Whether you take it straight with no milk or with a dash of cream, one cannot underestimate the influence tea has had on our drinking culture. With a rich history dating back thousands of centuries, we currently drink more than 6 million cups of the stuff every year.
However, tea has humble beginnings and was mainly used in ritual offerings. In this way, the leaves were often boiled up and consumed as a vegetable. On the other hand, tea was even utilised for medicinal purposes through the various Chinese dynasties. Incorporating a number of different ingredients, it was predominantly used in the healing process with salt, spices and orange peel thrown in for good measure.
Furthermore, Buddhist monasteries cottoned on to this growing trend. It was believed that the caffeine content contained in tea was an excellent source of stamina for monks.
They were able to keep awake for much longer, especially during longer periods of contemplation. As a result, large tea fields flourished which several monasteries dedicated their time to. The discovery of tea itself dates back to the Chinese emperor Shennong around 2730 BC after his army took paus during a long and arduous excursion.
It is believed the eureka moment occurred when one of his slaves decided to boil up some water. After a bush leaf inconspicuously fell in turning the appearance brown, the legend had a fascinating story. Consequently, chai style tea came into existence and the rest as they say is history.
Nowadays, we all love to indulge in a rich and ostentatious afternoon tea experience featuring the finest blends from around the world. From delicate finger sandwiches to stunning French patisseries, China offers an exclusive selection of the finest high tea options.
10 The Langham, Shanghai: $22.50 Per Person
Served daily, The Palm Court lobby lounge is one of the most vibrant places to sample afternoon tea in Shanghai. It has a real 1930's Great Gatsby feel to it thanks to its Art Deco influences. Priced at $22.50, this is ideal for a couple. Sample a wealth of fine pastries produced by highly skilled pastry extraordinaire Kent Liu formerly in residence at The St. Regis Shanghai. The classic British scones are a delight while the strawberry macaroons and éclairs also rate highly. The best seats are to be found upstairs on the more exclusive second floor.
9 New Heights, Shanghai: $29 Per Person
Boasting an impressive al fresco terrace on top of Three on the Bund, you will certainly be taken to new heights in culinary cuisine. Enjoying an awe inspiring Pudong vista, you can impress any business associate or friend at New Heights. For $30 why not tuck into a sweet and savoury selection that will certainly tempt your palette. There is a genuine French theme to the whole affair where you can benefit from cute baguettes and more. Other highlights include superb raisin scones which are finished with a dollop of Chantilly cream for that added touch.
8 Raffles Hotel, Beijing: $30 Per Person
Constructed at the turn of the 20th Century, Raffles has been synonymous with the concept of hospitality. Their infamous “Personality Suites” feature some of the most popular patrons down the centuries from Charles de Gaulle to George Bernard Shaw. Step inside and enter The Raffles’ Writers Bar which is the perfect place for a spot of high tea. You can always upgrade if you want in order to go the extra mile. Aside from the standard fruit tarts and delicate scones, they offer more unique tea blends including Assam Barl, Fancy Sancha and Superior Oolong.
7 Sofitel Hotel Beijing: $32 Per Person
The main Sofitel in Beijing cordially invites you to sample their lavish afternoon tea. Its Vous Lobby Lounge has grandiose décor in abundance, striking ceilings and million dollar Swarovski set crystals. In fact you can take afternoon tea throughout the whole day between 7am and midnight. The strong Asian and French ties truly embody the stunning décor and appealing design here. Priced at $32, afternoon tea comprises of your drink of choice and a three tier selection which regularly changes according to the season.
6 Ritz-Carlton, Beijing: $35 Per Person
Renowned for its sophisticated interiors, the Ritz-Carlton stands out from the pack. Sip on a diverse range of tea and enjoy an afternoon in elegant surroundings. A real high-class establishment, you may need to put on your Sunday best. Tea is replenished so your porcelain cup will never be empty, while the cake display may have you reaching to undo an extra notch on that belt. Sweets include lemon meringue tart and decadent chocolate cake or fresh egg with caviar as well as smoked salmon with sour cream for savoury fans.
5 The Peace Hotel, Shanghai: $37.50 Per Person
A hidden retreat for the elite, the Peace Hotel delivers an exquisite afternoon tea. Once inside the elegant Jasmine Lounge, you can expect to find a plate of savoury treats including shrimp quiche and barbecue pork puffs. If that’s not enough then you can always skip to the three-tier cake stand simply bursting with scones, a zingy lemon tart and perfectly formed petit fours.
4 The Park Hyatt, Shanghai: $40 Per Person
Based on the 87th floor, The Park Hyatt, Shanghai is considered to be one of the tallest hotels on the planet. With views overlooking the Jinmao Tower, you should book ahead to enjoy the majestic views. For $40 the china tea set is extremely sophisticated, where you can choose from tea, coffee or a range of exotic fruit juices. Treats feature their very own smoked salmon, quiche filled to the brim with crab meat and basil as well as roasted capsicum with avocado.
3 China World Summit Wing, Champagne Afternoon Tea: $53 Per Person
If you have a head for heights, then the sky’s the limits at The Lounge. Located on the 80th floor of the Shangri-La, China World Summit Wing has a truly breath-taking spot for afternoon tea. Once you reach the actual summit, take in the 360 degree views of Beijing’s impressive cityscape. The Lounge has an all-encompassing tea list ranging from Mokalbarie, English Breakfast and Nurbong to Vanilla, Jasmine Gold and several herbal infusions. Pastries include cream caramel cup and a fresh fruit tart, and savoury fans can sample smoked salmon wrapped in cucumber or Parma ham in Italian Focaccia bread.
2 The Waldorf Astoria, Shanghai: $58 Per Person
The Waldorf’s discreet Salon de Ville in the heart of the Bund is the quintessential place for high tea. Bestowed with rich fixtures and Baroque style fittings, it really is a place to marvel. Gaze at the array of oil paintings adorning the walls or drape yourself in one of their relaxing chairs. Select from salmon cream rolls, tiny quiches and rich buttery scones that comes with a choice of either whipped mascarpone or clotted cream.
1 The Peninsula Hotel, Shanghai: $60 Per Person Including Champagne
The epitome of high society, a trip to Shanghai’s Peninsula Hotel is a must. Experience the quiet tinkling of the ivories thanks to live piano sessions which transforms this airy Art Deco inspired lobby. Priced at $60 you can treat yourself to a champagne afternoon tea with an elegant silver service. It offers quiche filled with mushroom and truffle not to mention a choice of scones, clotted cream and bite-size cheesecake.