Afternoon tea is back in vogue. Not high tea, mind you. There’s a difference, we discovered recently! High tea was once a necessary, more substantial meal consumed after work by Industrial Revolution workers (more like dinner), whereas the more lavish afternoon tea (made popular by Anna, Duchess of Bedford in the Victorian era) leisurely filled a gap between lunch and dinner.
Hot capitals around the world, including Cape Town of course, are spilling over with permutations of this age-old tradition. The Insiders scoured the Mother City for the best teas around, and found a handful of places offering something rather unique in terms of location, ambience, service and the spread itself. As always, if we’ve left any of your favourites out, please add them in the comments below.
TEA BY THE SEA AT THE 12 APOSTLES
The setting Voted number 4 on the Top 25 hotels in Africa in the Condé Nast Traveler Readers Choice Awards, this five-star boutique hotel and spa is neatly nestled at the foot of the Twelve Apostles Mountain Range, a location which we felt makes this venue stand out from the rest. A beautifully manicured garden surrounded by the wild landscape is the perfect setting for afternoon tea in the Conservatory. You might prefer to take your tea in the Leopard Bar or its balcony, that looks out upon the Atlantic Ocean with unhindered views of the horizon and Lion’s Head. (Get your favourite Instagram filter ready because it’s about to work overtime!)
The tea The bakers among us will appreciate pastries made with real butter and Valrhona chocolate. Freshly prepared on the morning by pastry team Miquetta de Castro and Nivan Ferreira (you know there’s no messing about if a hotel has a pastry team), the tea stand flaunts various finger sandwiches, cheese scones, almond-covered egg mayonnaise sandwich pillows, macarons, white-chocolate cheesecake, nutty dark-chocolate brownies, vanilla namelaka and chocolate cake, to name a few. On weekends a high tea buffet is served, which includes a variety of cheeses, preserves, cookies and fruit, in addition to the cake stand. When you’re ready for tea, there are 18 flavours to choose from. We opted for the vanilla and rose, which was perfect.
The service From the moment you walk through the front entrance, you feel right at home. Prepared to go the extra mile, the staff is friendly and attentive.
Child-friendly Although welcome, toddlers might be a handful for moms.
We love that you can pick where you’d like to have your tea – the Café Grill, Leopard Bar or Conservatory… We opted to enjoy our eats in the Conservatory, moving to the Leopard Bar’s patio to sip our tea and enjoy one of the best views the Cape has to offer.
Good to know If, like us, you’d prefer a glass of bubbly with your tea, you’re more than welcome to order some by the glass – or bottle, of course.
Cost R245 per person (excludes bubbly)
Times Tea stand: Monday – Sunday, 10am – 4pm
High tea buffet: Saturday, 12pm – 4pm
Sunday, 2pm – 4pm
Contact 021 437 9000, email@example.com
Where to find it Victoria Road, Camps Bay
TIG reviewers Michelle de Bruin and Sabena Faria
AFTERNOON TEA AT THE ONE & ONLY CAPE TOWN
The setting You arrive at the main entrance. Automatic doors slide open to reveal the Vista Bar & Lounge. Table Mountain greets you. And then you start to notice the hotel’s grand decor and facade, before your eye catches the splendid arrangement of tea-time treats. In the background a soothing saxophone sets the scene, but it’s not a back-track; it’s the real thing. Welcome to One&Only Cape Town.
The tea The first in a series of special themed pairings saw the coffee bean take centre stage. You might have expected coffee-flavoured pastries and cakes, but this is the O&O – they don’t do anything ordinary here. In partnership with the coffee gurus at Truth, O&O designed a pairing menu that matches specific pastries to specials brews to highlight the unique flavours of both the plate and the cup. Some might call it magic, we call it perfection.
Diarise these upcoming pairings
5 November 2016 – Spice Route
3 December 2016 – ’Tis the Season
7 January 2017 – Nostalgic Niceties
4 February 2017 – Love & Loose Leaf Tea
The service Each table has its own server, which we liked.
Insider tip We are giving away afternoon tea for four at the O&O. Subscribe to our newsletter to be first to know when and how to enter.
Cost Weekend Morning Tea: R195
Afternoon Tea: R295
Themed Afternoon Tea: R295
Children between the ages of 4 and 12 pay half price.
