Written by Oryx
England’s seventh Duchess of Bedford set the trend for afternoon tea in the late 18th century. Finding herself unable to last from breakfast to dinner, she plugged the gap with a cup of tea and slice of cake in her bedroom, an act that caught on after she subsequently invited friends to join her. Today it’s an indulgent celebration for those fortunate enough to have a spare afternoon. Greg Sunning reveals three great places to ‘take tea’ on your travels.
Who invented the sandwich?
The fourth Earl of Sandwich is famed for conceiving the sandwich, the centrepiece of any great afternoon tea. So simple in method but versatile in output, the Earl had his servants deliver a wedge of meat between two bread slices while he continued working at his desk.
The Ritz, London
Offered in the enclosed Palm Court, a grand room with skylight and resident pianist, there are 16 loose-leaf teas on offer and finger-cut sandwiches with traditional fillings including cucumber and smoked salmon. Baked scones and clotted cream precede teacakes and pastries. The dress code is smart, and reservations are recommended.
Raffles Hotel, Singapore
Formerly a sister hotel to the Sarkies brothers’ E&O, Raffles serves its traditional high tea in the Tiffin Room. With a menu adaptable for those who are dairy-free, gluten-free, or nut-free, typical sandwiches and English cakes are on offer alongside dim sum favourites, tropical fruits, and a nod to India.
The Russian Tea Room, New York
Founded by former members of the Russian Imperial Ballet, this tea room has been reborn as a true socialite spot. Not simply because Madonna used to serve tables here, nor because of its numerous film appearances, nor because of its somewhat intense décor, but due to the addition of caviar (‘Royal menu’), flexible menus for kids and people with allergies, and its handy Carnegie Hall location.