small leaves from several types of tea are hand picked and then sewn together to create a rosette. When it steeps in hot water the leaves open up into a lovely flower. These teas are served in a glass pot so you can watch the presentation.
Afternoon tea always involved treats and sandwiches. The food is always really pretty and often cut into shapes or decorated with flower petals. These are the things little girl tea parties were made of!
The Omni King Edward Hotel in Toronto
By Yashy Murphy from Baby & Life
Canada has close ties to England and it should come as no surprise that afternoon tea is a tradition that can still be found throughout Canada. In Toronto, the Omni King Edward Hotel is home to one of the more popular afternoon tea sessions in the city and one should definitely go hungry! The elegant English high tea is only available on weekends and there are a couple packages you choose from. No matter which one you choose you’ll leave with a full belly and will receive the most attentive service as you soak in the ambiance of this elegant heritage hotel.
They offer an aromatic and exquisitely blended selection of teas including their very own exclusive King Edward blend. These pair perfectly with finger sandwiches and mouth-watering scones, served with REAL Devon cream brought over from England. Most of the items, including the jam, are made in house and the service is superb. On occasion I like to add some gin to my tea or enjoy a glass of sparkling wine and of course that’s an option available to all. If you’re looking for a high tea experience quite a few hotels in Toronto offer some delicious experiences.
Tasse de The, Mumbai
By Tania from Azure Sky Follows
The British are famous for their afternoon tea culture. When the British set foot in India, they passed on some of their practises to the Indian subcontinent. Tea is undoubtedly the beverage that holds prime importance in India. Even in the merciless tropical heat in the summer months of April and May, Indians take joy in sipping tea. Though tea reserves a royal place with Indians, the concept of afternoon tea is yet to gain momentum.
I was surprised to learn the existence of a tea-bar in Mumbai, the fashion capital of India. When I visited the restaurant the variety of tea baffled my mind. I was spoilt for choice. The restaurant housed at least 300 varieties of tea — they different in taste, smell, colour and texture. The staff helped me in choosing the type of tea which would suit me. I pampered my afternoon heat battered body by drinking tea obtained from the Chinese highlands. I was informed that the specific kind of tea that I was consuming would temporarily relieve me of the persistent migraine headache that throbbed my head at that moment. Never I imagined I would experience the joy of having high tea a continent away from where it actually originated!
Table Bay Hotel, Cape Town, South Africa
By Jewels Rhode at Travel Jewels
One of my favorite traditions at my alma mater Smith College was the Sunday house tea. It was this tradition that turned me into a tea lover. Whenever I travel, it is a must that I try the local teas. One of my favorite global high tea experiences was at the Lounge at Table Bay Hotel in Cape Town, South Africa. Located at the Victoria & Albert Waterfront, the Lounge is the perfect place to soak in the picturesque views of Cape Town Harbor and Table Mountain. The Lounge is pure elegance. The ambiance is calming with its classic decor and classical music playing in the background.
I was extremely pleased with the assortment of loose leaf teas and sweet and savory treats created by a team of expert chefs. I recommend this experience for anyone wanting to slow things down and take a quick escape from the normal hustle and bustle of Cape Town. I had a memorable time sharing this experience with my roommates. You can join in on the fun Monday through Sunday 14h00 to 17h30.
Bisma Eight, Ubud, Bali
By Laura from The Travelling Stomach
Although I don’t actually drink tea, I absolutely love afternoon tea – the dainty finger sandwiches and bite-sized cakes make the perfect mid-afternoon treat! Whilst staying at Bisma Eight in Ubud, Bali we indulged in their afternoon tea, served at The Pavilion overlooking the lush jungle beyond. Located beside the stunning infinity pool I have to admit that we dined al fresco in our robes after a dip in the pool, not wanting to tear ourselves away from this little slice of heaven long enough to get dressed!
Their afternoon tea is served on a three tier wooden stand with a savoury bottom layer and the top two layers full of sweet treats, each bite was delicious! Instead of finger sandwiches Bisma Eight instead serves three square pieces of toast, each topped with delicious flavours (the salmon is the best), perfectly satisfying and not too filling. Sweet delicacies included a mini-scone (of course) with cream and jam, alongside some locally inspired treats including pandan cake and some more traditional pastries including a mini raspberry tart. At only £5 (IDR 95k) per person this afternoon tea is an absolute bargain, meaning you can even indulge in a one of their happy hour deals of 2-for-1 cocktails.
The Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong
By Jessica from The Belle Voyage
If you’re visiting Hong Kong, having afternoon tea at the Peninsula Hotel is an absolute must. Established in the 1920’s, the Peninsula Hotel oozes elegance and glamour, with a perfect blend of British and Chinese hospitality. Where else in the world can you take in afternoon tea while listening to the sounds of a live string quartet? It just doesn’t get any classier than that!
Served in the hotel’s luxurious palm-filled Lobby, Afternoon Tea at the Peninsula features delicious finger sandwiches, fresh scones with clotted cream, and a selection of pastries that will melt in your mouth. The tea collection is diverse and the service is truly impeccable.
And if tea’s not enough for you? Top off your tea with a refreshing glass of bubbly – available for an extra charge, but worth every penny. Tea service at the Peninsula Hong Kong begins at 2pm daily, and is on a first-come, first-served basis. So if you want to ensure you get a table, make sure to show up early! You’ll avoid the long lines that can form in the afternoon, and you can get a head start on enjoying one of the best afternoon tea services in the world.
The Sukhothai Hotel, Bangkok
By Anna from Hammock Stories
I had heard raving reviews from a friend, about this high tea/chocolate buffet at the prestigious Sukhothai hotel, in Bangkok, but it took me a few years to make it there. Even though I visit Bangkok annually, the timetables don’t always match because the high tea is served only from Friday until Sunday, 2-5pm. Moreover, the famous Chatuchak weekend market also coincides at the same so it might be hard to choose between the two if you are running out of time.
So can you imagine the jolly feelings that I had when I finally made there some time ago with my Mum? I was like a kid in a candy store when we made there after a short walk. The Sukhothai hotel looked so luxurious yet elegant and the food presentation was equally magnificent.
We started with the savouries, such as the traditional English cucumber sandwiches, fresh focaccia, olives, feta cheese and so on. Fresh sushi and Thai fusion dishes were also available in small hors-d’oeuvre bites and they were equally tasty.
But most people come here for the chocolate, right? I have to say, I was not disappointed. The variety of the cakes, pastries, tarts, scones, truffles, ice-cream, hot desserts was just overwhelming! Not all of them are chocolatey which is good in my opinion. Present were classics, such as sticky date pudding, macarons but also lighter sweets such as sorbet and fruits.
The specialty here is that the chef prepares a hot chocolate in front of your eyes from the numerous chocolate varieties available. They have very dark and bitter sorts but also something for a milder taste, such as milk chocolate and white chocolate. I had to turn down this offer this time as I’m more of a cake person. But there will be next time, for sure!
Harvey Nichols, Birmingham
By Bernie of A Packed Life
I enjoyed a belated birthday treat of afternoon tea at Harvey Nichols in Birmingham. Having skillfully avoided spending way too much in their rather lovely perfume section nearby, I was happy to satisfy both my sweet and savoury teeth with their beautiful menu. There were finger sandwiches so delicious that taste burst from every morsel; I absolutely loved the aubergine and sun-dried tomato with hummus. Chicken and smoked salmon were also gorgeous.
You can see that there were some rather delicious hazelnut and cherry macarons and salted caramel brownies. By the time it came to the scones – accompanied by my fourth pot of Earl Grey – I was struggling to fit in another crumb. And the absolute star factor in this? Everything you see here is gluten and dairy free.
It’s rare to get such a treat when you have food allergies, and the two of us who shared this tower of deliciousness were thrilled. It was all truly delectable, filled with flavour, and creative, right down to the selection of coconut cream for the scones. (It was so good that someone may have stolen my second set of marshmallows…) Friends without allergies voted their versions excellent too. Service was unfailingly charming and personable, and I can’t wait to return.
Afternoon Tea, and Other English Pursuits
If you’ve been entranced by afternoon tea, come and explore more of England. The cities and Shire Counties are bursting with tea rooms, whether you’re in Devon, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Shropshire, Herefordshire or the Yorkshire Dales. Come on over for a brew!
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