Is it afternoon tea or high tea?
The terms are often used interchangeably now, but they have different British origins.
Afternoon tea was offered mid-afternoon to fill the long wait between lunch and dinner and was traditionally served with scones with jam and cream, cakes and pastries.
High tea was originally served to royal gatherings on posh high-backed chairs, but it became a working-class replacement for dinner during the Industrial Revolution. It is more likely to be a variety of dishes such as cold meats, fish and salads as well as baked goods. High tea is served later in the day, more like a traditional evening meal.
In Hong Kong, afternoon tea is much more likely to be in the mid-afternoon, but the dishes served can be as adventurous as you are. Read more here.
Afternoon tea collaborations
Given its history, it’s no surprise that afternoon tea and tea parties as we know them have leaned towards a feminine audience. However, with nouveau twists to this traditional social ritual, establishments are attracting clientele across a spectrum of ages, genders and professions.
Afternoon tea was originally hosted in the grounds of Queen Victoria’s stately manors and castles – venues of luxurious grandeur in comparison to most of modern-day Hong Kong’s living spaces, which are customarily unadorned and very much lived in. Perhaps this is the reason that afternoon tea has become a service offered by luxury hotels worldwide. For afternoon tea to now be taken in bright and shining deluxe hotels seems the natural progression, from 19th-century manor houses to the equivalent modern-day socialising event.
After all, people love an excuse to put on their glad rags and meet up with friends, but the element of luxury is what makes afternoon tea that little bit more special – there are plenty of cafés for an average catch-up! What we have today is a very different creature, with a wide availability and variety of delicious afternoon teas that attract people looking for special experiences. It is, perhaps, the exclusivity of afternoon tea that makes it so attractive.
In the past decade, it has been increasingly popular to combine the typically high-class practice of afternoon tea with the glamour of designer brands. What do we mean by this? Many luxury hotels around Hong Kong (and, indeed, worldwide) have collaborated with multi-billion-dollar beauty, jewellery and fashion brands as well as pop-culture franchises to inspire their afternoon tea themes. With these collaborations, clientele can expect to live a lifestyle of luxury in both the social and material aspects – just like the creator of afternoon tea herself, the Duchess of Bedford!
Shanghai Tang x Café 103 at The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong
Renowned luxury lifestyle brand Shanghai Tang celebrates its 25th anniversary with a collaboration with The Ritz-Carlton’s Café 103 – a Back to the Roots afternoon tea set. Boasting soaring views of Victoria Harbour, the lounge, located on the 103th floor of ICC, is a stunning location for a relaxing afternoon spent sipping osmanthus tea sweetened with red date and ginger and tucking into a tower of delicate Chinese-inspired treats the likes of baked BBQ pork with cheese and onion egg tart, foie gras mousse caviar blini, liquorice gelée with red date crumble and financier with freeze-dried mandarin and mandarin cream. And don’t forget the ginger confit scones, served warm from the oven with Chinese plum and ginger jam.
Price: $428/1 or $698/2; +$30/cup of osmanthus and red date ginger tea with honey and lemon; +198/glass of Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label NV
When: daily, 3:30–5:30pm, 16 September–17 November 2019
103/F, The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong, International Commerce Centre, 1 Austin Road West, Kowloon, 2263 2270, book online
Popinjays at The Murray, Hong Kong
The Murray’s rooftop eatery Popinjays gives afternoon tea a tropical makeover. Whilst enjoying views of Central, guests can nosh on savoury delectables the likes of organic egg and caviar blinis and marinated spider crab with pineapple salsa and popcorn as well as a selection of savoury muffins. For the sweet tooth, consider blueberry macarons with lavender cream, passion fruit and milk chocolate cake and warm scones served with homemade papaya and mango jam. There’s even an option for your scones to be flambéed tableside with Cointreau Blood Orange. If you’re not in the mood for a hot pot of tea, take your pick of speciality drinks such as Fruit Dove (+$85), a blend of rosebud, hibiscus and blackcurrant tea with soda, lemon and agave to liven up the palate.
