Join Me As I Visit 50 Afternoon and High Teas Over The Next 24 Months

Palm Court at The Ritz London

The beautiful Palm Court at The Ritz London (courtesy of The Ritz London)

My goal is to visit 50 Afternoon Teas/High Teas over the next two years.

If you’re looking for unbiased journalism or a critical review site, sadly, you won’t find it here. Why?  Because there just aren’t too many things we don’t like about afternoon tea.

Let me also briefly clarify that High Tea and Afternoon Tea are, in fact, two very different things. Afternoon Tea has a 19th century English-aristocratic origin and evolved into a social gathering that included light food to tide one over between lunch and the evening meal. High Tea is generally served later in the day with “heavier” foods and is considered a replacement for the evening meal.

Afternoon Tea at Four Seasons Hotel, Shanghai, China

Four Seasons Hotel Lobby ©Four Seasons Hotels

It was Saturday afternoon in Shanghai and outside it was cold and stormy, but inside it was warm, peaceful and serene in the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel.  As I entered the hotel, I could hear live background music in the distance and, as I approached the Lobby Lounge, a trio of young Chinese musicians (piano, violin and cello) was playing, “See the Pyramids Along the Nile/You Belong to Me, amid cushy chairs surrounded by faux palm trees.  It was quite a contrast as you could see the wind blowing and the rain falling just outside through the large glass windows.

The Four Seasons Hotel, Shanghai is a 37 story high rise building located in fashionable west Shanghai, just off Nanjing Road,  near many of the city’s major attractions and close to the Metro (subway) that I relied upon heavily during my trip. Since this is a city of 20,000,000, traffic can be an issue, but the Metro will express you to just about anywhere in the city in no time flat. Continue reading

Afternoon Tea at JC Mandarin Hotel, Shanghai

JC Mandarin Hotel, Shanghai ©HighTea.com

The weather in Shanghai had been mild during my stay, a fortunate turn of events for a trip in the middle of February. However, today, as I walked to the JC Mandarin from my hotel, things began to deteriorate quickly.  The outside temperature nose dived, the wind began to howl, and some dark and threatening clouds pelted me with rain as I slogged my way over for afternoon tea.

Ironically, and despite the weather, everyone was outdoors on this Saturday afternoon, and the city of Shanghai was electric with activity.  The overall mood seemed positive and the activity level was high, as I continued walking west on Nanjing Road – soon arriving at the high rise JC Mandarin Hotel on my left.

The hotel has a highly desirable location in a very fashionable district of West Shanghai, directly across the street from the upscale Plaza 66 – an enclosed mall with high end retailers like Armani, Gucci, and Hermes. Outside, Nanjing Road West (Xi) is lined with fine watchmakers and jewelry stores. Continue reading

Afternoon Tea at the Ritz Carlton, Shanghai, China

Portman Ritz-Carlton Shanghai © Portman Ritz Carlton

Afternoon Tea at the Shanghai Ritz Carlton is served in the Lobby Lounge, a room that was completely full with patrons and hotel guests on this February afternoon in Shanghai. I decided to wait for a few moments in the hope that a table would open up, and I would be able to have afternoon tea here.  I waited, waited, and waited. Continue reading

Afternoon Tea at the Peninsula Shanghai Hotel

Peninsula Hotel, Shanghai © Peninsula Hotels

It was Friday afternoon in Shanghai – the largest city in China with a population exceeding 20,000,000 – and rush hour traffic was in full force.  In my taxi, I was observing how drivers fought for every square inch of pavement in an effort to make slow but steady forward progress. However, no one ever makes contact, at least not as far as I can tell. In my whole time there, I never witnessed a single sideswipe or glancing blow – it’s amazing, really, how so much iron and steel can squeeze through the streets of old Shanghai without so much as a scrape or a small dent.

After about 45 minutes or so, I arrived at “The Pen” – the Shanghai Peninsula Hotel, located right on the historic Bund and facing the river. It was quite an adjustment to step off the crowded Bund and into The Pen where it was, all-of-a-sudden, quiet and serene with string (violin) music playing from the mezzanine above.  It was remarkable, really, how different it was inside the hotel – an oasis, if there ever was one. Continue reading

Afternoon Tea at Old Shanghai Teahouse

Entrance to Old Shanghai Teahouse on Fangbang Rd. © HighTea.com

I’ll be the first to admit that sitting down and having tea at the Old Shanghai Teahouse may not qualify as a true “afternoon tea.”  You won’t find scones, clotted cream or finger sandwiches on the menu here. However, there’s an old adage that says, “When in Rome…”  If you use a little imagination and think “outside the box,” you just might come up with something very similar at a small teahouse in old Shanghai. After all, when in Shanghai, do as the Shanghainese do.

