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The best tea in London?
It’s a question of such monumental proportions that it will ruin your trip to London if you get it wrong. Which London hotel does the best afternoon tea?
The easy answer used to be to consult the Tea Guild’s anonymous reviews – but the guild has rebranded now (as the UK Tea and Infusions Association) and as part of the revamp, has ditched its reviews. Big mistake. Huge.
London Hotels Insight is equally outraged, so they have created their own list. How? By calculating the “excellent” and “very good” ratings for tea on TripAdvisor. Doing it this way, they have come out with some surprising results. Their list reads:
The Mulia, Mulia Resort & Villas in Bali opened a signature Chinese restaurant called Table8 last June. It serves high-end Cantonese and Szechuan delicacies and is beautifully designed, but what will leave guests saucer-eyed is, of all things, the tea service. If tea doesn’t sound that exciting to you, perhaps you’ve been spending too much time with the Brits, and perhaps you’ve never been poured a cup by a Kung Fu Tea Master.
Called “The Art of Tea,” it is as much a performance as it is practical. When a guest orders the signature flower tea, it is served by a Kung Fu Tea Master, who has, according to the Mulia, spent months in China learning traditional kung fu moves and a year practicing the pouring routine before performing it live in the restaurant.
Hotel Cocktails / Hotel Bars / Hotel Tea / Spain Hotel / Madrid Hotels / Europe Hotels / Leading Hotels of the World / Melia Hotels / → All Tags
We just love a good play on words because while “staying dry” at Gran Meliá Fénix’s DRY Bar is possible, with an 84-page bar menu, it’s probably not the time or the place.
The bar, whose full name is the lengthy DRY Cosmopolitan Bar by Javier de las Muelas, has a tantalizing selection of bevvies that fall into categories such as DRY & Tonics, Exotiks, Sensory, and a full page of Beer Cocktails (remember we saw this as a trend during Cocktail Week?). But it’s really the Classics, as in martini classics, that the bar most wants you to try, because when you do, you join a select group.
Each person who orders the Extra Dry Martini (€13 or $17) officially becomes a—as in you get a certificate and everything—proud supporter of the “Javier de las Muelas Dry Foundation, created for the development of the cocktail world.” Your certificate states your martini order number, as does the martini counter above the Bar’s bar.
You’ll be drinking your lip-smacking, mouth-drying martini (gin is certainly the thing here with 60 varieties available) in a clubby, woody type of bar where you feel you can stay and sink into the furniture for a while.
If it aint broke, of course, there’s no need to fix it – unless the unbroken thing we’re talking about is afternoon tea, and the ‘fix’ is a gin injection.
Dukes St James in London is bringing together these two great British institutions with its G&Tea: basically afternoon tea, except with a tea-infused G&T instead of the hot stuff.
The gin in question is Beefeater infused with black tea leaves – either Earl Grey or Black Vanilla. It’s served Prohibition-style in a china teacup, either cold with ice and tonic, or as a hot punch on cold days like this week. Could it get more magnificent? Yes – you also get your normal food spread of finger sandwiches, scones and pastries. It costs £35, which is pretty great value for London, considering the alcohol.
We've said it before, but boy do we love a well-stocked hotel gift shop. After a recent visit to the Paramount Hotel, where we found nifty travel gear and Big Apple-themed tchotchkes, this week it was the Raffles Hotel in Singapore that had us acting like a kid in a candy store, inspecting every single item displayed on the shelves.
And believe us, there was a lot.
Located next to the fountain courtyard, the gift shop is like an ode to the entire Raffles Hotel, every ounce of its fabled existence neatly preserved in an endless array of crockery, loose leaf tea tins, tea towels, vintage travel posters, stuffed animals, leather-bound notepad holsters, and pretty much any other form of souvenir you can think of.
A true hotel geek would be hard-pressed to enter here and not walk out with some kind of goodie.
Here's a quick look at a few of our favorite Raffles-branded things:
Singapore Hotels / Hotel Tea / Hotel Restaurants / Hotel Snapshot / Hotel Lobbies / Afternoon Tea / → All Tags
The other day, we met a friend for tea in Singapore. To get there, we entered a hotel lobby, walked past the reception desk, down some steps, and found ourselves in a long, corridor-like lounge area enclosed by floor-to-ceiling windows, with a 42 1/2 foot long bar.
Promptly at 3pm, we were led to our table, a low-slung divan wedged around a coffeetable in an intimate corner of the bar. Behind us, stunning waterfront views of the Bay. Above us, a silver-haired gentleman in a tuxedo began tinkling the ivories, while jacketed waiters whizzed by, and more and more folks showed up to rendezvous at the promenade-style bar.
Unknowingly, we had stumbled into one of Singapore's most vital social traditions: Afternoon Tea at the Fullerton Bay Hotel.
Well, that move was apparently so successful, Hilton has now decided to make CB&TL the official coffee and tea provider for all Hilton properties in North America, South America and Central America, starting this summer. Which doesn't mean there will be fancy new cafes built in every hotel offering those delicious ice blended drinks, but the little coffee and tea packets found in guest rooms will all be exclusively sourced from the coffee chain (rather than Starbucks or Tazo.)
Hilton Executive VP Jim Holthouser told the LA Times:
"'One reason for the agreement is that Hilton will save money buying in bulk.'
Holthouser wouldn’t say how much the hotel chain would save but he noted that guests at the three major hotel brands drink more than 100,000 cups of in-room coffee per day."
Room Service / Hotel Tea / Hotel Amenities / Manhattan Hotels / Millennium Hotels / UN Hotels / Hotel Snapshots / → All Tags
Time to out ourselves: we love tea, in a big way. And it's not everyday that a treat like this shows up in our hotel.
We were conducting an interview inside a room at Millennium UN Plaza the other day when a refreshment tray was wheeled in by one of the room service attendants. What caught our eye immediately, before the steel coffee canisters or those little Fiji water bottles, was a plain white box placed on the table, which, when opened, contained a whole range of Kusmi tea. Red, orange, green, purple, white packets. Our only problem: having to choose just one!
Four years into the game, Andaz London is still keeping things interesting, and the holidays are no exception. The hotel has commissioned London-based designer Eyal Burnstein to create not an advent calendar, but an advent table to count down the days until Christmas!
Each day in December, a new delicious treat will appear on the octagonal table, which has been scattered with flea-market-scavenged teacups, teapots, plate, saucers and more. Simply match the date to a numbered tag placed next to each item, and behold! A daily dose of sugary, holiday goodness. As long as you're staying or dining at the hotel, the treats are free, and come served with a hot drink—plus the excitement of trying to figure out what's going to pop up the following day!
Coffee coffee everywhere, and not a drop to drink...
When it comes to standard hotel amenities, coffee makers rank up there with pillows, a working toilet, soap. Basic. But for many of us, a bowl of instant coffee packets is about as useful as a hairbrush to a bald person. When it comes to in-room tea options, we've found some hotels to be quite lacking.
Take a look at this picture of a recent Las Vegas hotel we stayed in. Plenty of coffee! But where's the tea? Nevermind the inconvenience of trekking to the nearest Starbucks for our early morning jolt—when equally-in-need coffee drinkers can simply reach across their nightstand—but it also raises an uglier question. What should be considered an essential hotel room amenity?
Surely, if someone took the time to fold the tip of our toilet paper roll, artfully sealing it with a small hotel-branded sticker, then that person probably had enough time to drop a few bags of Twining's English Breakfast on our desk. No?