Price: $688/2; +$988/2, to include 2 glasses of Billecart-Salmon or Charles Heidsieck champers: +$150/2
When: Tuesday–Sunday, 2:30–4:30pm
Rooftop, The Murray, Hong Kong, 22 Cotton Tree Drive, Central, 3141 8888, book online
Al-fresco dining overlooking picturesque Repulse Bay, The Verandah gives traditional afternoon tea a modern transformation. The Verandah chefs have created seasonal delights like a decadent truffle scrambled egg tartlet with crabmeat salad that’s in homage to the classic egg sandwich. Bayonne ham dust, Parmesan mousse, cucumber, tomato, red onion and mixed cereal bread roll replace the traditional ham sandwich. There are also caramel chocolate pillows, coconut marshmallow twists and matcha and hazelnut praline domes alongside cold-brewed fruit tea (+$78) for some five-star munching. Not to be missed are the restaurant’s two unique tea blends, which change regularly but could include flavours such as rose green tea and spicy caramel black tea.
Price: $308/1 or $588/2 on weekdays; $328/1 or $604/2 on weekends and public holidays
When: daily, 3–5:30pm
109 Repulse Bay Road, Repulse Bay, 2292 2822, book online
Afternoon tea is given a local Hong Kong spin at COBO HOUSE with Chef Davin Kim’s Cha Chaan tea set, featuring four savoury snacks and eight desserts. Indulge in a pineapple bun filled with homemade butter blended with fresh uni, endive topped with galbi beef and homemade flatbread topped with ruby chocolate shavings, curiously named “cheese dirty roll”. The “burger and egg” is made of chocolate mousse with egg-shaped marshmallows, while the “sweet hot dog” is a sausage-shaped macaron drizzled with mango sauce. Also on the menu are the restaurant’s own branded artisanal chocolate bonbons and homemade plain and Earl Grey scones. Limited to just 10 sets per day, guests are offered a selection of environmentally friendly Løv tea and Costadoro coffee.
When: weekends and public holidays, 3–5:30pm
G/F and 1/F, 8–12 South Lane, Shek Tong Tsui, 2656 3088, book online
Dim sum afternoon tea at SHÈ
SHÈ inside ifc mall’s Lane Crawford welcomes guests with an afternoon tea set full of Chinese flavours. Classic Chinese treats including har gow (shrimp dumplings) have been luxuriously redesigned, using beetroot-infused pink dumpling skin and prawns laced with champagne. Traditional steamed meatballs are given a decadent veneer with real truffle and three types of mushrooms mixed with Ibérico pork and bacon. On the sweet front, there’s a yin-yang-style sponge cake and buttery egg tart bites, just to name a few.
Price: $288/2 on weekdays; $328/2 on weekends and public holidays
When: daily, 3–5pm
Portion A of Shop 3025–3026 and 3031–3066, 3/F, ifc mall, 8 Finance Street, Central, 2110 0153, book online
Le Soleil at The Royal Garden Hotel Hong Kong
Vietnamese restaurant Le Soleil at The Royal Garden presents a unique Vietnamese-French afternoon tea set. You might be thinking that’s a pretty big leap, but given that Vietnam was once a French colony, the two cuisines are actually intrinsically linked. Expect fusion delights like marinated Boston lobster with fruit salsa and romaine heart and lotus root and crabmeat salad. Vietnamese-inspired drink choices such as Vietnamese coffee and honey pomelo tea are included. And just take a gander at that Eiffel Tower tea stand!
When: daily, 3–5:30pm
3/F, The Royal Garden Hotel Hong Kong, 69 Mody Road, TST East, 2733 2033, book online
Hellenic High Tea at Estiatorio KEIA
Luxe Greek restaurant Estiatoria KEIA has introduced a Greek-inspired afternoon tea that’s quite unique in the 852. The three-tiered set includes savouries like vol-au-vent spanakopita style (spinach, feta and dill, for those not well versed in all things Greek) and open salmon and cream cheese sandwiches, six sweets (we’re jonesing for the mini mojito eclair and Sicilian lemon mini cake) and scones with all the classic accoutrements. The bevvy choices are equally as enticing – from Greek mountain tea to Mastika coffee (+$28), for a real afternoon pick-me-up.
