The 2023 Top 25 Historic Hotels Worldwide Afternoon Tea Experiences List Is Announced
WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#afternoontea—Historic Hotels Worldwide®, a collection of more than 300 authentic historic hotels in over 46 countries, is pleased to announce The 2023 Top 25 Historic Hotels Worldwide Afternoon Tea Experiences List. The hotels selected for recognition in this semi-annual list offer heritage travelers and cultural experience seekers a chance to immerse themselves in a tradition from Victorian Britain that is being preserved and revived around the world: afternoon tea. While the custom of tea ceremonies dates back millennia around the world, the tradition of afternoon tea—a light meal served mid-afternoon with tea or sparkling wine—is traced to the English aristocrat Anna Russell, the 7th Duchess of Bedford and Queen Victoria’s Lady of the Bedchamber. Her household served dinner fashionably late, at or after 8 p.m., but the duchess did not want to wait so long between luncheon and supper. Being regularly hungry at 3 or 4 p.m., she instituted a new meal in the early 1840s. The influential Duchess of Bedford became a trendsetter when her “afternoon tea” became popular among women of means in the British hegemony during the late-19th and early-20th centuries, a time when social and cultural mores were rapidly changing for these women. The pursuit of activities away from one’s home became socially acceptable, even fashionable, and afternoon tea was a hit. Many of the historic hotels selected for the list are in the British Isles–the United Kingdom and Ireland–but other historic destinations with afternoon tea experiences can be discovered in China, Portugal, Singapore, Myanmar, and the Netherlands. These regions all played a vital role in the global history of tea, and many of the hotels selected make the history of tea and tea rituals part of the cultural experience they offer visitors. A perfect fit with hotels, the tradition of afternoon tea symbolizes hospitality, tradition, indulgence, sustenance, and friendship. Several of the afternoon teas selected for this list serve guests tea with a twist, offering literature, augmented reality, art, and dancing. The 25 hotels selected offer visitors opportunities to discover the history of tea, indulge in afternoon tea, and experience its romance within meticulously restored historic settings that include elegant castles, refined manor homes, and luxury hotels.
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The K Club (550 AD) Straffan, County Kildare, Ireland
On an estate dating to 550 with buildings that date to 1832, The K Club is a luxury Irish resort within the quaint county of Kildare and was inducted into Historic Hotels Worldwide in 2014. The resort offers a wealth of dining outlets among its many on-site experiences, including afternoon tea in the Drawing Room—one of the most refined and elegant dining spaces at The K Club. The Drawing Room boasts hand-painted wallpaper, picture windows, a magnificent fireplace, oversized antique vases and a gentle sense of genteel refinement. Both classic and festively themed afternoon teas are enjoyed here in this historic setting. The K Club invites visitors to experience this indulgent occasion, created for pure enjoyment. The Drawing Room serves a menu featuring an assortment of scones and Irish-themed sandwiches, including Quinlan’s Smoked Irish Salmon, mature cheddar and baked ham, and free-range eggs. Pastries and cakes served include chocolate, blueberry tart, carrot cake, and Battenberg Cake. Gluten free and vegan options are available, as is a dedicated children’s menu. Guests may add to their tea service wine, including sparkling wine. Afternoon tea is served daily from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Reservations are recommended.
Dromoland Castle Hotel (1014) Newmarket-on-Fergus, County Clare, Ireland
The enchanting Dromoland Castle Hotel has been welcoming guests since the 16th century. It is the ancestral home of the O’Briens of Dromoland, with a lineage that dates back over 1,000 years to one of the last High Kings of Ireland, Brian Boru. The castle was massively updated and renovated in the 1820s, with additions, carvings, and priceless art, and little has changed since then. A long-standing tradition at Dromoland Castle, the hotel aims to impress with this fun and indulgent ritual. Named for a long-standing member of the hotel’s staff, Mrs. White’s Afternoon Tea is a feast fit for royalty. Guests enjoy the prettiest selection of treats: scrumptious finger sandwiches, warm scones with clotted cream and homemade jams, delicate pastries, signature tea rack, and sweet confections. Loose-leaf teas from around the world are served in sparkling silver teapots, alongside beautiful fine china. Mrs. White’s Afternoon Tea is served from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily. Reservations are recommended. Dromoland Castle Hotel was inducted into Historic Hotels Worldwide in 2011 and won the Historic Hotels Worldwide Awards of Excellence Historic Hotels Worldwide Sustainability Champion award in 2022 for its commitment to protecting the environment for future generations. It is a gateway to Ireland’s history and culture, close to the Aran Islands, Ennis, and the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark.
