High tea in Tokyo merges the luxurious English tradition with the rich tea ceremony traditions of Japan. Since the 12th century, sipping a cup of green tea has been a favorite relaxing pastime around the country. Now, it is the nation’s most popular beverage and, whether you prefer a refreshing Japanese matcha or a classic English earl grey, these five restaurants have some of the top tea times in town.
The Lobby Lounge & Bar, The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo
Afternoon tea at The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo is served with an incredible view from the chic and shiny 45th-floor lobby lounge with full-length windows — on a clear day, you can see Mount Fuji. The substantial tea set includes seasonal cakes and pastries with a touch of local pizazz: green tea eclairs and sakura macarons give the cake tray a Japanese bent. Of course, the tea selection includes local specialties while the Lobby Lounge has a full bar. Who says cocktails and champagne can’t complement an afternoon tea?
Fortnum and Mason
Grocer to Queen Elizabeth II, this establishment has sold the finest delicacies in Europe for over 300 years. The company expanded to Nihonbashi some years ago. Here a simple afternoon tea is served in a quaint tearoom that gets everything right: A sample platter is brought out for you to choose your own cakes; symmetrical sandwiches and perfectly crafted scones are served with F&M’s fine jams. The Queen Anne blend and other teas are specifically designed for the British royal family, so exquisite brews are to be expected. The best thing about tea time at F&M is that you get to try the tea, cakes and preserves then, should you so desire, purchase your favorites to take home.
Tokyo does French dining and drinks well; afternoon tea at this Ginza address is no exception. This purist’s tea emporium boasts a whopping 500 different selections. They even have a manual to help you navigate through your visit. The second-floor tearoom is light and airy with an Art Deco design and neutral color palette. Tea sets are simple and consist of a sandwich (such as a croque-monsieur), dessert and tea. The sweets menu is typically French. Fruit tarts, crème brûlée and madeleine cakes are fresh and delicious. When you finally chose your tea from the enormous menu, know that it won’t come with milk unless you make a special request. Mariage Frères, which doesn’t take reservations or allow photography, is all about the hot, leafy beverage and they like to serve it the way of true connoisseurs.
The Palace Lounge, Palace Hotel Tokyo
The elegant, simple lobby of Palace Hotel Tokyo offers a sumptuous afternoon tea, but no cake trays or crystal platters are involved: the foods are presented Japanese-style in lacquerware boxes. Unique to the country, these beautiful bento boxes have sliding drawers that serve as cake plates. In a fusion of Japanese and English tea, sandwiches and scones are served alongside inarizushi rice snacks and other traditional tea sweets made of rice, red beans and fruit. The Palace Lounge is also one of the few places in Tokyo that offers crumpets, an English afternoon tea staple. The 30 available flavors of tea and coffee are all bottomless, so try a few varieties.
Oriental Lounge, Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo
If you come to Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo’s afternoon tea expecting doilies on the table, you’re in for a shock. With this Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star stunner, it’s fine dining all the way, even at tea time. A relaxing destination with a view of Central Tokyo, the Oriental Lounge’s tea is served over a leisurely two hours — chairs are comfortable, décor is modern Asian chic. The service starts with an impressive selection of hors d’oeuvres, which rotates seasonally. Opulent delicacies such as truffle-flavored pumpkin and mushroom chicken pie, seafood- and cucumber-wrapped salmon mousse are presented on a modern, minimalist table setting. Expect to see gold leaf atop your assortment of desserts, including white chocolate bavarois, macarons and a variety of intricate petit fours.