If you enjoy the wonderful afternoon tea offered in the Rittenhouse Hotel’s Mary Cassatt Tea Room, you may want to explore high tea at your next international travel destination. Needless to say, London is a great place to start a tea tour, and my personal favorite is tea at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, which sits on the Southern Edge of Hyde Park. You can enjoy ‘Ab Fab’ views while nibbling a scone and sipping anything from Earl Grey to Champagne. But for a more exotic High Tea experience, there are two destinations that shouldn’t be missed.
First, the high tea at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, Tiffin Room, is a unique blend of British ambience and regional delights. White-gloved service ensures that your tea cup is constantly re-filled with black-tea and typical tea-time sandwiches are served. However, you’ll also be able to fill your stomach and your senses even further with the buffet of dumplings and Asian-inspired warm foods. To best enjoy the tea come hungry, well-dressed and ready to flash back to another time.
A note on history: the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, located at 1 Beach Road, is named for Sir Stamford Raffles, best known as the founder of Singapore. The colonial-style hotel was first opened in 1887. In 1987 it was declared a National Monument of Singapore. High tea there is all of a culinary and cultural experience, and a necessary stop on any tour of the state!
A second tea-must is at the Burj Al Arab in Dubai. If you’ve seen photos of this hotel, you know that its sailboat-inspired architecture is magnificent and incomparable to anything in Philadelphia. There’s a price-tag to enjoying it up close, however, and one way to visit the inside of the hotel as a non-guest is to enjoy afternoon tea in the Lobby Lounge. It is also possible to have tea in the Sky Bar – but we found the openness of the lobby lounge far more attractive, and once you’re inside, you can easily take a visitor’s elevator up to see the views up top. After getting over the excitement of dozens of flashy cars parked in front of the hotel, you will be greeted at the door with a plate of large dates (the local delicacy) and a few drops of rosewater to freshen your hands. Proceed up the stairs to the lobby lounge where music will be playing and diners will be scattered enjoying anything from a drink to a hookah pipe. The afternoon tea provides a splendid assortment of flavorful teas and nearly seven full courses of finger sandwiches, snacks and sweets. Although the service leaves a bit to be desired and the interior décor is not to everyone’s taste, this experience is well worth its price in gold (even if that gold is used to plate the hotel suite’s bathrooms)!