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!
Ongoing afternoon teas
The Butterfly Room, Rosewood Hong Kong
Gorgeous The Butterfly Room at Rosewood Hong Kong may just be our choice for best afternoon tea in town. The space is glam but comfortable and the unique food offerings top notch. The tea set itself is quite filling, so it would make for a perfect early dinner, with afternoon tea served until 7pm on weekends, depending on current dine-in restrictions. The savouries include a sizeable and moreish chicken vol-au-vent, but what really makes our eyes sparkle are the pastry and confectionery trolleys – take your pick from the likes of chocolate canelé, 70% chocolate tart, mixed berry Charlotte cake, hazelnut eclair, cheesecake and many more exquisite delicacies.
You can order an abbreviated version of this tea set for pick-up at the hotel’s Butterfly Patisserie. The takeaway afternoon tea set ($625/2–3) includes a selection of sweet and savoury treats, the patisserie’s signature Tahitian vanilla millefeuille and freshly baked scones. Order online in advance.
Price: $380/1 or $758/2; +$130/glass of Delamotte champagne
When: daily (weekdays 1–6pm; weekends and public holidays, 12–7pm)
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. If you’re taking tea sometime before the end of August 2020, you’ll also be able to order as many soufflés of the day you please as part of the set.
Price: $328/1 or $608/2 on weekdays; $348/1 or $628/2 on weekends and public holidays
When: daily, 3–5:30pm
Spanish-inspired afternoon tea at La Rambla
La Rambla has pioneered the first Spanish afternoon tea set in town. Chef Ferran Tadeo’s sweet and savoury tapas-style delights are paired with freshly brewed loose-leaf tea from local tea company PLANTATION by teakha or coffee courtesy of Elephant Grounds. Bites include the eatery’s signature avocado lobster, ham croquettes, truffle bikinis and a churro sundae with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.
Price: $480/2; +$110/glass of Agustí Torelló cava or G&T; $390/glass of Krug Grande Cuvée champagne
When: daily, 3–5pm
JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong
JW Marriott’s The Lounge has unveiled an 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 champagne
When: daily, 3:30–6pm
Ruinart afternoon tea at Statement
In association with esteemed champagne house Ruinart, elegant modern British restaurant Statement has launched its first afternoon tea , which we recommend enjoying out on the historic colonial-style veranda. Served on a stunning spiral metal art piece that pays homage to the Ruinart bottle, Statement’s afternoon tea treats are British classics with a modern flair – from celeriac tartelette with pickled vegetables and cauliflower purée and walnut and Lancashire cheese puff to vanilla and acacia honey cream choux and chocolate and orange slice. We’re most looking forward to trying the buttermilk Devon scones with lashings of homemade strawberry jam and authentic Cornish clotted cream. Pinkies at the ready!
Price: $388/1 to include glass of Ruinart Blanc de Blancs
When: daily, 3–5pm
Miss Lee’s vegetarian Let’s Partea
Modern Chinese vegetarian eatery Miss Lee has debuted an all-veggie afternoon set at a truly unbeatable price – under $100 for five courses! The small bites include beetroot tart with vegan curry mayo, mushroom steamed bun with BBQ sauce, fried bean curd with vegan sesame dressing, mashed potato with glutinous rice foam and purple rice coconut udon with mango purée. It’s time to get our veg on!
When: daily, 3–5:30pm
G/F, The Wellington, 198 Wellington Street, Sheung Wan, 2881 1811
Dreamy, flower-filled Dear Lilly makes for a romantic spot for afternoon tea, launching a three-tiered set that includes a selection of tea sandwiches, classic scones with cream and jam and French delicacies such as raspberry tart, opera cake and religieuse choux.