With that said, I had a very interesting tea experience at the Old Shanghai Teahouse located on the 2nd floor of a building in the Old Town section of Shanghai on Fangbang Road. Some might call this place a little touristy or maybe kitschy, but I can tell you that I saw more than a handful of locals having their tea and spending some time relaxing here. The teahouse is open to the air, but there were some electrical space heaters in use on this early February day in Shanghai. Continue reading

Afternoon Tea at Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam

 

Facade of Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam

Façade of Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam

The Hotel Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam, familiarly known as “The Grand,” has a long history that dates back to the 1500’s when the building was used as a convent. Since that time, it has been a 16th Century Royal Guest House, a 17th Century Amsterdam Admiralty Headquarters, and the city’s Town Hall in the 19th Century.  More recently, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands was married here in 1966.

The entrance to the hotel is through a courtyard, set back from the street. Passing a fountain, you enter the hotel through a brass and wood revolving door.  Afternoon tea at “The Grand” is served in either the lounge, an Art Deco and stained glass room, or in the Bar at Bridges. Continue reading

Afternoon Tea at Amstel Hotel, Amsterdam

Afternoon Tea at The Amstel Hotel ©HighTea.com

I had spent the morning touring past priceless works of art at the Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum and decided to walk to the Hotel Amstel for Afternoon Tea.  The distance was about 1.4 km or just under a mile, and even though it was a cool January day, it was clear, bright and just begging for a brisk afternoon walk.  Starting out from the Museumpleine , I headed east toward the Amstel Hotel.  Along the way, I began to think that I had gotten off my directions, so I stopped in an office building and asked the receptionist if I was on the right track.  She entered my information into her iPhone and quickly determined that I was one street off, but running parallel to the correct street, so I would still encounter the hotel, just from the other side.

Amstel Inter-Continental Hotel ©HighTea.com

As I came up to the Amstel River bridge, I couldn’t miss the grand façade of the Amstel Hotel, located just across the river on the opposite bank.   Dating from 1867, this is one of the premier hotels in Amsterdam. Previous guests have included Queen Elizabeth, Gustav Eiffel, Audrey Hepburn, The Rolling Stones, Elizabeth Hurley, and U2. Continue reading

Afternoon Tea at Hotel Amigo, Brussels, Belgium

Bar Amigo in Brussels, Belgium

The overnight flight from Chicago to Brussels, Belgium was uneventful, until shortly before landing when the captain announced that some cool winter mist and fog was restricting visibility to about 1,500 meters at the airport. Nevertheless, it was enough for a Boeing 767 to land safely, and I was soon off to my afternoon tea at the Hotel Amigo.

The heart of the city of Brussels is Grand Place (Grote Markt), and if you can’t be directly on the Grand Place itself, the next best thing is to be just off one of the corners – northwest in the case, where the Hotel Amigo is located.  This is one of the most desirable locations in Brussels -  within walking distance of most of the top sights, restaurants, and historical points of interest. Continue reading

How To Brew That Perfect Cup of Tea

We’ve all heard the conventional wisdom before:  to brew a pot of tea, throw in one teaspoon  for each cup and then add one “for the pot.” Others might say to use a level teaspoon for black tea, but use more (say 1.5 teaspoons) for green and white teas, because they’re more delicate than black.

Here’s the problem with that way of thinking: a teaspoon is a measure of “volume.”  Tea comes in so many shapes and sizes that measuring it by volume may not be the best approach.  Take Chinese gunpowder for example – this is a charred green tea that is tightly rolled into small pellets (that resemble musket shot). Chinese gunpowder is so densely packed that a teaspoon of it is going to weigh significantly more than a teaspoon of a large, full-leaf tea.  By using the teaspoon as your yardstick, inconsistent tea brewing is pretty much “baked in the cake.” Continue reading

High Tea at The Dorchester Hotel, London

The Promenade at The Dorchester Hotel, London ©The Dorchester Hotel

The Promenade at The Dorchester Hotel, London ©The Dorchester Hotel

The first thing that should be said about Afternoon Tea at The Dorchester Hotel in London is that the room where it is served, the marble and gilt “Promenade,” is a drop dead gorgeous-stunning space that was somehow made even more beautiful by the Holiday decorations on this mid-December day in London. Pictures do not do this room justice – it is a first class, take your breath away kind of venue.

As I was entering the Dorchester, my thoughts were that since this is a Monday afternoon, perhaps it will not be as full as it otherwise might be on say, a Saturday or a Sunday. I was wrong.  The Promenade was absolutely bristling with activity, every table within sight – filled.  Guests were milling about the lobby dressed in their holiday finest, gesturing in a spirited fashion, and I wondered if maybe I had missed the memo that the entire city of London was meeting here today. Continue reading