Price: $288/1 or $488/2
When: daily, 3–6pm
2/F, H Queen’s, 80 Queen’s Road Central, Central, 2677 7737, book online
High Chai at VEDA
This vegetarian (and mostly gluten-free) afternoon tea at veggie restaurant extraordinaire VEDA is a real keeper; we hope more restaurants in HK follow suit with greener teatime offerings. It’s heavy on the savoury items – which we are particularly happy about – and includes delicious bites like mini avocado toast, shiitake mushroom tart and Brazilian cheese bread (pão de queijo). The Pukka teas and coffee selection make for fine accompaniments to these lighter, healthier delights. Watch our video.
Price: $220/1 or $408/2
When: daily, 3–5:30pm
Ovolo Central, 2 Arbuthnot Road, Central, 3755 3067, book online
Spanish-inspired afternoon tea at La Rambla
La Rambla has introduced the first Spanish afternoon tea set in town. Chef Ferran Tadeo’s tapas-style delights are paired with freshly brewed loose-leaf tea from local tea company Plantation by teakha. Teas include Red Jade with Bergamot Peel and Plantation Breakfast, an interpretation of traditional breakfast tea with the unique twist of fruity red jade. Bites include the eatery’s signature avocado lobster, ham croquettes and homemade churros with salted caramel.
Price: $480/2; +$110/glass of Agustí Torelló cava; $390/glass of Krug Grande Cuvée champagne
When: daily, 3–5pm
Shop 3071–73, 3/F, ifc mall, 8 Finance Street, Central, 2661 1161, book online
The Lounge at JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong
JW Marriott’s The Lounge has unveiled a brand-spanking-new East-meets-West afternoon tea set. The new savouries include mango lobster salad with caviar, abalone tart, tiger prawn spring roll and cured Japanese Momotaro tomato with preserved plum sauce, while matcha tiramisu, red velvet cupcake, yuzu macaron and sakura Swiss roll delight on the sweet side. Scones with jam and clotted cream complemented by a cup of TWG Tea or Graffeo coffee complete the experience.
Price: $268/1 or $468/2 (weekdays); $288/1 or $488/2 (weekends and public holidays); +$100/glass of Moët & Chandon
When: daily, 3:30–6pm
Lobby, JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty, 2810 8366, book online
Valrhona x WOOBAR at W Hong Kong
This one is for all the chocolate addicts out there. W Hong Kong’s WOOBAR has partnered with French chocolatier extraordinaire Valhrona to offers diners the Confessions of a Chocoholic afternoon tea set featuring 10 chocolate items made with chocolate of different cocoa percentages from various regions. Executive Pastry Chef Baptiste Villefranque even visited the cacao plantations to learn more about the different beans in order to create his sweet treats – now, that’s commitment! This chocolate-themed tea has another special twist, with each item incorporating one or more of five taste sensations: sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness and spiciness. On Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays, all this choccy goodness is balanced by a free-flow savoury canapé buffet and two glasses of sparkling wine. What’s more, each guest will receive six pieces of chocolate from the Valrhona Grands Crus Initiation collection to take away for post-tea noshing.
