Afternoon tea is a British tradition dating back to about 1840, when Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford — one of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting — grew impatient (and hungry) during the long stretch between lunch and dinner, and decided to ask for a midday snack of tea, bread, and cake. By Kelsey Fowler
The idea of afternoon tea quickly took off, becoming a hit social event that eventually turned into a popular daily tradition in England. The meal generally includes a classic combination of savoury and sweet, with finger sandwiches, scones, and pastries or cake, displayed on a tiered serving tray. Today, formal tea service is more of a special occasion indulgence, and many high-end hotels around the world offer afternoon tea with a nod to the classic British menu.
Reservations are generally recommended for tea services, especially when visiting a popular destination. Here are nine of the best hotels around the world for afternoon tea service.
The Plaza, New York City
For more than 100 years, The Plaza has been an iconic New York City destination for afternoon tea. The hotel’s Palm Court brings Central Park indoors, creating an inviting atmosphere under a stained-glass dome in this elegant establishment.
The worldly tea list features selections like Chinese green tea, English breakfast, and lavender oolong. Guests can dine on delicate sandwiches, pastries, and scones served on Bernardaud china and custom tableware, and choose from a variety of tea menus, such as the classic Manhattan Tea, or indulge in seasonal offerings. For special occasions, consider the indulgent Grand Imperial Tea for two, complete with caviar service, for USD 595 (INR 43,998).
Eloise, the precocious children’s book character who lives at The Plaza, has her own signature tea for kids as well, featuring peanut butter and jelly finger sandwiches, cake pops, cotton candy, and caffeine-free tea.
Afternoon tea is served 10:30 am to 5 pm daily, for USD 80 (INR 5,915).
The Biltmore Mayfair, LXR Hotels & Resorts, London
Stepping inside the dedicated Tea Lounge at The Biltmore Mayfair, guests will find a classic London afternoon tea experience waiting. Located in London’s luxurious Grosvenor Square, surrounded by parks and gardens, tea at The Biltmore Mayfair is a sumptuous experience by chef Jason Atherton, known for his Michelin-starred London restaurants.
With English cucumber, black truffle, and heritage tomato sandwiches, scones with Cornish clotted cream, fresh Kent strawberries, and chocolate mousse with Scottish raspberry jelly, the Afternoon Tea menu highlights fresh, classic UK produce.
Whether you keep things simple with just a cup of tea from the trolley and a scone, or add a glass of Champagne to the full Afternoon Tea service, this English tradition is a must-do for anyone hoping for a classic teatime experience.
The Tea Lounge is open from 12:30 to 5:30 pm on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday; the tea service is from GBP 60 (INR 6,029).
Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Mumbai
The landmark Taj Mahal Palace Hotel is a historic city institution, with an established tradition of afternoon tea that harkens back to the early 20th century. The setting is the Sea Lounge, with art deco furnishings and old colonial charm from 1903 when the hotel was first built. And the lounge is aptly named, as guests can catch great views of the ships on the harbour before they set sail on the Arabian Sea. In the evenings, live music fills the room, adding to the atmosphere. The tea service is offered buffet style, with local Indian favourites along with traditional English delights.
Sea Lounge is open 7 pm – midnight daily; tea service from INR 2,200
Claridge’s has been serving afternoon tea for more than 150 years, perfecting the classic combinations while elevating this English tradition. The hotel even has its own tea connoisseur, who travels the globe to bring back rare and interesting blends to this fine London hotspot.
Tea is served in custom bone china featuring Claridge’s design, while guests can take in the surrounding 1930s art deco design of the Foyer & Reading Room.
Traditional sandwiches include ham, salmon, cucumber, plus scones with jam and cream, and plenty of cakes and tarts to end on a sweet note. According to their menu, the rich, buttery taste of Genmaicha tea pairs well with the sandwiches, while the classic Claridge’s Blend can’t be beaten when it comes time for scones. For pastries, try a sweet Sri Lankan Hand Rolled tea.
