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12 Top Hotels for Afternoon Tea
For a mid-afternoon respite, make a tea-time reservation at one of these great establishments.
Enjoy this time-honored tradition in hotels across the globe.
Fine china. Finger sandwiches. Flaky pastries. It's hard to imagine anything as posh as afternoon tea. The tradition emerged in Britain during the 1800s, when it was reputedly invented by a chum of Queen Victoria. Today, luxury hotels across the globe continue to embrace the ritual. But beware: While many hotels offer afternoon tea, not all are created equal, says Jason Cochran, editor-in-chief of Frommers.com and author of Frommer's EasyGuide to London guidebooks. "Afternoon teas are like shopping mall Santas," he says. "Everybody wants to offer one, but some are better than others." If you're looking for hotels with afternoon tea services worth raising a cup to, here are a few recommendations. (Note that menus are subject to change.)
The Langham, London
It doesn't get more classic than tea at The Langham, London. "They sort of invented the afternoon tea for hotel guests," Cochran says. Indeed, the hotel is said to have first offered afternoon tea service in 1865 in its Palm Court tea lounge, where the tradition is carried on today. At the Wedgwood Afternoon Tea, guests can choose from a menu of more than 30 teas while enjoying finger sandwiches, sweet pastries and scones. If you can't make the trip to London, Cochran notes The Langham serves afternoon tea at its other properties, including Boston; Pasadena, California; and Melbourne, Australia.
Cost: The Wedgwood Afternoon Tea starts at 55 British pounds per person, or about $76.
The Plaza, A Fairmont Managed Hotel in New York City
Across the pond, The Plaza also has a long history: It's been serving afternoon tea for more than 100 years. "Everyone who is anyone goes there for tea," says Jane Pettigrew, author of "A Social History of Tea," course director of the UK Tea Academy and contributing editor of TeaTime Magazine. Choose from a range of teas, including English breakfast, Earl Grey, green, rooibos and oolong. Along with your tea, enjoy sweets, such as the raspberry and dark chocolate macaron, and savory morsels like the thyme-roasted prime rib sandwich.
Cost: The afternoon tea starts at $75 per person.
Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town, South Africa
The Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel offers its own twist on the British tradition. Alongside classic tea varieties, it serves a signature brew that blends Darjeeling, Kenya, Assam, Keemun, Yunnan and Ceylon teas with rose petals from its own garden. Finger sandwiches of smoked salmon and roast beef with arugula, scones with jam, and other goodies come on a tiered platter to your table. Or, sample the traditional South African dessert melktert, or milk tart, and the hertzoggies, which are flaky, jam-filled cookies with desiccated coconut shavings.
Cost: The afternoon tea costs 365 South African rand, or about $31, though it may cost more during special events.
Claridge's in London
"There are so many amazing hotels for an afternoon tea, but for me nowhere matches this classic spot's timeless style, fresh brews, gorgeous cakes and delicious sandwiches," says Joe Minihane, a Brighton, England-based freelance writer who has covered afternoon tea for Lonely Planet. Claridge's afternoon tea menu features savory staples, such as smoked salmon sandwiches, along with freshly baked scones with Cornish clotted cream and a rotation of pastries. Kids can enjoy the children's afternoon tea with treats like vanilla fairy cakes and brownies.
Cost: The traditional afternoon tea costs 60 British pounds, and the children's afternoon tea costs 30 British pounds – or about $83 and $41, respectively.
Fairmont Peace Hotel in Shanghai
If you go to the Fairmont Peace Hotel for afternoon tea, bring your dancing shoes. The hotel hosts a Saturday Tea Dance in its Jasmine Lounge. The event is a nod to Shanghai's 1930s golden age, which is around the time this property was built. "It has been an art deco hangout for the rich and famous, for high society, ever since 1929," Cochran says. Visitors can choose from various English, Chinese and fruit teas, along with chilled juices and a selection of goodies that may include elderflower profiteroles, coconut cookies and green tea mousse cake.
Cost: The traditional afternoon tea starts at 298 Chinese yuan, or less than $50, plus a 15 percent service charge.