Castlemartyr Resort (1210) County Cork, Ireland
Once a sprawling medieval fortress and dating back to the Normans in the 13th century, Castlemartyr Resort operates today as a magnificent holiday retreat just outside the city of Cork, County Cork, Ireland. The resort debuted in 2008 following years of extensive renovation and was inducted into Historic Hotels Worldwide in 2022. Among the many outstanding services included within the authentic destination, Castlemartyr Resort serves afternoon tea in the Knights Bar in the Manor House. Guests are invited to enjoy afternoon tea beneath the Lafranchini-designed Rococo ceiling, overlooking the formal gardens of Castlemartyr Resort, while indulging in vintage-style service. The Knights Bar is one of the Manor House’s architectural gems with its famous Rococo-style stucco ceiling, floor-to-ceiling sash windows, warming fireplace, and beautiful decoration. Castlemartyr Resort’s afternoon tea features a pot of tea or specialty coffee accompanied by dainty finger sandwiches, tea breads, pastries, and scones with clotted cream and preserves. Gluten-free, children’s tea, and sparkling wine options are available. Afternoon Tea is served Wednesday through Sunday, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam (1578) Amsterdam, Netherlands
When the Netherlands’ Dutch East India Company brought the first recorded shipment of tea leaves to trade in Europe in 1610, the Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam–which had been established in 1578 originally to house a religious order–was serving as lodgings for royal and upper-class men of Amsterdam. Inducted into Historic Hotels Worldwide in 2018, Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam today continues its centuries-long tradition of hospitality through its contemporary afternoon tea service. In 2023, the talented Pâtissiers from Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam created an exceptional and delightful afternoon tea, inspired by Lewis Carroll’s novel, Alice in Wonderland. At the Alice in The Grand Wonderland Afternoon Tea, guests are invited to join Alice on her journey through Wonderland while enjoying delicious ‘eat me’ bites and ‘drink me’ teas selected by the hotel’s tea sommelier, Cecilia Tjing. The tea is served on a black étagère, with white plates featuring beautiful golden leaves. The Alice in The Grand Wonderland Afternoon Tea is served, naturally, in the Library ‘Or,’ which has a rich collection of books about local culture, architecture and French “savoir-faire.” The hotel’s traditional afternoon tea is offered throughout the year and is also served in the Library ‘Or.’ In addition to the tea pairing, the hotel also offers the ultimate experience for the true whisky lover with a Glenfiddich Scotch & Sweets tea. When the weather is agreeable, afternoon tea can be enjoyed in The Garden Terrace The Garden Terrace can be found in the beautiful inner garden of The Grand. It is one of Amsterdam’s best kept secrets; an oasis of peace and tranquility, situated in the heart of the city.
Sopwell House (1603) St. Albans, England, United Kingdom
Located in the peaceful countryside of Hertfordshire, England, Sopwell House is a historic, Georgian-style hotel that dates back over 300 years, as the earliest known record of the location is a deed from 1603. Just a 20-minute train ride from London, afternoon tea at Sopwell House is served in the hotel’s refurbished restaurant, Omboo, and the experience is a treat not to be missed. Guests enjoy a beautiful, tiered stand complete with delicious seasonal delicacies and pastries, homemade scones with Devonshire clotted cream and strawberry preserves, and traditional finger sandwiches. There is an option to add a refreshing glass of Champagne along with the accompanying Newby loose-leaf tea or filtered coffee. Specialty and themed afternoon teas are also often available throughout the year including Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Christmas. Please note that during these periods only the Afternoon Tea offering for that occasion will be available. Vegan, Vegetarian, and allergen-free options available.
