High time for Shanghai high tea
From classic serving trays to poor imitations of afternoon ‘sets’, traditional high tea in Asia has taken quite a hit over the years. Although venues serving true high tea in Shanghai are few and far between, bona fide high tea experiences do exist in this city for those who crave classic class and luxury. The question is, will they be around for much longer?
Tradition on tradition
High tea enthusiasts, no need to panic, the first destination is simple. Think high tea, think Peninsula. This hotel chain’s topnotch reputation is justified and its new Shanghai property is no exception.
With a palatial lobby sure to please most royals, the Peninsula offers an equally impressive spread. So much more than scones and cucumber sandwiches, it provides the complete high tea experience.
Chef Lisa Crowe elaborates, "There is no more delightful and quintessential British institution than afternoon tea; and we absolutely pride ourselves on offering the customer all the touches he or she is expecting, ranging from daily string quartet to reviving the tea dance with an 18-piece band.”
And all pinky-raising jokes aside, it’s high time to drop high tea's unfair rep. No longer just for snooty sophisticates, the fashion of high tea is now for everyone and anyone to enjoy.
Crowe agrees: “High tea is not limited to one type of person. Our lobby is filled every day with a mixture of generations gathering for an afternoon of fun and socializing.”
We absolutely pride ourselves on offering the customer all the touches he or she is expecting, ranging from daily string quartet to reviving the tea dance with an 18-piece band.— Lisa Crowe, Peninsula hotel
Yet along with its growing fan club trails Shanghai’s ever evolving culinary scene. People will always dig the classics, but resident taste buds, old and new, continue to move with the times and high tea is no exception.
Let them eat cake
Some five-star properties have dared to put their own spin on one of Britain’s most famous exports. At Shanghai’s Portman Ritz-Carlton, die-hard fans can rest assured their favorite afternoon rite remains firmly on the menu, but chef Chris Busschaert notes a clear evolution of tastes.
“Guests nowadays are always on the look-out for something new and we aim to make their experience more interesting,” says Busschaert, who’s turning to the seasons for his high tea inspiration.
“Our upcoming high teas will feature fresh seasonal products in a variety of delicious forms from cake to mousse to traditional pastries.” And sweet tooths won’t be denied with a delectable ‘Art of Chocolate’ tea spread planned for later this year.
High tea fusion
Across the river in Pudong, the staff at the Park Hyatt believe change is good, and according to chef Gerhard Passrugger, just another part of Shanghai life.
“People [in Shanghai] have more knowledge about Western culture and food than most in China and I find them to be more appreciative of finding those classic features in a high tea,” notes Passrugger who has seen many changes since his arrival in 2003. “Shanghai is a fast and contemporary city and high tea should reflect that. It should have traditional roots, with a sophisticated contemporary touch.”
In line with this trend, the Hyatt crew have created the perfect fusion of sweet and savory with classic and contemporary. Think cucumber sandwiches with a twist and unconventional but tasty imports like miniature New York style bagels featuring Hyatt’s signature ice cold smoked salmon.
And never mind your usual scones, guests can also satiate their sugar fix with the likes of heavenly apricot egg tarts and dark hot chocolate.
So it looks as if high tea has a secure future in Shanghai. Hard core tea ladies (and a few select gentlemen) needn’t get their white gloves in a twist, just yet.
Park Hyatt Shanghai
100 Century Avenue, 87/F Shanghai World Financial Center (SWFC)
tel +86 21 6888 1234
Bund 32, 32 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu, near Beijing Dong Lu
tel +86 21 2327 2888
The Portman Ritz Carlton Shanghai
1376 Nanjing Xi Lu, near Xikang Lu
上海波特曼丽嘉大酒店, 南京西路1376号, 近西康路
tel +86 21 6279 8888