Times Weekend Morning Tea, 9am – 12pm
Afternoon Tea: Daily, 2.30pm – 5.30pm
Themed Afternoon Tea: First Saturday of the month, 2.30pm – 5.30pm
Contact 021 431 4511, firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to find it One&Only, Dock Road, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town
TIG reviewer Michelle de Bruin
AFTERNOON TEA AT BELMOND MOUNT NELSON
The setting Located above the Company’s Garden, the pale pink Belmond Mount Nelson, set behind famous white pillars, is a secluded oasis of elegance and time-honoured beauty. Inside, twinkling chandeliers, hung from inlaid ceilings, plush wingback chairs and carpets and antique furniture greet you at this graceful luxury hotel and spa.
The tea The Afternoon Tea menu has a wide selection of exotic tea blends (including the hotel’s own blend that uses rose petals from the garden), as well as filter coffee, hot chocolate and optional South African MCC. Tea is served in clear glass teapots, ideal for watching the sweet-smelling tea leaves straining, and dainty porcelain cups and saucers.
Fresh savouries and finger sandwiches are served to you on a double-tiered platter but you’re free to ask for more, while, in the main hall, the self-service buffet table is laden with frequently replenished seasonal fruit and sweet delicacies (including traditional mini milk tarts, koeksisters and hertzoggies) – don’t miss the giant rose vase centrepiece.
The popular cheesecake and divinely light scones (brought fresh from the oven at your request, with cream and strawberry jam; there’s also clotted cream available) are musts.
The service You have the option of either lounge or garden-facing terrace seating; both are royally beautiful. As you dine, enjoy the live piano music, surrounding chatter and tinkling porcelain that fills the air. Staff are extremely attentive and we were particularly well-looked-after by the warm, Shahieda Dollie, who has been happily and loyally working at the hotel for 32 years.
Child-friendly? Yes, kids will love exploring the nearby garden and fountain.
Insider tip When ordering your tea, it’s a fun idea to order two pots instead of sharing one as you get to try more blends…
Good to know The hotel serves morning, afternoon (with the option of champagne), and evening tea.
Cost R295 per person (a surcharge may be added on special-event days)
Times Monday – Sunday, 1.30pm – 3.30pm, 3.30pm – 5.30pm (two afternoon tea sittings; reservations are essential and please call directly for weekend/next day reservations)
Contact 021 483 1000, email@example.com
Where to find it 76 Orange Street, Gardens
TIG reviewer Tamlyn Ryan
LOW CARB HIGH TEA AT THE CELLARS-HOHENORT
The setting A 20-minute drive from the city centre will take you into the heart of the Constantia Valley and the historic Cellars-Hohenort Hotel – a delightful country-style hotel and member of the Relais & Chateaux luxury group. The hotel’s Conservatory Restaurant is one of the Cape’s loveliest spots to enjoy an indulgent high tea at any time of the year. In winter, while away the afternoon in the elegant indoor lounge in front of a fire; in spring and early autumn, choose to sit in the light and airy glassed-in rooms; and in summer, relax on the sunny terrace where the 300-year-old oak tree and umbrellas will offer reprieve from the heat while you enjoy the vistas of the beautiful grounds and the back of Table Mountain.
The tea The Low Carb High Tea is a nod to Tim Noakes, with the menu offering lighter (but still flavourful) items than those found at traditional English afternoon tea. Elegantly served on a three-tiered cake stand, offerings are indulgent, while using healthier substitutes such as fruit, seed and grains, sugar-free dark chocolate, beetroot and carrots.
The top tier contains crispy prawn Vietnamese rice-paper rolls with a dipping sauce, healthy broccoli, red pepper and goat’s cheese tartlets, and grass-fed beef-and-peppadew sosaties.
The centre contains the sweet treats – perfectly crafted bitesize dark-chocolate-and-beetroot cupcakes, fresh fruit sugar-free pavlovas, home-made seed and grain bars, and tiny scones with sugar-free strawberry jam and whipped cream cheese. The pièce de résistance is a delicious yoghurt and honey panna cotta served in a small glass jar topped with strawberry jelly and sliced strawberries.
The bottom tier contains a choice of three open sandwiches. Coronation chicken on a small health slice, rare roast beef with red onion and horseradish cream, and the equally tempting smoked salmon, cream cheese and chives on a squid-ink ciabatta – all light but satisfying.