The Trafalgar St. James London, Curio Collection by Hilton (18th century) London, England, United Kingdom
The Rockwell restaurant and lounge at The Trafalgar St. James London, Curio Collection by Hilton, serves a spin on afternoon tea: the Tipple Tea. The Trafalgar St. James London, Curio Collection by Hilton, was once home to a shipping business called the Cunard Steamship Company during the 18th century and became a fine hotel in 2017 after an extensive restoration, then inducted into Historic Hotels Worldwide in 2018. Today, the hotel’s bar manager and his team of mixologists designed a selection of cocktails and bites, taking inspiration from classic afternoon tea elements and adding unique twists. The cocktails are a celebration of local British culture. Concoctions like the Earl Grey-infused “Victoria” cocktail and the “Twelve Buckingham Street” cocktail, made with 70 percent cacao essence, are fresh takes on the classic cup of tea or chocolate. Non-alcoholic cocktails are also available, such as “The Bee Project” (Everleaf Forest, honey water, lemon juice, chamomile soda, honeycomb) and “Rosebay” (rosebud syrup, pink grapefruit shrub, alcohol-free sparkling wine, violet bitters). On the menu are savory and sweet creations: smokey chipotle pulled beef sliders, pickles and taleggio crab rolls, seaweed relish foie gras, toasted brioche, apple calvados jelly baked camembert, sourdough, smoked chili jelly, sweet mini choux buns, banana brûlée, butter shortbread, peach tartelette, chartreuse jelly, brandy crème beau rivage, and pistachio chantilly. Tipple Tea is served Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday through Sunday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Tivoli Palacio de Seteais (1787) Sintra, Portugal
More than a luxurious hotel, Tivoli Palácio de Seteais is a breathtaking 18th-century romantic retreat exuding and celebrating Portuguese history and heritage. One celebrated aspect of that history is the nation’s role in the popularization of tea. The estate is located on the Sintra hillside, a UNESCO World Heritage site, with views of the Moorish castle and Pena Palace, and was inducted into Historic Hotels Worldwide in 2016. Afternoon tea at Tivoli Palácio de Seteais Hotel was revived in 2021 with the arrival of the new pastry chef, Cíntia Koerper. Koerper designed The Queens’ Tea menus, served daily at 5 p.m., to spotlight the Portuguese connection to this genteel tradition. The Queens’ Tea is inspired by two Queens of Portuguese history: Carlota Joaquina and Catarina de Bragança. The first menu is inspired by Queen Carlota Joaquina of Bourbon. She visited Seteais Palace with her husband, King D. João VI (John VI), in 1802. The owner of the palace at the time built the monumental arch linking the two wings of the Palace to celebrate their visit. The second afternoon tea menu is an homage to Queen Catherine of Bragança, daughter of the King of Portugal, who very famously popularized tea in England after she married England’s King Charles II in 1662. Portugal was engaged in a lucrative tea trade with China in the mid-1600s and Catherine brought loose leaf tea to England as part of her dowry. At the time, tea was used only medicinally in England, but the young queen made it popular as a social beverage by the end of the 17th century. Both menus are served in one of the magnificent ballrooms of the hotel, surrounded by tapestries and frescos, thousands of art pieces, and exclusive fine china from the recognized Portuguese brand Vista Alegre. The dinnerware of Tivoli Palácio de Seteais was design exclusively to the hotel by Vista Alegre, a very traditional Portuguese brand, creating beautiful fine china since 1824. Visitors can buy a selection of tea blends at the hotel and can take with them any leftovers of the tea service. Reservations are required for the Queen Carlota Joaquina menu. Featured Recipe: Tivoli Palacio de Seteais’s Palace Scones By Pastry Chef Cintia Koerper.
Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort & Spa (1852) St Andrews, Scotland, United Kingdom
Afternoon tea at the Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort & Spa is the perfect gift for a special occasion for a golfer, or to be enjoyed “just because” in all its decadence. The resort hotel near St Andrews, Scotland, borders the renowned 17th Road Hole of the historic Old Course golf course, which is celebrated throughout the world for its contributions to the international history of golf. For centuries, people have traveled to this majestic destination to play on its prestigious fairways. The Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort & Spa overlooks the famous links course and is only a short stroll from the historic university town of St Andrews. The hotel dates to 1852 and it was inducted into Historic Hotels Worldwide in 2017. Its refined afternoon tea is served either in the Conservatory or on the fourth floor of the hotel. Guests can take in the stunning views across the Old Course while they enjoy sandwiches, scones, cakes, pastries, and a wide selection of teas—or perhaps a glass or two of sparkling wine. Special themed afternoon teas throughout the year to mark events, such as Halloween and Christmas. The Valentine’s Afternoon Tea spotlights an array of sweet treats, including strawberry and champagne macaroons, teddy bear Bailey’s cheesecakes, ruby chocolate and red velvet gateaux, and white chocolate and rose custard tarts.