Price: $298/2; +$70/glass of champagne or Mademoiselle Lilly cocktail
When: daily, 2:30–5:30pm
Shop 4010, 4/F, ifc mall, 8 Finance Street, Central, 2771 6060 (no bookings for afternoon tea)
Treasures of the Blue afternoon tea at Alibi, Cordis, Hong Kong
Sustainable seafood is the focus of this new Insta-worthy afternoon tea at Alibi – Wine Dine Be Social, which includes a tropical Golden Pineapple cocktail to whet your whistle. There are tempting under-the-sea savoury bites like miso-marinated black cod with avocado purée and squid-ink tapioca “coral” and Atlantic salmon tartare with bergamot, sesame and crispy seaweed, plus sweet treasures from the deep – jewels like a sea-salt caramel “gold bar”, “jade” green tea tiramisu and “pearl” white chocolate and white peach mousse.
Price: $488/2; +$98/2 glasses of Perrier-Jouët
When: daily, 3–5:30pm, from 1 April 2020
HK-themed afternoon tea buffet at The Place, Cordis, Hong Kong
Cordis hotel’s stylish, spacious buffet restaurant The Place has relaunched it teatime buffet with live cooking stations themed around Hong Kong delicacies. From prawn toast, curry fish balls, fried instant noodles, beef macaroni in tomato soup and honey BBQ pork rice with fried egg to tea-inspired desserts such as bubble tea pudding, matcha cheesecake, Earl Grey tart and green tea waffle, it’s all about the 852 with this spread.
Price: $318/adult; $238/child or senior citizen
When: weekends and public holidays, 3:15–5:30pm, from 4 April 2020
Fine-dining modern Australian newcomer HUE has launched a a long weekend afternoon tea set that’s focused on the flavours of Oz – from South Australian spanner crab with cucumber and Rangers Valley beef skewers to mini pavlovas with white chocolate ganache and passion fruit and rhubarb jam lamingtons. We’re particularly jonesing for the homemade scones, which we’ll be slathering with heaps of orange and thyme marmalade, raspberry rhubarb jam and vanilla cream. While the current social-distancing rules remain in place, diners will be seated at tables for two by the window, with everyone getting awesome harbour views, and on Fridays at HUE, afternoon tea starts with a complimentary immune-boosting juice shot.
Price: $680/2; +55/mocktail; +$90/glass of Taittinger Brut Réserve NV
When: Friday–Sunday, 3–5pm, from 18 April 2020
The Envoy, The Pottinger Hong Kong
British colonial-inspired bar and restaurant The Envoy presents an old-school afternoon tea set that includes a dim sum order sheet where guests can mix and match their choices, choosing up to six of the eight savouries and six sweets on offer each season – all presented in The Envoy’s signature tiffin box – from Auntie’s netted pork spring roll, sambal popcorn shrimp and Parma ham and truffle salami sandwich to pandan chiffon roll, Malaysian coconut mango macaron and chocolate fudge brownie.
Price: $170/1; +$40 to upgrade to pandan latte, matcha mocha, passion fruit coconut latte or other coffee/tea drink
When: daily (weekdays, 3–5:30pm; weekends and public holidays, 4–5:30pm)
Tiffany T1 afternoon tea at The Tiffany Blue Box Cafe
Blue Box’s iconic afternoon tea has gotten a healthy makeover, this time inspired by the new Tiffany T1 jewellery collection. Described as a collection for empowered women, the tea set features delicious items with health benefits including white peach panna cotta with red grape kombucha jelly and redcurrant and goji berry strawberry gateau. But there are plenty of more, shall we say, indulgent treats too such as foie gras terrine with glazed hazelnuts and dark chocolate, deep-fried risotto ball with chorizo, pimiento, zucchini and mozzarella, brown butter madeleines, coffee opera cake and the Tiffany Bird’s Nest, topped with marshmallow chocolate eggs in the brand’s signature colour. Guess you can have your cake and eat it too!