Belmond Miraflores Park in Lima, Peru
"Latin America might not seem a likely place to take tea, but the seafront location and plush lobby make this the perfect setting for a brew, cake and a glass of Champagne to finish," Minihane says of the Belmond Miraflores Park. As you enjoy your tea, tuck into savory and sweet platters featuring finger sandwiches, scones with cream and lemon tartes. And don't miss the live music from the hotel's pianist.
Cost: The afternoon tea costs 69 Peruvian sol per person, or about $21.
Brown's Hotel, a Rocco Forte Hotel in London
Brown's Hotel offers a classic tea experience – Queen Victoria is said to have taken tea here – that isn't too fussy, Cochran says. "It's more willing to play around with the form," he adds. The English Tea Room at Brown's Hotel serves its own morning and afternoon tea blends, along with nearly 20 other varieties. Selections from its tiered platters might include cucumber sandwiches, chocolate and passionfruit tarts, and scones with sultanas (stateside readers know them better as raisins). The hotel also offers a "tea-tox" for health-minded tea lovers.
Cost: The traditional afternoon tea costs 55 British pounds per person, or about $76.
The Peninsula Hong Kong
"Pick an afternoon tea with a view – if you can," Cochran says. He recommends The Peninsula Hong Kong, which has one of the best views of Hong Kong, he says. According to the hotel, the most popular item on the afternoon tea menu is the scones, which are baked fresh three times every afternoon and served with clotted cream and organic strawberry preserves. Guests are serenaded by The Lobby Strings, who play on the balcony overlooking the lobby. It's "very stylish and elegant," Pettigrew says.
Cost: The Peninsula Classic Afternoon Tea starts at 388 Hong Kong dollars, or about $50.
Inn on Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina
Located on the historic Biltmore Estate, the Inn on Biltmore Estate has "one of the more fun teas in the continental United States," Cochran says. "Just to be on the grounds of this incredible mansion that, in its own right, is a popular tourist attraction, you just feel like you’re in upper-crust society," he adds. From your table, you can see sweeping views of the estate built in the late 19th century by George Vanderbilt. The Inn on Biltmore Estate serves tea in the dining room, along with savory and sweet treats like smoked salmon canapes and Earl Grey macarons.
Cost: The afternoon tea costs $39.95 per person.
Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok
For those looking for spicier fare with their tea, try the Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok. The hotel's Erawan Tea Room offers an afternoon tea service that features Thai snacks and desserts. Signature dishes include the Erawan fried rice with crab roe and chili paste, and the spicy pomelo salad, called Yam Som-O. Pair that with a beverage like lemongrass tea – served hot or iced – or Thai iced tea with condensed milk. "The Erawan in Bangkok combines the luxury feel of the best tea rooms with amazing Thai cuisine and great views of the crowds around the Erawan shrine," Minihane says.
Cost: The afternoon tea starts at 600 Thai bahts, or less than $20.
Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan
If you're looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of city living, check out the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. The island, which sits between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, is only accessible by boat or chartered plane. You can catch a glimpse of the comings and goings of the Grand Hotel's guests as you sip your English breakfast tea in the parlor and listen to the live harpist play. The treats served during afternoon tea change by the season but may include cucumber sandwiches, homemade candies, roulades, mini scones with cream and jam, and dried fruit.
Cost: The afternoon tea costs $40 per person. Visitors who aren't staying in the hotel must also pay a $10 admission fee.
The Lanesborough in London
The best afternoon tea Cochran has ever enjoyed is at The Lanesborough. "The pastries were so delicate, you wondered how they got them on the plate," Cochran says. Currently, the hotel is serving an afternoon tea inspired by the musical "Hamilton," which is playing at the nearby Victoria Palace Theatre. Offerings include pecan pie, grapefruit religieuse and a Caribs chocolate star. Taking tea at The Lanesborough, where a room could cost $765 or more a night, shows one great thing about this classic tradition, Cochran says: You may not be able to afford a stay at a grand hotel, but you can still enjoy its beauty for a few hours.
Cost: The afternoon tea costs 39 British pounds, or about $54.
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