The World's Top Ten Afternoon Teas: Business Lessons? (Part II)

Part II of II

Part I


4. Harrods Tea Rooms, London, UK

There are a plethora of options in London, of course, and there are enough that they can be divided into many sub-categories (classic, modern, unique). It simply wouldn’t be right to have a list of the top afternoon teas and not have one from the epicentre. One classic option is Harrods Tea Rooms. Harrods is, of course, the iconic retailer with 5,000 brands and 7 floors of luxury. The Harrods name is synonymous with excellence; expect an exemplary level of care and outstanding service. Their tea selection is among the best in the world, all to be enjoyed beneath the Art Deco skylight, entertained by live piano music. 

5. Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong 

Rated one of the world’s top hotels, their legendary afternoon tea is served in the “Clipper Lounge.” The service is outstanding. The challenge is that the afternoon tea is served in a mezzanine area, looking down into the lobby. There is not extensive seating and tables are close together, so it’s not always a great atmosphere (especially if you have loud talkers next to you—that kills the atmosphere instantly). Yet, the afternoon tea is elegantly presented, including delicacies such as finger sandwiches, sweets, scones, and signature homemade rose-petal jam. They also offer extremely popular seasonally themed teas.

 6. The Old Bakery Team Room, Stow on the Wold, Cotswold, UK

This cozy establishment is run by Jackie and Alan Slough. It seats about 40 people and is at the back of a small, nondescript commercial complex. The scones, cream, and tea are excellent and served by the owners, along with their life story and faith testimony. This place is about character; it is a comfortable oasis. To learn more, see my previous blog post on the calling of Jackie and Alan Slough to serve people through their business. 

7. Pastry Addiction, Pattaya, Thailand

The location on Beach Road in the core of Pattaya, overlooking the spectacular beach and all the pedestrian traffic, is hard to beat. If you are there at the “right time” of the year, with moderate temperatures, then sitting outside facing the ocean is a relaxing experience. Though a small establishment, with limited seating, the quality of food, service, and ambience was very high. 

8. The Peninsula, Hong Kong

Billed as “The Grande Dame of the Far East,” one of the world’s top hotels, situated on the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront, with a fleet of Rolls Royce vehicles out front. The grand lobby is stunning. This is where I was first introduced to the concept of Devonshire clotted cream; as a recent law graduate in my mid-20s, I was an uneducated rube, right off the back of a turnip truck, unaware of the fine points of afternoon tea (fortunately in this realm I am a quick learner). The ambience is amazing (but no waterfront view), and the quality of the food is outstanding, as is the service, accompanied by The Lobby Strings.

9. Randolph Hotel, Oxford, UK 

While there are several afternoon tea spots in Oxford (from Brown’s to The Parsonage Hotel), this hotel is a classic venue. Located within the city’s cultural epicentre, The Randolph Hotel takes inspiration from the University of Oxford’s history; apparently, CS Lewis met Joy Davidson in the lobby of this hotel. Just steps from iconic colleges, such as St. John’s and Trinity, this historic landmark is a welcome retreat for locals and travelers alike. Afternoon tea is held at The Drawing Room, The Lancaster Room, or The Alice Room.

10. The Westin Resort Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia

When I spent a vacation at this hotel, the afternoon tea was included and so I experienced it a number of days in a row. It was outstanding. The views and ambience were unbeatable. Afternoon tea is served in The Lobby Bar & Lounge, overlooking the spectacular grounds of the hotel. Nestled on the white sands of Nusa Dua Beach, The Westin Resort Nusa Dua, Bali, offers contemporary, five-star luxury. It is easy to enjoy afternoon tea with a nice breeze, fine climate, and swaying palm trees.


What lessons are to be learned from this list by business leaders? In effect, to succeed, each option must have its own “unique value proposition.” Each venue works to differentiate itself. All the promotion in the world is undone by poor service. All three factors (ambience, service, and food) need to work together. Know your clientele. It’s generally expensive, so it better be good. Differentiators such as music are helpful. It’s cutthroat: you are no better than your last scone!