Price: $688/2; +$88/Tiffany Blue cocktail; +$150/glass of Perrier-Jouët
When: daily, 2–6:30pm, from 15 June 2020
Thai-inspired afternoon tea at Mango Tree ELEMENTS
Afternoon tea with a Thai flair comes to Mango Tree’s ELEMENTS location. There are both sweets (such as sticky rice with mango and pandan layer cake) and savouries (like yellow curry in crispy bread and pomelo salad with crabmeat) up for ordering, as well as special drinks such as pineapple shaved ice with mixed berries and shaved ice with coconut milk and grass jelly.
Price: $138/2 for Sweet set; $238/2 for Savoury set; $328/2 for Sweet + Savoury set, to include 2 special drinks
When: daily, 3–5:30pm
Shop 2032, 2/F, ELEMENTS, 1 Austin Road West, TST, 2668 4884
Tea Saloon by AnotherFineDay
Tea Saloon’s charming Mid-Levels branch may have shut in autumn 2019, but they have recently relocated to Wong Chuk Hang, where they produce cakes, tea snacks and other catering items alongside their fine tea selection. Their afternoon tea set is now available for delivery! It includes a dozen sweets and savouries, plus Victorian drop scones with French butter and homemade strawberry and rose jam and a choice of tea.
Price: $498/2; $1,288 to include three-tier handcrafted silver-plated brass cake stand; delivery surcharges apply
When: Monday–Saturday, with advance order; pick up at Wong Chuk Hang atelier or order for delivery
The Drawing Room, The St. Regis Hong Kong
If you prefer savoury to sweet, elegant The Drawing Room should be your pick of the tea lot – served on trolleys, you can mix and match your sweet and savoury bites, up to a total of eight (so go for all savoury if the fancy strikes), alongside freshly baked scones. The bites change each season, but we’ve enjoyed the New York Deli (smoked salmon, baby onion bagel, Kiri cheese), Flavours of Japan (poached scallop, homemade blinis, cream, yuzu pearl, pink peppercorn, lime, baby shiso), The French Dream (vanilla pastry cream, dark chocolate glaze) and British Bake-off (chiffon sponge, whipped mascarpone Chantilly, toasted almond, preserved fruit).
Price: $398/1 or $718/2; +$48 for each additional food item
When: daily, 2:30–5:30pm
Limited-time afternoon tea collaborations
Plantation by Teakha x The Upper House
The Upper House's newest homegrown brand collaboration is with tea specialist Plantation by Teakha, featuring a pop-up store as well as an aromatic afternoon tea at Café Gray. Three layers of scrumptious treats ranging from a surprisingly light goat cheese and fig brushed with cold-brew red Oolong tea, to velvety matcha cheesecake, to a candied ginger Teakha spin on Café Gray's iconic scones, compete for the spotlight. Be sure to sip some comforting masala chai, fragrant Keemun rose, or refreshing apple blossom verbena tea along with the treats. And if you just can't get enough, swing by the pop-up on Level 6 (open from 10am - 4pm) for some additional goodies.
Price: $285/1, $480/2
When: Daily from 3:30pm to 5:30pm, until 30 November 2020
Summer Picnic afternoon tea at Palm Court, The Langham, Hong Kong
Timeless Palm Court at The Langham’s annual summer afternoon tea offering is always eagerly anticipated. This year, the garden-inspired tea set is charmingly presented in a picnic basket that’s brimming with goodies including Scotch quail egg with black garlic purée, mini asparagus and feta quiche, Japanese-style fresh fruit sando with mango and kiwi and raspberry buttercream macaron lollipop.
Price: $398/1 or $688/2; to upgrade to a glass of champagne, $558/1 or $988/2
When: daily (weekdays, 3–5:30pm; weekends and public holidays, 2:15–4:15pm or 4:30–6:30pm), 1 July–30 September 2020
California Summer afternoon tea at Mirage Bar & Restaurant, Renaissance Hong Kong Harbour View Hotel
It’s all about fruits and seasonal produce from Cali at Mirage this summer. This means you’ll be digging into the likes of fish tacos, ginger and sesame chicken salad, Impossible sliders (the plant-based meat originates in California), California strawberry tart, sweet avocado pastry and California raisin scones. We’re going back to Cali… in spirit at least.