Afternoon tea is served 2:45 pm – 5:30 pm daily, from GBP 75 (INR 7,536).
Victoria Falls Hotel, Zimbabwe
Traditional afternoon tea is served up at the Victoria Falls Hotel in Zimbabwe on an outdoor terrace with stunning views of the Victoria Falls Bridge — if the water is high enough, you might even spot some of the water splashing up in the distance. Tea on Stanley’s Terrace comes with all of the traditional accoutrement, as guests are transported back in time thanks to the elegant, historic location. Built by the British in 1904, this sprawling Edwardian hotel features gorgeous manicured lawns and gardens, nearby the Zambezi River as it flows over the falls. One of the oldest hotels in Africa, Victoria Falls Hotel is open to anyone who wants to take their afternoon tea with a view from the veranda.
Tea is served 3 – 6 pm daily.
Fairmont Empress Hotel, Victoria, Canada
The Fairmont Empress Hotel offers a rotating list of 21 rare, ethically produced teas, and relies on local provisioners to help craft what ends up on the menu. Tea is served in the historic Lobby Lounge, guests will also be treated to music from the baby grand piano while they dine and drink.
Or, for those wishing to explore more of Victoria — or even just head outside to the hotel’s historic lawns — you can take your tea to go, with a bottle of iced Empress pekoe tea perfect for picnicking alongside all of the carefully curated sandwiches and treats.
Having opened its doors more than 100 years ago, the Empress serves its tea to about 80,000 visitors every year. Hundreds of people come to the Empress to partake in the teatime tradition that’s been ongoing since the hotel opened in 1908.
Tea is served 11 am – 4 pm Wednesday through Sunday, from USD 45 (INR 3,325) for children, USD 89 (INR 6,576) for adults.
Hôtel de Crillon, Paris
Located just off the Champs-Élysées, Hôtel de Crillon opened in 1909 and is a must-visit Parisian destination at tea time for travellers and locals alike.
With plump purple couches and plush armchairs, set in a room dripping with chandeliers, afternoon tea at Jardin d’Hiver is a glamorous affair; try to snag a spot on the outdoor courtyard terrace, if you can.
Tea service brings out the sweet desserts supplied by head pastry chef Matthieu Carlin. The surprising menu also has some original inclusions, such as a lobster roll and puffed brioches as an alternative choice to scones.
Tea is served 2:30 – 6 pm on Friday and Saturday, from EUR 60 (INR 5,029).
Four Season Resort Bali at Sayan, Indonesia
Perched on the expansive open-air terrace, guests at the Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan can feel as if they are floating above the fronds, sipping tea while overlooking the treetops.
Jati Bar, with its views of the verdant valley from the open teakwood lounge, is a nature-lover’s dream spot to savour some afternoon tea. Here, you need an adventurous spirit to get to your refreshments; to arrive at the hotel, visitors must cross a suspension bridge over the Ayung River valley.
The tea menu includes authentic local dishes like Balinese satay and ayam pelalah (shredded chicken) alongside classics like opera cake and scones. A choice of tea or coffee is available.
Jati Bar is open from 2 – 10 pm daily; tea service from Rp 275,000 (INR 1,421)
Royal Mansour, Marrakesh
The art of hosting is deeply rooted in Moroccan culture, and afternoon tea at Royal Mansour is no exception. With exceptional hospitality, the hotel offers a refined tea ceremony experience.
Whether you want to be tucked away in the greenery of Le Jardin restaurant, or head to the marbled halls of Patio Bleu, the Royal Mansour offers a lush and vibrant setting for relaxing with a calming cup of tea.
The menu is indulgent, with crab rolls and duck foie gras buns, as well as frozen treats and caramelised delicacies. Of course, no excursion to Marrakesh would be complete without traditional mint tea.
Afternoon tea is served 3:30 – 5:30 pm daily, from 450 MAD (INR 3,592).