Tag Archives: high tea

High Time for High Tea @ The British House, Qianmen

Did you know there’s a Harrods in Beijing? I had absolutely no clue. Probably to do with the fact that it’s not technically called Harrods but rather “The British House”. The celebration of all that is upper-class British can be found just a two-minute walk from Qianmen, in the same neighbourhood as Capital M used to be.

The Scones

Maybe there’s something about the Qianmen location that makes for particularly outstanding scone production. To this date, the scones you can find at TBH are the best I’ve had in Beijing. They’re sizeable for one, and you get one each of classic and raisin. They’re fresh, they’re fluffy and they come with delicious cream and strawberry jam, that the efficient and courteous staff will refill upon request and without hesitation.

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That’ll be scone within seconds

The Tea

They have a fine selection of loose leaf British teas, as well as some special options for the more adventurous. Sadly, the rose tea I was most excited about was not available on the day. Small disappointment, but the fresh peppermint is definitely a reliable choice for someone like myself who isn’t the biggest fan of black teas.

Sanis & Cakes

The Sanis turned out to be tiny bites, that were gone in one quick swoop. Egg salad, salmon, ham and cucumber are definitely very traditional choices. Indeed, the overall afternoon tea experience was probably one of the most “genuine” in the British sense. No weird Matcha flavours or crazy concepts here, just good old fashioned high tea as it was meant to be. My only complaint re the sani bites is that they were indeed a bit minuscule. Granted, the big scones will fill you up, though I personally wouldn’t’ have minded swapping the trifle for larger savoury options. The trifle was the only item that I wasn’t that impressed by, just a bit bland and boring, but the red velvet cake and the mille feuille made up for it by being simply delicious.

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Scrumptious scones, sanis and sweet treats

The Place

The tea set and crockery was simple and elegant, with the unmistakable Harrods H, and was an indication of the overall décor. Very light and tasteful, it was a great place to just sit an entire afternoon and relax. Which we did. In fact, I managed to reach a level of relaxation, I have failed to replicate at any of the other locations we’ve been to for tea. I think it was just the right amount of food to fill you up but not make you feel like a stuffed duck plus the lovely environment and the friendly staff, who were helpful, on the ball and never pushed us to vacate the exceedingly comfy sofas we were parked on.

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*Downton, where all the lights are bright*…that’s how the song goes, right? No?

In conclusion, if you’re looking for the Downton Abbey experience, look no further. This is definitely the place to relax traditional British style. And once you’re done you can go downstairs and buy all kinds of overpriced Best of British items in an attempt to feel really regal.

Costs: 168 rmb for 2 scones, 4 sanis, 2 sweet treats, a strawberry trifle + refillable tea

Address: 煤市街廊房头条交叉口东北角北京坊西区4号楼1层101

Phone: 010-63132122

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High Time for High Tea: Christmas Afternoon Tea @ China World Hotel

For Christmas, last year (i.e. 2017) it was once again time for a little British tradition in Beijing. As we had done the year before, the idea was to spend a lovely afternoon enjoying that most British of activities, the afternoon tea. Capital M had forever closed its doors – a terrible blow to the scone-scoffing Beijing community, as their scones were as fluffy as cushions and about as big as your head; and all that for the very reasonable price of 128 RMB without alcohol.

Where to next, then? The vast interwebs was on this occasion able to provide a little insight, but not as much nor as up-to-date as one might hope. In 2012, City Weekend was raving about China World Hotel’s afternoon tea in terms of service, orchestra and quality, ranking it the winner out of all of Beijing’s High Teas. We decided to put it to the test – it was a fun and delicious, but also slightly confusing afternoon.

1. Finding the bleeding place

Any of you who have ever been to the China World Mall know it’s a labyrinth; one that has only become more confusing as the New China World Mall and Hotel Jen has opened. This means that in this complex there three different hotels that all have confusingly similar names

中国大饭店 The China World Hotel

北京国贸大酒店 The China World Summit Wing

新国贸饭店 Hotel Jen

I kept getting mixed up between the World Hotel and the Summit Wing (that’s the one that has Atmosphere, the highest bar in Beijing). Naturally, I started off by showing up much too late at the wrong place. The hotel kindly called to confirm that we were still going to attend – even half an hour late. But upon showing the very unfriendly concierge at the Summit Wing where I wanted to go, I finally realized it was the one at the other end of the complex. Hasty jogging and much sweating ensued; exactly the kind of image of grace you want to convey for afternoon tea at a five-star hotel. Anyway, found it in the end, first hurdle of the day mastered.

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Lovely Christmas feeling in the Lobby

2. Mathematical Mysteries involving Scones

We seemed to remember that there was an option to add on extra scones to an afternoon tea, rather than having to order too full portions. As there were three of us, and the afternoon tea on offer was for two people, we thought this would be a great option. Rather than simply saying this is not a service we offer, our server then went into a long explanation of how it would be impossible to just add on two scones onto the tea set since they make an exact number of scones every day, and they cannot exceed that number. No matter that we had originally booked for four people and so by that logic, there would mathematically be at least two unclaimed scones floating about. It was simply impossible insisted our server. I don’t think I am a person with incredibly high expectations, but I do feel that a five-star hotel should really be able to offer a simple extra wish such as add-on scones.