An array of classic and herbal teas, single-origin coffees, hot chocolate and iced tea or coffee complete the beverage menu.
The service Attentive without being obtrusive as you would expect from an elegant five-star establishment.
Insider tip Treat yourself to a glass or two of Graham Beck rosé brut bubbly from the Martini bar for a perfect ending to a sublime afternoon.
Don’t leave without a walk through the avenue of centuries-old camphor trees.
Don’t miss the spectacular floral arrangements throughout the hotel by The Duke & Duchess.
Cost R195 per person (Low Carb High Tea)
Times Monday – Sunday, 3pm – 5pm (Low Carb High Tea)
Monday – Sunday, 11am – 5pm (à la carte tea)
Contact 021 794 2137, firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to find it 93 Brommersvlei Road, Constantia Heights
TIG reviewer Jackie Lange
THE CAPE GRACE HOTEL TRADITIONAL AFTERNOON TEA
The setting Across from the V&A Waterfront’s shopping precinct and encircled by the beautifully calm yacht marina, the Cape Grace Hotel offers a heady mix of traditional Cape culture and luxury in one. Its impressive location and panoramic views make a definite impression and, as you step through its glass doors, you’re immediately absorbed into the welcoming and luxurious atmosphere of this fine establishment.
The tea We shared the Afternoon Tea selection: a three-tiered platter of tasty finger sandwiches (egg mayonnaise with rocket and cream cheese and cucumber), a bite-sized smoked salmon and avocado mousse savoury, and sweet and savoury scones, with lemon curd (so good), butter, strawberry jam and whipped cream to spread. As well as a trayful of mouth-watering sweet treats, including blueberry macaroons and mini lemon meringues.
There are some delicious, loose-leaf teas to try – including the sweet, raspberry-coloured Fruit Infusions and the unusual Pomegranate-flavoured White Tea blends. Your standard, single tea option is presented in a clear teapot, accompanied by pristine white teacups and saucers, and a useful, hourglass timer, allowing you to perfectly time (and watch) the straining tea.
The service Afternoon tea is served in The Library or out on the terrace, which has wonderful views of the marina. The Library is richly furnished with wingback chairs and settees, sturdy glass tables, vibrant Cape Protea displays and glittering chandeliers dotted throughout, but there’s a distinct comfortableness that immediately puts you at ease, whereas the sheltered terrace has a slightly more relaxed feel, despite its impressive, sweeping glass-front views and smart, equally comfortable tables and chairs.
The staff throughout are extremely efficient and welcoming, and you dine like royalty as the waitron brings everything straight to your table at your request.
Child-friendly? Yes, but please keep an eye on them as it is quite a pleasantly enclosed and quiet venue.
Insider tip If you visit during late afternoon, we advise sitting out on the terrace, as it’s particularly lovely around sunset.
Good to know There’s also the Not-So-Hungry option, which includes a slice of delicious homemade cake (R50) but notably excludes either tea or coffee.
Cost R185 (traditional Afternoon Tea for one)
Times Monday – Sunday, 12pm – 6pm (reservations are essential)
Contact 021 410 7100, email@example.com
Where to find it West Quay Road, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
TIG reviewer Tamlyn Ryan
English Tea at Kirstenbosch Tea Room
The setting Ranked number 6 on National Geographic’s Top 10 Picnic Spots in the world, this 36-hectare garden on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain is a beautiful blend of manicured grounds and rugged mountain vegetation. Though tea is served in the tearoom and not in the garden itself, the views are still spectacular.
The tea The cosy and casual tearoom is owned by chef and cookbook author Pamela Shippel-Granoth, whose delectable and unpretentious baked goods go down a treat with a piping hot mug of tea (yes, you read right), with the teabag still dangling so you can remove it when desired strength is reached.
Each two-tiered stand comes with a choice of egg mayonnaise-and-horse radish or cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches on your choice of bread; two mini spinach and feta quiches; two utterly delectable home-made scones with jam and clotted cream and two slices of cake (a choice between cheese cake, chocolate and carrot).
The service was friendly and efficient.
Child-friendly Yes! Our toddlers sat on high chairs at the table with us, scribbling on paper with crayons that our waitress Monique brought them.
