Afternoon tea, or ‘high tea,’ as it is called in South Africa, is a refined ritual of sophisticated elegance and grand confectionary. The custom of taking one’s tea with delicate treats originated in England amongst the aristocratic classes, and later developed as a way to stave off the afternoon hunger of the working classes. The labourers had a small mix of sugar and caffeine to increase their energy, while the high society had select sandwiches, scones, sweet cakes and pastries. Today, all of the luxury hotels offer afternoon tea for an opulent experience of exquisite dining and relaxation, or as the perfect social setting for celebrations.
Exceptional Spots for Afternoon Tea in southern Africa
- The Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel – Located in the centre of Cape Town beneath the towering Table Mountain, the Mount Nelson is known by locals to be the crème de la crème of luxury and old opulence. Afternoon tea can be taken in the lounge, on the terrace, or in the garden overlooking the fountain and rose bushes. There is a menu of signature exotic teas to take with your treats, with Darjeeling, Kenyan, Assam, Keemun, Yunnan, Ceylon, and rose petal blends to choose from. The afternoon tea, which is served every day from 1.30pm to 3.30pm, and again from 3.30pm to 5.30pm, is presented on a buffet table ladled with pastries and savoury goodies. Finger sandwiches with cucumber, egg, roast beef and smoked salmon; freshly baked scones with cream and jam; milk tart; and dark chocolate cake are a few of the treats. At R235 per person, the Mount Nelson’s afternoon tea is one of the most exorbitant, and a lighter morning tea is offered at R195 between 9.30am and noon.
- La Motte – The Franschhoek estate is in the Cape Winelands, with the addition of spectacular world-class wines on the afternoon tea menu. The ‘winelands tea’ is served from Tuesday to Sunday at 3pm till 4.30pm, and includes unique dishes that are inspired by traditional Cape cuisine, such as their trout-filled pancakes. Chocolate truffles, macarons, and a medley of cakes are paired with a selection of fine tea blends and sparkling wine by La Motte. You can take your high tea in the restaurant, on the patio, or in the gardens for a beautifully tranquil afternoon, and at R145 per person, it is amazingly affordable compared to other afternoon tea spots of similar value.
- The Palm Court at the Oyster Box Hotel – The open courtyard is in one of the finest luxury hotels of Umhlanga, Durban, and is adorned with chandeliers from London’s famous Savoy Hotel. High tea is from 2.30pm till 5pm, for R220 per person. The afternoon buffet is topped with elegant finger sandwiches, scones, quiches, cakes, and an assortment of savouries and pastries. The Palm Court is bedecked with a colonial grandeur and tall palms, and sipping your tea to the sounds of the piano, you will feel that you are in a sophisticated arboretum.
- The Saxon – Take your high tea in the piano lounge of this Sandton hotel in Johannesburg. At R395 from Thursday to Saturday, high tea at the Saxon is of exceptional quality. From 12pm till 4pm you can feast on the masterful selection of artistic cakes, with your choice of a wide selection of teas. With the finest and freshest ingredients, each gathering is a unique affair, with an assortment of pastries, cakes, and savoury treats that varies day to day. They do have what they call a ‘timeless favourite’ however – their scones and cream specially imported from the Cape.
- The Victoria Falls Hotel – With a view of the Victoria Falls Bridge, this is the afternoon tea that tops them all. Stanley’s Terrace of the Victoria Falls Hotel in Zimbabwe is famous for their high tea, which is not surprising, as you are served a three-tier tower of confections with the sound of the magnificent waterfall in the background. Every day from 3pm till 5.30pm, tea is taken in the gardens, with a selection of special teas, scones, sandwiches, and cakes. After marvelling at the view over tea, you may use the private pathway for a ten-minute walk that leads from the gardens directly to the Victoria Falls.