Teatime is serious business. After years of researching the most exclusive afternoon tea sets in the world, we present to you our favorite picks of an excellent bunch. At far-flung locations around the world, here’s where to find the perfect cuppa.
At Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star The Peninsula Hong Kong, a heavy yet delicious afternoon tea is prepared every afternoon on Hong Kong’s Kowloon side. Reservations are not taken for afternoon tea here, so come early and be ready to queue for at least 20 minutes — perhaps 40 on busy days.
Recognized as one of the most traditional teas in Hong Kong, the Peninsula’s midday production is worth the wait, especially if you like scones. Dill-cucumber sandwiches are also served alongside canapés — all of which are delicious. Teatime, featuring live music accompaniment from The Lobby Strings, takes place in the buzzing lobby where your Tiffany & Co.-designed cake tier and teapot are placed on a marble table with a single rose.
Enjoy the air of Ottoman luxury at Raffles Istanbul. The extravagant buffet in the middle of the spacious Lavinia Lounge is only a small part of the afternoon tea experience, so don’t get too excited yet. After being seated in enormous armchairs that are surrounded by clouds of fresh orchids, an individual selection of cookies, puddings and sandwiches is presented to you in a hanging cake stand next to your seat. These delicacies are complemented by the sizeable pastry buffet with fancy French tarts and fresh juices.
Needless to say, it’s advisable to skip lunch before attending a Raffles tea service. Most of the food served is an elegant Turkish-European fusion, such as simit bread with smoked salmon, savory Turkish pastries and chocolate, and hazelnut ganache tarts. Nothing on the platters is anything short of exceptional.
Afternoon tea at Four-Star The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo is served alongside an incredible view from the chic and shiny lobby. Especially magnificent in cherry blossom season and during autumn, the 45th-floor lobby has full-length windows, and on a clear day, you can see Mount Fuji.
The substantial tea is modern and chic with a Japanese twist (think seasonal cakes and pastries with a touch of local pizazz, green tea éclairs and sakura macaroons). An ikebana Japanese flower arrangement dominates the high-ceilinged atrium. Take your pick of the extensive selection of Japanese and imported teas. Things soar to the next level with the extensive champagne menu.
Fortnum and Mason, the official grocer for Queen Elizabeth II, has been selling the finest delicacies in Europe for more than 300 years. In 2012, the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon was opened in honor of Her Majesty’s 50-year reign, and it is truly fit for a queen. This opulent parlor is bedecked in pretty pastels and wood panels. “Tearistas” are resident tea experts who can advise you on the perfect leaves for your pot. The best thing about the pours at F&M is that you get to try the tea and cakes first and then, should you so desire, purchase your favorites to take home.
When in the United Arab Emirates, why not go all out at Atlantis The Palm? After swimming with the sharks, purchasing fine diamonds or enduring a yoga session on the lawn, a fine refreshment is in order after all the exertion. Head to Plato’s for something extraordinary: Atlantis, the Palm actually has its own bakers and patissiers creating fresh, delicate cakes and tarts topped with sculptured chocolate and gold leaf.
If that’s not quite decadent enough, go for the Yellow Gold Tea. An extremely rare TWG Tea creation, this tea contains 24-karat gold dust, making it one of the most expensive pots of tea on the market (approximately $49 per pot). The lingering flavor is rich, buttery and slightly bitter, a taste that was sought after by Chinese emperors and is harvested only in Sichuan Province.
The result of the Plato’s experience is a delicious, traditional afternoon tea delivered with extravagant flare.
A stalwart luxury pit stop of the rich and famous in Asia, Four-Star Raffles Singapore is the palatial white edifice that occupies Singapore’s Beach Road. Raffles is famous for being the home of the Singapore Sling and classic, colonial-era afternoon teas. Advanced booking is necessary for a tea sitting in the Tiffin Room.
A nod to Singapore’s multicultural heritage can been seen at a hot buffet featuring delicious curry puffs, dim sum and scones — a mix of Malay, British and Chinese delicacies. A three-tiered tray stacked with old-fashioned English cakes and sandwiches is also placed on each table. There is plenty to go around (the food is replenished upon request), so you certainly won’t leave hungry.
Simple and delicious, Hyatt Regency Guam’s afternoon tea on the beautiful Tumon Beach is a delightful treat by the sea. All of the cakes and sandwiches are fresh and delicious, and the tiny little paninis are a delight. There’s a bit of American flavor introduced with the red velvet cake and tiny little chocolate mud cakes, but you can also indulge in traditional scones and the latest must-have macaroons.
Tea is served in The Lounge, a café in the lobby with high ceilings and fresh flowers arranged in gilt cages. The afternoon tea service comes with a view of the sweeping seaside pool and the luscious tropical gardens with exotic birds flying about.
A Sydney institution housed within the historic Queen Victoria Building, The Tea Room QVB offers tea plates just like Granny used to make: Thick-cut, generous sandwiches are regularly replenished, the scones are fresh and the petit fours are beautifully done.
The only difference is that your loved one’s house probably doesn’t have Baccarat crystal chandeliers, overstuffed velvet chairs and exquisitely restored molded ceilings from last century. Afternoon tea at the QVB is a full meal, so you’ll want to cancel any early dinner plans. Fine champagne is available upon request for special occasions. Reservations are essential at this unique tearoom in Central Sydney.