Afternoon tea is such a timeless ritual of the British culture. It evolved as a way for the Duchesses in the nineteenth century to fill the boring gap between lunch & dinner.
Nowadays, High Tea comes in many forms. It can be a simple slice of fruits and a mug of tea brewed at home. But where’s the fun in that? This is why in hotels & restaurants across the world, the form of Afternoon Tea paired with fine china and a proper cake stand remain extremely popular.
The elegant surroundings is all a pleasant part of the overall experience. After all, we crave this tradition not because we’re hungry… but it’s because we formally want to socialize.
Just like the Duchesses, it’s a time where women wear elegant dresses. Heck, it’s a random excuse for everyone to wear a fancy hat. It’s not just a pastime, but a way of life!
Where to go for Afternoon Tea? Despite a vast array of options, we’ll for fun compare the two most popular ones in Southern California…
Round 1: Ambiance
Understated vs. Overstatement. The Yin to The Yang. These two places are pretty opposite in terms of the feel when you enter the hotel.
At the Langham, you hear a gentle stream of water flowing as you cross its Japanese Garden throughout the hotel. It’s a quaint setting where you almost forget you’re in Pasadena, but at the heart of somewhere relaxing… somewhere transformative into the past.
Whilst at the Peninsula, you see exotic cars purring and just see $$$$ in the air. Part of the reason is because this hotel is situated in the center of Beverly Hills. Just couple blocks away from Rodeo Drive, it’s a modern twist on its old tradition blending tea with exuberant luxury.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Both are luxuriously welcoming in its own different way. One is more “Zen” the other is simply more “Grand”. It all depends on what you’re in the mood for.
Round 2: The Three-Tiered Plating
I have to admit. Pastries are usually not my cup of tea (pun totally intended). The texture is too hard for my liking and the flavors honestly taste a little bland. That being said, there’s something about the fine china plating that attracts my eyes in eating the food anyways.
Starting from the lowest layer, a classic afternoon tea consist of some scones served with jams and cream… followed by some finger sandwiches… and top with dessert such as cakes, biscuits, macaroons, and small pastries.
In addition to the fine china plating, The Peninsula offers an additional dessert with strawberries and cream, which makes the high tea tradition feel a little more special.
It kind of reminds me of The Savoy London where the butlers offer french pastries served table-side on a silver platter. You don’t expect it, but it’s a nice touch.
Just a quick side caution, champagnes are expensive. Sigh, sometimes you just can’t help yourself and just bite the overpriced bubbles. Life’s a celebration after all!
Round 3: Assorted Teas
Both places have copious amounts of tea selections. From Darjeeling to Genmai to Earl Grey to Chamomile, you have unlimited refills and brewing on the types you select.
This is why so many people can sit for hours here and just gossip the afternoon away. At the Langham, we would overhear twelve ladies chattering about their boyfriend adventures whilst at the Peninsula, we would see ladies and gentlemen in gowns & suits getting ready to attend their afternoon social events.
You almost feel like you’re transformed into your own reality T.V. show… Hm, let’s call it “Keeping up with Chai Bear” 😉
Final Round: Overall Verdict/Service
While both nowhere matches the caliber of The Savoy London , these hotels successfully captures the essence of this formal English tradition. Which one is better though?
In my personal opinion, though Langham has a slight edge in the quality of the dessert/pastries, The Peninsula overall wins in the feel & offerings of the Afternoon High Tea.
All in all, Afternoon Tea is a wonderful novelty. Regardless of its location, it’s good to call up your families/friends and pretend your lives is always in First Class. So let’s turn on the T.V. and watch an episode of “Keeping Up with Chai Bear”… and might as well look fancy while doing it.