Great Southern Killarney (1854) Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland
Afternoon tea has been served at Great Southern Killarney since it opened in County Kerry, Ireland in 1854. The Great Southern Killarney hotel first opened as The Railway Hotel in 1854 and was the first purpose-built railway hotel in Ireland. The train journey between Dublin and Killarney took over nine hours at this time, so the early morning train would arrive just in time for weary travelers to enjoy afternoon tea after checking in. Tea was originally served in one of the ladies’ drawing rooms to the side of the Grand Foyer. In 1861, the town of Killarney hosted Queen Victoria and her entourage. While Queen Victoria did not stay at Great Southern Killarney, the hotel did host her entourage for the duration of their visit. While here, the queen’s party enjoyed afternoon tea daily in the drawing rooms. Today, afternoon tea is served Wednesday through Sunday, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., beneath the gold gilded ceiling of The Garden Room restaurant. The Garden Room offers guests magnificent views of the hotels’ surrounding six acres of gardens, previously featured in The 2022 Top 25 Historic Hotels Worldwide Most Magnificent Gardens List. The afternoon tea menu includes three tiers of sweets and savories, including Irish smoked salmon, egg, and watercress finger sandwiches, fruit and plain scones with jam and cream, and freshly baked cakes and other sweet treats. Guests can select from a variety of Ronnefeldt Tea options or coffee, served in fine china cups and saucers, and even opt to add a little sparkle to the afternoon tea experience with a glass of Prosecco. Featured Recipe: Great Southern Killarney’s Scones
Oatlands Park Hotel (1856) Weybridge, England, United Kingdom
Located within a Grade II-listed building developed in the late 18th century, Oatland Parks Hotel in Weybridge, England is a brilliant holiday destination with a heritage that harkens back to King Henry VIII and the greater Tudor dynasty. It originated in the 16th century, when the king gave the estate to his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, to use at her leisure. The manor became a grand hotel in 1856. Today, not only can guests experience aristocratic heritage while staying at this spectacular historic hotel, but they can also enjoy an incredibly memorable vacation. A significant component to the hotel’s contemporary identity is its culinary offerings, such as its fantastic afternoon tea sessions. Indulge in one of the most delicious British traditions with afternoon tea at Oatlands Park Hotel. Tea at Oatlands Park Hotel is set in the splendor of the Mulberry Restaurant with views across the Surrey countryside and gardens, for which the hotel was selected for The 2022 Top 25 Historic Hotels Worldwide Most Magnificent Gardens List. Guests enjoy sandwiches, warm scones, homemade cakes, and pastries, accompanied by a range of teas from T2. The hotel caterers can serve groups of up to 30 guests in the beautifully decorated Drawing Room. For smaller groups, there is private dining available in the Garden Room and Cromwell Suite. Afternoon tea is served Monday to Saturday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Reservations are recommended.
Grand Hotel Huis ter Duin (1885) Noordwijk aan Zee, Netherlands
Located along the North Sea coastline halfway between The Hague and Amsterdam, the Grand Hotel Huis Ter Duin offers afternoon tea in its stunning Brasserie La Terrasse restaurant. Grand Hotel Huis ter Duin first opened in 1885 and was inducted into Historic Hotels Worldwide in 2011. With its long stretch of white sandy beach, the resort regularly welcomed the royal families of the Netherlands and Belgium, as well as throngs of international celebrities. Members of the House of Orange and members of the Belgian Royal Family were regular guests, charmed by the intimate service and distinctive accommodations. The hotel’s Victorian past, and the story of afternoon tea and Anna Russell, 7th Duchess of Bedford, inspired the Dutch hotel’s Chef de Cuisine to compose a contemporary version of High Tea. In the warm, stylish atmosphere of Brasserie La Terrasse, guests and visitors enjoy fresh ingredients and an international selection of teas to give a relaxing afternoon a royal touch. While serving the tea, the restaurant host speaks to guests about the origin of the teas and its combinations with the food served. Afternoon tea is served daily between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Reservations are required at least 24 hours in advance.
