Six of the best: High teas around the world


This is perhaps the most quintessential place in the world at which to take afternoon tea: The Palm Court at The Ritz London, a mirrored, gold-ceilinged, birdcage-filled salon humming with happy voices and the tinkling of cake forks against china. The assortment of tea is extensive, the sandwiches gourmet, the cake selection at once both delicate and satiating. The space is booked out far in advance with honeymooning couples, people celebrating wedding anniversaries and special birthdays, and the few who for whom afternoon tea at The Ritz is a regular pastime. So popular is this activity, there are five sittings each day – the last one starting at 7.30pm. See


The location might be oriental, but the ambience is pure colonial here in the Mandarin Oriental's newly-restored Authors' Lounge where guests sink into white wicker chairs, immersing themselves in the tradition of those writers – many of them British – who regularly took afternoon tea in these airy rooms. The dress code is smart and the menu classic English – scones with Devonshire clotted cream, egg mayonnaise sandwiches, fruitcake. But for those keen to sample a local interpretation of this imported ritual, there's an Oriental tea set including such edibles as Thai dumplings, mango scones and steamed pumpkin custard. The Mariage Frères teas combine east and west, with selections featuring oolong, Assam and English breakfast teas. See


The Raj lives on in the Taj Mahal Hotel's daily afternoon tea service, when its master chefs curate and serve an English tea that would cause memsahibs across India to blush with pride. It's a fitting ritual, given the hotel's setting in New Delhi's embassy zone, and the hotel's role in hosting dignitaries and diplomats (among them several British Prime Ministers). But far more appropriate is the Indian selection, which starts off with a rosewater drink, continues with namkeens – snacks made from nuts, lentils, semolina and chickpea flour – and platters of Indian-style toasties, crumbed chillies and dhokla (a Guajarati specialty), and ends with kalakand, a Bengali sweet dusted with pistachios and cardamom. See 


Perhaps this is how David Livingstone took his own afternoon tea: seated on a safari chair beneath a khaki tent-cloth with the Victoria Falls tumbling into the precipice just metres away. The wild, rugged location doesn't preclude a fine tea service – there are scones with jam and cream, savoury tartlets, sandwiches, tea and even wine – but one comes here for the location rather than the refreshments. It's a short boat ride from the Royal Livingstone Hotel to Livingstone Island, from which the explorer first sighted the falls. Here guests are greeted with a traditional drink made from fermented maize meal, and taken on a tour of the island which culminates – for the brave – with a swim in Devil's Pool, on the edge of the falls. High tea rounds off what is a truly thrilling experience. See


The views on this mobile high tea excursion threaten to outdo the tea set: inside, there are white cloth-draped tables, glasses of Australian sparkling wine, pots of tea and coffee and tiered servings trays filled with scones, canapes, sandwiches and desserts. Outside, Sydney Harbour's unrivalled shoreline floats slowly by: the city's buildings jostling for space beside the quay, the Opera House sunning itself on the water's edge, the stately homes sweeping up the shoreline on the northern side. It takes some effort not to burn one's lips while gazing out at this scenery, but the boats on which Captain Cook Cruises serves its high teas – the MV Sydney 2000 and the John Cadman 2 – are steady enough to support both of these regal activities at once. See


Scones and cupcakes are on the high tea menu at ZJ's Bar and Lounge at The Mulia in Nusa Dua. But the local version is far more appealing, with its Indonesian flavours and witty interpretation of the English classics:  a cup of steaming ginger infusion is accompanied by lemper ayam (miniature banana leaf parcels stuffed with sticky rice and chicken); tape goreng (pyramids of fermented cassava wrapped with a ribbon of banana leaf); and jajanan pasar (an assortment of eats including tiny battered beef balls, cassava fritters and samosas). Sitting atop the high tea platter in all its sweet glory is kue lapis, a rainbow-bright, miniature slice of iced thousand-layer cake. See

Catherine Marshall has been a guest of the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, the Taj Mahal Hotel, Robin Pope Safaris, Captain Cook Cruises and The Mulia, Bali.