In Search of the Best Afternoon Tea in Hong Kong
Speaking of Britain’s cultural influence in Hong Kong’s food culture, there is no better example than afternoon tea (and maybe Cha Chaan Teng – a story for another time). Even after the British left the harbor city, Hong Kong carried on with the afternoon tea tradition adopted from the colonial era. No wonder why it is one of the must-do cultural experiences for visitors.
I missed out on the afternoon tea experience last time I visited the city a few years ago. If you follow me on my Instagram, you know I finally tried one on my recent trip to Hong Kong.
Challenge: Finding the Best Afternoon Tea in Hong Kong
I asked a group of friends, including my trusty friend Google. You might ask what all the fuss is? It’s just a tea. Well, there are too many options to choose. While it’s usually a good problem to have, like many other travelers, I only had limited time in Hong Kong. If I can squeeze only one in my schedule, I wanted to choose the best, which made my quest more challenging.
In the end, I decided to go with The Lobby at the Peninsula.
Why the Peninsula Hong Kong?
The Peninsula Hotel has been serving afternoon tea in Hong Kong since 1929. While Hong Kong is flourished with five-star hotels and their afternoon tea services, Peninsula’s 90-year-long tradition has established its name for luxury and classic.
Peninsula was not my first afternoon tea at a five-star luxury hotel. It certainly won’t be my last. I will have many other opportunities to try the city’s famous afternoon teas at other establishments. However, I thought Peninsula would be an excellent place to try my first afternoon tea in Hong Kong so that I will have a good standard to compare with others in the future.
The Lobby at the Peninsula Hotel
The Peninsula hotel is a classic old charm. I casually walked past the iconic Rolls Royce parked in front of the hotel, which I heard was available for the hotel guests. Inside the high-ceiling lobby, as I glided through the marble floor, long carpeted stairs captured my eyes. Canon in D played by a string quartet on the upstairs balcony filled the air in the elaborately decorated space.
Before the afternoon tea hour began, the Lobby was already full of guests enjoying brunch or coffee. The clientele was quite international with a good mix of Asians and Westerners. Quite impressive.
Classic British Afternoon Tea
Not disappointedly, I would say the afternoon tea at the Peninsula was as expected. It is the classic afternoon tea you would expect British ladies would have at Woburn Abbey.
The Lobby offers many selections of tea to choose from: the Peninsula classic (Earl Grey), flavored, organic blend and organic herbal infusions (Moroccan mint, chamomile orange blossom, verbena, rooibos tangerine and Swiss herbs). I debated between Moroccan mint and verbena. Per the waitress’ recommendation, I chose verbena. Initially, I was slighted concerned about the lemon-y flavor from its description; however, I was satisfied that it was rather refreshing than sour.
The afternoon tea set came with cucumber, ham and smoked salmon finger sandwiches, scones and assorted bite-size cakes on a 3-tier platter tower. Classic!
Scones are my favorite part of afternoon tea. Those scones did not disappoint me. For one, I loved its generous portion – two scones per person. Score! And they were delicious, seriously! How can I say no to freshly-baked, warm and soft raisin scones with fruit jam and heavenly clotted cream? Even though I came in with a full stomach after Michelin 3-star dim sum, I couldn’t pass up on those yummies. I stuffed my stomach with scones, so I had to use a doggie bag for dessert cakes.
Side note: Did you know Peninsula Hotel has a dessert shop at the Hong Kong Airport? If you like to bring home some of Peninsula’s beautiful desserts, you can find assorted truffles and chocolates, chocolate-coated orange peel, coffee egg rolls, traditional cookies, etc. These delicious sweets come in a beautiful package, making them a great gift. My favorite is the dark chocolate-dipped cookies, which are presented in a beautiful tin box with a branded magnet.
Know This Before You Go
Show up early.
Like many other popular establishments, The Lobby at the Peninsula does not accept reservation. It’s a first-come, first-serve base. By 1:40 p.m., there was a long line of people (I’d say about 30) for afternoon tea while the Lobby was full of guests still enjoying brunch.
Follow the dress code.
It’s common sense to dress appropriately for afternoon tea at such a classy place like the Peninsula Hotel. Because I like to dress comfortably for travel otherwise, I planned afternoon tea on a day I would be ok wearing a decent outfit. You don’t need to wear a fancy dress and high heels, but flip-flops are definitely no, no.
It’s not just for women.
The afternoon tea tradition is originated and developed in Britain as a social function among high-class women. Understandably, in the U.S., men seem to shy away from afternoon tea. So I was pleasantly surprised to see many gentlemen at the Peninsula Lobby sipping afternoon tea.
Afternoon Tea vs. High Tea
Many people mistakenly use the terms afternoon tea and high tea interchangeably. However, they are not the same. Originally, high-class British women enjoyed afternoon tea on low, comfortable chairs as a way to have a light snack before dinner while socializing. On the other hand, working-class families had high tea that consists of a hearty meal and tea in the placement of dinner. “High” in high tea refers to the height of a dining chair the tea was served, not the social status.
Is the Peninsula the best afternoon tea in Hong Kong?
I enjoyed my first Hong Kong afternoon tea experience at the Peninsula Hotel. I was glad I chose to have it at the famous Lobby.
Afternoon tea at the Peninsula is not a cheap affair. It’s $388 HKD (roughly $50 USD) for one or $688 HKD ($88 USD) for two, plus 10% service charge. If you add a glass of brut champagne, the price goes up by $200 HKD. Do I think it’s still worth it?
I don’t always go luxury when I travel. But I do like to treat myself with the well-worth experience from time to time. Call me biased because I love afternoon tea, but I believe afternoon tea at the Peninsula Hong Kong was one of those affairs.
While I can’t say that the Peninsula offers the best afternoon tea in Hong Kong – simply because I haven’t had the others in the city, I would recommend it without hesitation. Based on its reputation and my previous afternoon tea experiences, I have no doubt that it would be among top 5 in Hong Kong anyway.
If you plan to have an afternoon tea in Hong Kong, I hope that my experience helped you decide whether the afternoon tea at the Lobby, The Peninsula Hong Kong is worthwhile for you. After all, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
Afternoon Tea at the Lobby Peninsula
- Location: Google Map
- Hours: 2 pm – 6 p.m. (First-come, First-served)
- Phone: +852- 2696-6772 (for inquiries only; no reservation available)
- Dress Code: Smart Casual
Have you had an amazing afternoon tea that you’d like to recommend? Please drop me a line with your suggestion.
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