Raffles Singapore (1887) Singapore
Inducted into Historic Hotels Worldwide in 2018, Raffles Singapore rose from humble origins as a small seaside hotel that first debuted in the late 1800s. When the Sarkies hotelier family acquired the building for the development of a luxury hotel in Singapore, they named it “Raffles Hotel” in 1887 and the business became one of the most sought-after destinations in Southeast Asia. One of the new offerings of the hotel under the Sarkies’ management was afternoon tea and it has been a mainstay ever since. Today, afternoon tea is served in the hotel’s Grand Lobby. Along with the traditional and chic afternoon tea menu, special afternoon tea menus are offered throughout the year, such as menus for December festivals and Valentine’s Day. During winter 2023, the hotel is spotlighting Korean cuisine in its special Seoul Afternoon Tea menu. Guests can delight in a Korean-inspired sweet and savory spread including beef bulgogi roll, and a delectable array of traditional Korean sweet delights curated by Executive Pastry Chef Tai Chien Lin. These sweet treats are inspired by comforting flavors and familiar ingredients well-loved by locals and visitors of Seoul. As with all its afternoon teas, the Seoul Afternoon Tea is presented beautifully on a three-tier silver stand and served alongside The Grand Lobby’s signature home-made original and raisin scones, complemented with clotted cream and strawberry rose jam. Guests may choose to elevate the experience with a choice of “Mariage Frères” loose tea leaves or Raffles’ custom blended coffee. Reservations are required.
The Savoy London (1889) London, England, United Kingdom
For over 130 years, The Savoy London has served an award-winning traditional afternoon tea, the quintessential afternoon tea that set the standards for the experience around the world. When it was established in 1889 in Victorian London, The Savoy was, for a time, the only public place where it was respectable for upper-class and aristocratic women to dine. Until then, these ladies were expected to dine in their own homes or at the homes of friends. Norms began to change when Lady de Grey, the wife of one of the Prince of Wales’ racing friends, hosted a luncheon for a select number of her friends, and these aristocratic ladies dined, unchaperoned, in The Savoy’s main restaurant. In 1895, Princess Alexandra attended a wedding breakfast at The Savoy without her husband and, if the future Queen could dine out at The Savoy without her husband in the same room, then any woman could. When other women saw that it was now acceptable for them to dine in public, they followed that lead. Ladies could now have afternoon tea out with their friends as they liked. In the evenings, they would still come to The Savoy with their husbands, for as the first famous General Manager of The Savoy, Cesar Ritz, said “Where the wives go, their husbands will follow.” All hotel dining took place primarily in The Savoy Restaurant at the time (now the River Restaurant). Afternoon tea is still served in the same location today, on Monday and Tuesday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. and on Wednesday through Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. While The Savoy’s afternoon tea has evolved over the years, the essential components remain the same: tea, sandwiches, and patisserie, complimented by creative freedom for pastry chefs. The traditional afternoon tea comes with savory and sweet delights, with tea and options for Champagne, English Sparkling Wine, sparkling tea, and non-alcoholic sparkling wine. The Savoy serves guests on fine china exclusively designed for the hotel. Special menus are available for special occasions, such as Valentine’s Day, Coronations, Christmas, and New Year’s. In the past, The Savoy hosted tango teas where a guest could enjoy the meal and dance the tango with a professional dancer. Live music remains part of the experience, though guests should bring their own preferred partner.
The Landmark London (1899) London, England, United Kingdom
The perfect balance of classic English elegance and contemporary luxury, The Landmark London is a perfect place to experience afternoon tea in London. Founded in 1899 as a railroad hotel along the Great Central Railway and inducted into Historic Hotels Worldwide in 2014, this historic landmark is close to the numerous attractions that have made London’s West End an international destination. The Landmark London has served–while perfecting and refining–the art of traditional afternoon tea for over a century.
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