3. Small-ish Scones

Here comes the big one – the scones. Taste was indeed delicious, though interestingly the tea came with a serving of regular, and then chocolate chip scones, rather than sultanas. That was unexpected. Size-wise they were on the slightly smaller side, but still big enough as not to illicit any swearing. The accompanying jams were delicious, and the staff were very good at bringing more cream and jam when asked. The tea was also good, there were the classic English options, Earl Grey, Peppermint etc. and some distinguished Chinese flushes.

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It’s not the largest of scones, I’d say.

4. Confusing Christmas Theme

What we hadn’t anticipated before our visit was of course the fact that the afternoon tea would be Christmas themed. And that this was the only choice. In the end, it ran up to around 330 RMB for a two person Christmas set plus service charge. There was no option for just scones and tea to the disappointment of my fellow slurpers. It was certainly fun to have the Christmas theme, and the sani selection had some very delicious options of salmon and paté. There was a bit of confusion around what we thought were Santa shaped biscuits. After attempting to take a bite and almost losing a tooth, it seemed they were made of icing on a very hard base of plastic or clay or some mysterious item. So that was a bit strange. Overall there was a lot of decorative items made from very hard icing, that would have been a welcome addition to any Christmas cake. As such we were debating smuggling them home, but the need to look like ladies prevailed (well, as much as it could after us gnawing desperately at a clay biscuit).

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Christmas High Tea @ China World Hotel

5. The Orchestra

The review in City Weekend had raved on and on about the live orchestra, so I was looking forward to that part in particular. As it were, we ended up sitting behind a column far, far, faaaar away from the orchestra. While we did hear them playing, the music very much disappeared into the background, as we didn’t have the visual access that would have made it all more special.

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The offending cardboard/clay Santa biscuit that wasn’t a biscuit after all

Conclusion

We had a fun afternoon at the China World Hotel – they kindly didn’t kick us out although we tried to eat the decorations and stayed a good 5 hours. The savoury part of the tea was really great, the scones weren’t bad, the orchestra was lovely if a bit invisible. Mostly, the weird insistence on staggering the scone output left a bit of a disappointing taste, as did the mysterious clay-cardboard cookie. You can probably give the regular afternoon tea a try; reckon it’s  fair to say it won’t be a Christmas theme all year round.

Price for Christmas Special:  331 RMB + service charge/ 2ppl

Address:  北京市朝阳区建国门外大街一号 Jianguomen Wai Dajie No.1

Phone: +86 10 6505 2266

 

Getting caught up on 2018

Goodness me, January is already pretty much over at this point and I feel like my brain is still catching up with the fact it’s no longer 2017.

The Christmas tree is still up, while the resolutions are already down. It’s -8 degrees in Beijing and every time I step foot outside, I can feel my actual brain freezing in my head. But sitting in the flat makes me so depressed, I quickly lose the will to live. So, depression versus frost bite, it’s a never-ending choice between the two.

But it’s not all bleak on the horizon. I am still clinging happily to my memories of the Christmas holidays, while already looking forward to the next. Christmas was spent in Germany with family, and we put the Colmar Christmas Market to the test.

I have long boasted about the superiority of German Christmas markets (and Frankfurt’s in particular) to any other country I’ve lived in. But I have to hand it to the French, they really know how to knock it out of the park. The decorations were stunning – every house worth half its salt got involved and prepped and primed itself into a glittery, happy explosion of Christmassy glory. In terms of presentation, Colmar wins hands down. The only small disappointment for a munchkin like myself was the strange lack of food. In Germany pretty much every second stall at least is breaking full with coated almonds of all descriptions, gingerbread hearts and horses, sausages and Flammekuchen. In other words, you can expect you will end up in a food coma. Colmar, however, was suspiciously foodless. We did in the end find a great Choucroute stand and had a delicious meal, so who am I to complain? If you’re ever in the neighbourhood around Christmas (or rather up until 30th December), definitely go check this market out!

The thing with going back to Europe these days is that I feel if I am not at least visiting one new country each time I go back, it’s a wasted opportunity, and so we made our way to Budapest. With a quick stopover in Vienna for New Years’ where I was so psyched to see my uni friends, who are all being very grown-up and adulty these days. Feeling the pressure…but that then went on to a fabulous time in Budapest with my former flatmates as a couples’ trip, something we’ve never done before. It was fun, the Airbnb was stunning and so was Budapest, what a lovely city! I was a bit surprised at the general level of deterioration of some of the buildings, had not expected that. But nonetheless it’s an incredible city with a fascinating history. So very good start to 2018 with another country to tick off the list.

While the weather this month in Beijing is very Hohhot-reminiscent and makes me want to write a letter of complaint to whichever deity controls the frost, my social calendar has somehow been stuffed to the brim with exciting events and outings. Most importantly, the big project of 2018 – a tour of Beijing’s High Teas. As we were slurping our tea at the China World Hotel for Christmas, a few friends and myself felt this is something that needs to be repeated. Add to that there’s currently not much info about Beijing’s best High Tea out there, and our mission was born. Let’s see if we can keep the monthly exploration of Beijing’s High Tea options going, but so far we got off to a great start with Harrods’ Afternoon Tea. I’m hoping to tell you all about it!

While the year started out strong with travel, the resolutions have remained rather hypothetical conceptsl. We’ll see what February holds. How has the year started out for you? Cold or hot, resolved or dissolved? Wishing you a happy January 2018!