Price: $198/1 (weekdays) or $218/1 (weekends and public holidays)
When: daily, 3–5:30pm, 1 July–30 September 2020
L’OCCITANE x Le Méridien Cyberport
In true French partnership, Le Méridien Cyberport’s Prompt Bistro has teamed up with beloved French beauty brand L’OCCITANE en Provence for a summery afternoon tea themed after the South of France. The sweets section includes two scoops each of bourbon vanilla gelato and lemon verbena sorbet – the icing on the cake for us. The set comes with two L’OCCITANE gift packs plus discount vouchers.
Price: $398/2; +$100 to upgrade to 2 house cocktails, sparkling wine or house red or white wine
When: daily, 3–5pm, 2 July–30 September 2020
Mr Men Studio x AMMO
AMMO – the glittering Italian-Japanese restaurant surrounded by lush foliage housed within Asia Society – has launched a playful afternoon tea set in honour of the lovable Mr Men and Little Miss children’s book characters featuring limited-edition treats such as smoked salmon finger sandwiches fit for Little Miss Princess, Little Miss Sunshine’s lemon macaron and Mr Men’s finest scones. Each set comes with two personalised mugs, choosing from 20 of the most iconic Mr Men and Little Miss characters.
Price: $548/2 (including service charge); +$68/AMMO Garden mocktail or cocktail
When: daily, 3–5pm, 4 July–27 September 2020
Little Twin Stars x Vive Cake Boutique
Vive must have a thing for Sanrio. Last autumn, there was the My Melody collaboration, and now Vive’s afternoon tea set is all about Kiki and Lala of the Little Twin Stars, celebrating their 45th anniversary this year. The whimsical four-tiered cake stand is stacked with the likes of Asian-inspired snacks of avocado and veggie rice roll and rainbow noodles with yuzu dressing, raisin scones, a pair of Little Twin Stars eclairs, raspberry ruby chocolate meringue tarts and the showpiece Wishing on a Star mini cake ($58 à la carte), flavoured with white chocolate mousse and blackcurrant cassis compote.
Price: $270/1 or $498/2
When: Thursday–Sunday and public holidays, 2–6:30pm, 16 July–11 October 2020
Shop 3, 1/F, H Queen’s, 80 Queen’s Road Central (entrance at 50 Stanley Street), Central, 9602 2869
Tea Elegance afternoon tea at Kowloon Shangri-La
Lobby Lounge at Kowloon Shangri-La is drawing inspiration from the holistic range of Shangri-La teas on offer with this new tea set created by Executive Pastry Chef Jonathan Gallet, presented in the hotel’s signature floral birdcage stand. Included in the set are four kinds each of sweets and savouries, scones with a selection of jams, a fruit plate and coffee or tea, with highlights of matcha biscuit with coconut, blackcurrant and lemon chocolate mousse, Earl Grey choux, shrimp tartare with jasmine tea, smoked salmon with sour cream and cucumber over green tea bread and Brie with honey and Longjing tea jam.
Price: $328/1 or $528/2; +$128/glass of Veuve Clicquot Brut NV
When: daily, 3–6pm, 1 August–30 September 2020
Häagen-Dazs & Louis Roederer x GREEN, Hotel ICON
This sweet and boozy afternoon tea at Hotel ICON’s relaxing brasserie GREEN is highlighted by free-flow Häagen-Dazs mini cups and Louis Roederer champagne-infused savouries. Included is a glass of Louis Roederer Brut Premier with peach and strawberry as well as ice-cream desserts such as dark chocolate ice cream in crispy chocolate coating and chocolate-dipped strawberry ice cream in a cute cherry shape.
Price: $348/1 or $628/2
When: daily, 3–7pm (2 seatings – 3–5pm and 5–7pm), 17 August–1 November 2020
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