Price: $488/2 (weekdays); $638/2 (weekends and public holidays); +$48/Chocolate Fever mocktail; +$78/Nuts about Chocolate cocktail
When: daily (weekdays, 3–5:30pm; weekends and public holidays, 2–5:30pm)
6/F, W Hong Kong, 1 Austin Road West, TST, 3717 2889, firstname.lastname@example.org
Breast Cancer Awareness Month’s Magic Pink Afternoon Tea at Palm Court, The Langham, Hong Kong
Timeless Palm Court at The Langham’s afternoon tea offerings are always a treat, and this one is even more so because it’s in support of a cause that’s very dear to our hearts. The Magic Pink Afternoon Tea, in all its pink-hued glory, is launched in support of Hong Kong Breast Cancer Foundation during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For every tea set sold, HK$10 will be donated to the non-profit organisation, and if you book online (with prepayment), every set for two comes with a complimentary set for one. As you indulge in the Pink Lady (cheesecake magnum ice lolly with raspberry jam and pink chocolate coating), Magic Daisy (raspberry layer cake with raspberry confit and raspberry chocolate mousse) and salmon and pink grapefruit dome, amongst other pink-themed bites, know you’re giving back at the same time.
Price: $368/1 or $628/2; $568/1 or $918/2 to upgrade to Deluxe set that includes a glass of Perrier-Jouët Blason Rosé NV or 1 of 3 special cocktails
When: daily (weekdays, 3–5:30pm; weekends and public holidays, 2:15–4:15pm or 4:30–6:30pm), 1 October–17 November 2019
Lobby, The Langham, Hong Kong, 8 Peking Road, TST, 2132 7898, book online
Tory Burch x InterContinental Hong Kong
American fashion brand Tory Burch’s Fall/Winter 2019 collection is the inspiration for the latest afternoon tea offering at the InterContinental’s Lobby Lounge. The Autumn Afternoon Tea is filled with flavours of the season – from foie gras and chestnut parfait and BBQ pork and purple sweet potato bun to pistachio and apricot opera cake and Grand Marnier macaron – all designed with Tory Burch’s eccentric collection in mind. Diners will receive a free Tory Burch gift at the nearby TB boutique at K11 MUSEA as well as shopping discounts.
When: daily (Monday–Friday, 2:30–6pm; weekends and public holidays, 1:30–6pm), 3 October–30 November 2019
Lobby, InterContinental Hong Kong, 18 Salisbury Road, TST, 2313 2323 (no bookings)
Jiangnan-inspired afternoon tea at Old Bailey
Swish yet serene Old Bailey once again places the spotlight on traditional Jiangnan cuisine with its new daily afternoon tea offering, presenting bite-sized portions of the eatery’s signature sweets ad savouries the likes of Nanjing salted duck, both classic and spicy xiao long bao, ma lan tou with pressed bean curd, soy milk pudding, jujube paste crispy crêpes and chocolate snowy glutinous rice balls. To take this Chinese afternoon tea to the next level, complement these delectable bites with a pot of one of seven single-origin Plantation by teakha teas sourced from small tea estates in China, Taiwan and even locally in the 852.
Price: $388/2 for regular coffee or tea; $468/2 to include speciality tea by Plantation by teakha; $688/2 to include 2 glasses of Perrier-Jouët bubbly
When: daily from 14 October 2019, 2–6pm
2/F, JC Contemporary, Tai Kwun, 10 Hollywood Road, Central, 2877 8711, book online
PAPINEE x Alibi at Cordis, Hong Kong
Luxury toy brand PAPINEE – famous for its storytelling telling kits – has teamed up with Alibi – Wine Dine Be Social to present four chapters of the unique Voyages of Discovery Afternoon Tea. First up, from 15 October, we travel to Mexico City, with Chef de Cuisine James Oakley and Pastry Chef Roy Ma crafting adorably designed Mexican-inspired sweets and savouries including paella croquette with smoked mussel aioli, Impossible taco with plant-based meat, avocado purée, tomato and coriander salsa, caramel corn mousse cake, ginger key lime tart and homemade scones with hibiscus strawberry jam and clotted cream. In the coming months, we can look forward to the next three tea chapters: Christmas in London, New Year in New York and Tokyo with Sakura. Each guest will receive one precious PAPINEE mini toy with ornament per set.
Price: $555/2 (limited to 10 sets per day)
When: daily, 3–5:30pm, from 15 October 2019 for approximately 4 months
5/F, Cordis, Hong Kong, 555 Shanghai Street, Mongkok, 3552 3028, book online
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