Tokyo's 5 best hotel high tea experiences
Just as the aristocratic ladies of 19th century England gathered in the drawing rooms of stately homes to gossip and share society news over cups of milky tea, cucumber sandwiches (sans crusts) and sweets, modern women meet at friends' apartments, the office cafeteria and the local cafés to banter and reconnect.
However, taking afternoon tea at Tokyo's smartest hotels raises this crucial ritual to an aesthetic indulgence. There are moist and fluffy scones, delectable selections of finger sandwiches, sinfully indulgent cakes and an endless choice of tea -- not to mention the attentive staff, live music and luxurious and glamorous surroundings.
So which Tokyo hotels are best for a gossip with the girls?
The Ritz-Carlton: Heavenly 'Heavenly Tea'
The 'highest' place in the city to have afternoon tea is The Ritz-Carlton Tokyo. Heavenly Tea (¥4,300) is offered in the sleek and modern Lobby Lounge located on the 45th floor of the tallest building in Tokyo. The only thing better than the cachet of taking tea at the Ritz is the incredible view of the city.
Kazuhiro Izumi, manager of Lobby Lounge and Bar, recommends the rooibos tea scented with berries, apricots and honey. The tea makes a good counterpoint to the citron scone with lashings of clotted cream and Wilkin & Sons preserves. And all choices can be enjoyed against a pleasant background of live piano. As Izumi says, "Afternoon tea is a nice experience to give yourself, and we certainly provide this for the ladies."
Peninsula: A global tradition
The Peninsula chain, meanwhile, is famous as a tea destination the world over, due to the iconic reputation of The Peninsula Hong Kong's afternoon tea. "The Lobby Classic Afternoon Tea Set" (¥3,600) at Peninsula Tokyo is rooted in British custom and as authentic as it comes. "This is why it is appreciated and loved by all," states Mark Kobayashi, The Peninsula Tokyo's director of public relations. Tea is served in cups of eggshell-thin bone china, accompanied by dainty sweets, like the fromage mousse and chocolate and pistachio pound cake. Since The Peninsula is a freestanding hotel, the chic lobby has a thriving pulse and makes for the perfect place to people watch.
The Shangri-La: Generous servings
Afternoon tea (¥3,900) at The Shangri-La Hotel, Tokyo is served in the classic 'three plate' style with extremely generous servings (three different types of scones compared to the usual two). The hotel further strengthens the tea experience with a welcome sweet and a selection of final mignardises. The warm tones and understated elegance of the 28th floor Lobby Lounge ensures that guests feel ensconced in their own private bubble. Oliver Weber, executive chef, describes the lounge as a sanctuary within Tokyo: "Our flower displays, artwork and extensive chandeliers all contribute to create a guest experience which is unique."
The Four Seasons Tokyo at Chinzan-so: Escape Tokyo for a few hours, in Tokyo
Miki Takemura from the Communications department of The Four Seasons Tokyo at Chinzan-so says their afternoon tea (¥3,000) is the ideal place to relax and enjoy nature. The hotel sits on a 66,000 square meter site, and the Japanese-style garden has one of the oldest three-storied pagodas still remaining in Tokyo. "In summer, people come and admire the fireflies and in autumn, the changing leaves. The garden is to be admired with each passing season."
Located thirty minutes from the city, guests at Chinzan-so have the impression they're in the countryside rather than in the middle of the world's largest megalopolis. The seasonal tea menu, with specialties such as green rooibos with strawberry cream, further enhances the experience of escape by tuning into the rhythm of the garden.
Mandarin Oriental: No cucumber, only originals
The Legendary Afternoon Tea (¥3,800) at the Mandarin Oriental Tokyo retains some traditional elements but with an Asian twist. As Naoya Sugino, the Oriental Lounge manager explains, "The seasonal sweets collection is served in an Oriental style small display shelf, not in a typical English-style three-tiered stand. The sandwiches are served with seasonal ingredients like foie gras paste and pear puree or egg, olive and dried tomato tart. Not the typical ones with cucumber. Each item is new or unique and not in a typical style."
At the Mandarin Oriental, twenty different kinds of fine tea are served by the cup. Guests can order as many as they like while admiring the views of Mt Fuji from the 38th floor. Many ladies wittle away their time here until the sun sets and changes the color of the night sky.
(Note: All prices below do not include the additional 10% service charge)