There’s nothing more civilized than afternoon tea. The British tradition started almost two centuries ago when Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, got hungry and invited friends to join her for a snack between lunch and dinner.
Afternoon tea is now served in top hotels all over the world, and, although the menu is pretty universal, the offerings are anything but standard. A choice of teas is accompanied by finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and preserves, and a variety of pastries, often presented on an elegant three-tiered tray.
Here are 10 beautiful spaces in which to indulge your inner nobility.
The Phoenician | Scottsdale, Ariz.
Afternoon tea at The Phoenician — Photo courtesy of The Phoenician
Served daily in the Lobby Tea Court, The Phoenician’s beautiful spread is consistently voted “Best Afternoon Tea” by the local Arizona papers. Whether you settle in to the luxuriously upholstered chairs and sofas or gather around the tables set with fine linens, china and silver, you'll be as smitten with the panoramic views of the resort and the valley beyond as with the three-course tea itself.
Fairmont Empress | Victoria, BC
Tea at the Fairmont Empress Victoria — Photo courtesy of Fairmont Empress Victoria
For over a century, afternoon tea has been a grand tradition at the world-renowned Fairmont Empress. Served in the sophisticated Lobby Lounge, it’s been experienced by celebrities, dignitaries and, of course, royalty. Featuring their original blend of The Empress Tea and the rare Tong Mu Phoenix Lapsang Souchong blend, the entire tea list is ethically sourced and certified by the Ethical Tea Partnership. The pièce de résistance? The Empress cake, made with a special customized chocolate, which has become a hotel signature.
Rubens Hotel at the Palace | London
Afternoon tea at Rubens Hotel at the Palace — Photo courtesy of Rubens Hotel at the Palace
You can’t get much closer to royalty than the Palace Lounge, which overlooks the Royal Mews of Buckingham Palace and provides an ideal vantage point to watch the royal carriages pass by. Afternoon tea here is influenced by the Royal Family itself, and includes the Queen’s beloved jam pennies. Guests leave with a chocolate biscuit cake, like the one William and Kate served at their wedding reception, boxed up as a takeaway gift.
Ashford Castle | Cong, Ireland
Afternoon tea at Ashford Castle — Photo courtesy of Ashford Castle
They’ve been doing afternoon tea here since 1868 – and they’ve perfected it. The ritual has been wonderfully preserved in the oak-paneled Connaught Room, where floor-to-ceiling windows offer spectacular views of the Lough Corrib and the Castle’s manicured gardens. You may even see the head pastry chef lovingly hand-picking flowers to decorate the cupcakes you’ll enjoy with your traditional tea service.
Hotel d’Angleterre | Geneva
Afternoon tea at Hotel d'Angleterre — Photo courtesy of Hotel d'Angleterre
The Windows Restaurant offers unrivaled views of Lake Geneva’s Jet d’Eau and the distant mountains, along with an afternoon tea that remains deliciously true to the tradition. Betjeman and Barton teas, inspired by different regions of the world, are accompanied by finger sandwiches, three scones, and a variety of unique delights like stuffed crepes and opera cream puffs.
The Oyster Box | Durban, South Africa
Afternoon tea at The Oyster Box — Photo courtesy of The Oyster Box
High tea at the legendary Palm Court is a leisurely affair with live piano music providing the soundtrack to a glorious selection of homemade treats. The tea table is a stunning centerpiece which lives up to the lush, towering palms and natural sunlight that surround it. Just look at it! A visual spectacle filled with sweets and savories, it’s a delight for all the senses.
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park | London
Afternoon tea at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park London — Photo courtesy of Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park London
The fashionable Rosebery Lounge is renowned for its afternoon tea, and it’s where Royals and celebs alike convene in a stylish, contemporary setting. A dedicated Tea Master has created an enticing menu of bespoke blends, like the signature Oriental Afternoon Blend, to reflect the Rosebery Lounge’s rich heritage and commitment to quality. A selection of perfectly matched delicacies makes this a quintessential British experience.
The Peninsula | Beverly Hills
Afternoon tea at The Peninsula Beverly Hills — Photo courtesy of The Peninsula Beverly Hills
You'll feel like an A-lister in The Living Room of this iconic AAA Five Diamond hotel. Get a taste of Hollywood glamour as you sip a cup of Earl Grey or glass of Champagne with your tower of treats. A classical harpist sets the tone for a truly classic afternoon tea.
Viking Ocean Cruises
Afternoon tea in the Wintergarden, Viking Ocean Cruises — Photo courtesy of Lois Alter Mark
There’s a reason so many passengers on Viking Ocean Cruises opt for shore excursions earlier in the day: they want to get back in time for afternoon tea. Served daily at 4 pm in the Scandinavian-inspired Wintergarden, there’s nothing like high tea on the high seas. Guests relax with a different selection of goodies each day and are grateful to have the length of their trip to test all the teas on the extensive menu.
Park Hyatt Aviara | Carlsbad, Calif.
Afternoon tea at Park Hyatt Aviara Resort Golf Club & Spa — Photo courtesy of Park Hyatt Aviara Resort Golf Club & Spa
At this award-winning Southern California resort, tea time is as coveted as tee time. High tea at the Park features a wide variety of herbal and fruit infusions to accompany the traditional fare. Bring along your little princes and princesses and start a new tradition of your own.