Peninsula Beijing recreates English tradition to a tea

By Lindsay Andrews ( China Daily ) Updated: 2016-08-27 08:21:33

 Peninsula Beijing recreates English tradition to a tea

Top: Afternoon Tea served in the grand lobby of The Peninsula, Beijing tea. Above: A selection of the afternoon teas savories and pastries. Photos Provided to China Daily

Dainty chilled cucumber sandwiches and scones with lashings of jam and clotted cream. The soft chimes of cutlery on fine porcelain plates. Some chitchat about this and that; and of course the delightful enquiry "More tea?"

There is something quaintly appealing about the quintessentially British custom of afternoon tea. Like stepping inside Miss Golightly's favorite jewelry shop it seems that "nothing very bad can happen to you" while you comfortably ensconced in the lobby of The Peninsula, Beijing nibbling on a tidbit of smoked salmon and pumpernickel bread and sipping a cup of Earl Grey with your pinky suspended in the air.

While tea drinking dates back to ancient times in China, and tea as a fashionable social lubricant became popular in France before hopping over the Channel, the afternoon tea we know today is irrevocably associated with English High Society.

It was not until the 17th century that the brew became popular in Britain, having gained the royal seal of approval from the Merry Monarch and his wife, the Infanta Catherine of Braganza, who were apparently rather fond of what the British call a "cuppa".

After that, tea consumption on the isle increased dramatically. So much so, that in the mid-1840s when Anna Russell felt the time between meals was stretching a little too long, she enjoyed a cup of tea and some nibbles, perhaps, as now, an egg and chive roll and some pastries, to tide her over to the dinner gong.

Peninsula Beijing recreates English tradition to a tea

Realizing she had hit on a winner, she invited her friends to join her, and being more properly known as the seventh Duchess of Bedford, afternoon tea was soon a popular pastime among the English well-to-do.

For the upper crust in Hong Kong, the Peninsula Hotel became the go-to place for some pre-soiree morsels and gossip after it introduced its first afternoon tea in 1928, and this has since become a tradition in its own right, a staple of the city's social life, and a must-do for visitors.

Now, following a revamp that graced the hotel with the expected splendor, The Peninsula Beijing is offering a similar refined afternoon tea experience in the Chinese capital.

The daily Peninsula Afternoon Tea is served in the Grand Lobby, which has been elegantly remodeled as part of the recent $135 million renovation. Befitting the sophisticated new look of the lobby and the origins of the occasion, the gleaming cutlery on the crisp white tablecloth is produced by the English silverware manufacturer Gainsborough, and the fine porcelain plates are made by Narumi.

And to complement the specially created delicacies such as raspberry pistachio eclair and gold caramelized apple tart, there are the sweet serenades of a live band.

The writer Henry James famously opined that, "There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea", and that is certainly true of the afternoon tea at The Peninsula Beijing, where you will probably be tempted to make it last more than an hour.

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