Cost R260 for two
Times Monday – Sunday, 8.30am – 5pm
Contact 021 797 4883, firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to find it Gate 2, Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, Rhodes Drive, Newlands
TIG reviewer Nikki Benatar
Afternoon Tea at the Taj Hotel
The setting Set in the heart of the CBD, the hotel’s grand architecture, high ceilings, inviting interiors and sumptuous sofas provide a luxurious escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The tea Afternoon tea is taken in the beautifully appointed Lobby Lounge. Upon arrival a friendly staff member delivers a Ronnefeld Tea Menu and some savoury snacks to get you started. If you are not a tea person, coffee and hot chocolate options are available. Once you are ready, make your way to the utterly tempting buffet table that groans under the weight of all the delectable treats, which include lamingtons, chocolate seasonal fruit flans, a duo of pink and white choc berry panna cotta, blond choc brulee, candy pop cake pops, homemade rusks, koeksusters, homemade crunchies, marble choc orange sweet loaf, plain scones, choc-chip scones, assorted macarons, chocolate shortbread biscuits, Italian kisses, milk chocolate fudge, cashew chocolate panforte, meringue tower, meringue clouds, baked yoghurt with orange and mint salad and opera cake. Shew!
The service is excellent, with friendly and helpful staff.
Something special We visited during Women’s month, so the hotel treated us to deep-fried nougat poppers and a glass of sparkling wine!
Child-friendly? Not really, as there is nothing specifically designed to keep children occupied.
Cost R500 for two
Times Monday – Sunday, 2pm – 5pm
Contact 021 819 2000, email@example.com
Where to find it 1 Wale Street
TIG reviewer Simone Cilliers
THE LOUNGE HIGH TEA AT THE TABLE BAY HOTEL
The setting Arguably one of the most beautiful hotels at the V&A Waterfront, the Table Bay Hotel boasts unrestricted views of Table Mountain. Tea is served in the lounge, where two-storey-tall bay windows showcase the working harbour. Fireplaces dotted throughout create a cosy atmosphere, while an elegantly arranged buffet table makes you feel like a princess in her finest fascinator.
The tea The High Tea arrives in three courses, so don’t wear skinny jeans on the day (you might just forget to button them up afterwards), and three TWG teas of your choice, whereas the Tea Royale includes a glass of MCC. The first course is a Cape-Malay inspired sandwich tray, followed by two types of scones and jam. Then it’s time to tuck into the buffet of cakes and pastries.
The service Professional, attentive and friendly staff made sure we were catered to from start to finish.
Child-friendly yes, if you bring along things to keep them busy, as there’s plenty of space in the lounge for them to play.
Cost High Tea: R280
Tea Royale: R340
Times Monday – Sunday, 2pm – 3.30pm or 4pm – 5.30pm
Contact 021 406 5988, firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to find it Quay 6, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
TIG reviewers Michelle de Bruin and Sabena Faria
Lady Ann Afternoon Tea at The Vineyard Hotel
The setting The hotel’s Garden Lounge and Patio is a suitably serene setting for this relaxed afternoon affair. Drink in the views of Table Mountain and the hotel’s magnificent six-acre garden, while you sip your tea and tuck into some treats. Then take the path down to the Liesbeek River and enjoy a moment of utter tranquility before you have to head back to the chaos of the city and the daily grind.
The tea A three-tiered cake stand with a pretty assortment of teeny-weeny cakes, pastries, sandwiches and savoury bites. Read the full tea menu here.
The service We arrived on arguably the busiest day of the week – Saturday afternoon – and the patio and lounge were packed. Which meant we had to wait half an hour for a table (you can’t pre-book) and 15 minutes before our waiter came to take our order. So if you have time (and patience) and don’t mind soaking up the vibe, you won’t be disappointed. In general service was friendly, with Solo (the manager on duty) smoothing over any wrinkles in the overall experience.
Child-friendly? Yes! There are rolling lawns, where the resident tortoises make regular appearances. And a pathway down to the river…
Cost R165 per person (includes tea and filter coffee; excludes speciality coffees)
Times Monday – Sunday, 3.30pm – 5.30pm
Contact 021-657 4500, email@example.com
Where to find it Colinton Road (off Protea Road), Newlands
TIG reviewer Nikki Benatar
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