Top 10 places for High Tea in Cape Town

This coming Sunday is Mothers’ Day in South Africa. It’s a day set aside to celebrate moms. Since I became a mom almost 6 years ago I have seen the value in this day in a much clearer light and whole-heartedly believe that it is a great opportunity to show your mom how special she is to you.

Often with the pace of life as it is we don’t express our love and thoughts to those most special to us. We let everyday opportunities slip past and only when it is a “special” day do we actually put into words our feelings! Well, now you have the chance!

To help you plan your celebrations to honour the person who gave you life I have put together a list of Top 10 places for High Tea in Cape Town. Not many moms I know don’t enjoy a good cup of tea and a platter of perfectly sized yummy things to eat. I certainly love a special High Tea treat and over the years have been fortunate enough to sample almost all the High Tea offerings listed below, however I am due for a spoiling soon…

1. Mount Nelson
The grande dame of High Tea in Cape Town is undoubtedly the glorious Nellie! The Mount Nelson Hotel is the perfect place for your first High Tea experience. The spread of perfect little bite size eats includes delicate finger sandwiches filled with rare roast beef and rocket, smoked salmon, egg mayonnaise or cucumber. There is dark chocolate cake, lemon meringue and freshly baked scones with clotted cream and preserves as well as South African favourite “melktert”. The signature teas on offer include: Darjeeling, Kenya, Assam, Keemun, Yunnan, Ceylon, and rose petals from the garden.
Open daily, 14:30-17:30 with live music
Price: R185 per person, R85 per child under 12
Dress: Smart casual
Tel: +27 (0)21 483 1948 or [email protected]
Click here to see the menu

2. The One & Only
The Vista Bars’ afternoon tea buffet features a selection of 35 teas and coffees, presented with carefully selected “sweet pleasures”. The confectionary includes chocolate delice, baked vanilla bean cheese cake, caramel and gold leaf éclairs, tea loaf and macaroons as well as tea sandwiches and buttermilk scones served with clotted cream and strawberry preserve.
Open daily, 14h30 – 17h30 daily
Price: R145 per person, inclusive of selected teas and coffees.
Tel: +27 (0)21 431 5800 /5888 or [email protected]

3. Table Bay Hotel
The Lounge at the Table Bay is another option located in the Waterfront. This daily Mad Hatters Tea Party is best enjoyed at a relaxed pace, so that you can truly appreciate each course and the view too. A selection of fresh house teas, specialised coffees and homemade ice tea is offered as is an array of sweet treats including blueberry muffins, raisin scones, homemade jams, lemon curd and Chantilly clotted cream, chocolate-peanut butter cake, red velvet cup cakes. Savoury snacks include roasted parsnip, mushroom and cheese quiche or smoked salmon and asparagus quiche. The service is impeccable and the setting luxurious so you can’t go wrong.
Open daily, 14:30 – 17:30
Price: R160 per person
Tel: +27 (0)21 406 5918 or [email protected]

“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as Afternoon Tea.” – Henry James

4. Vineyard Hotel
The tranquil garden of this hotel has the most amazing view of the back of Table Mountain and the patio is a perfect place to relax. The Lady Anne’s afternoon tea is a special treat – it is served on a three tier stand offering a selection of savoury and sweet delights including finger sandwiches, vegetarian quiche, mini chocolate tart, lemon cupcake, mini fruit tartlet, poppy seed cake, coconut ice, Turkish delight, baked passion fruit cheesecake, scone with homemade strawberry jam, cream and cheese.
. The menu also offers an extensive selection of infused and flavoured teas.
Open daily, from 15:00.
Price: R95 per person
Tel: +27 (0)21 657 4500 or [email protected]
Click here to see the menu.

5. Taj Hotel
One of Cape Town’s newest hotels, The Taj, also offers afternoon tea. Its own take, The Chocolate Tea, is currently on offer until the end of June 2012 in the Lobby Lounge. Presented from a 3–tiered stand, the Chocolate Tea offering includes Chilli-Hot Chocolate, Eclairs, Choc–chip scones, Chocolate truffles and chocolate cake. A selection of 20 different loose leaf teas (including rooibos loose leaf tea) from Nigiro Tea Merchants and hot beverages such as chili-hot chocolate are available.
Open daily, 11:00 – 18:00
Price: R95 per person (usual price R120 per person)
Wale Street
Cape Town, South Africa
Phone: +27 (0)21 819 2000

“If you are cold, tea will warm you. If you are heated, it will cool you. If you are depressed, it will cheer you. If you are excited, it will calm you.” William Gladstone

6. Manna Bay
MannaBay is a boutique guest house in Oranjezicht where I was lucky enough to spend a night recently. (read my review here). The perfect little High Tea is served daily on request. Drinks include Twinings tea flavours Earl Grey, Ceylon, Rooibos, Peppermint, Camomile, Four fruits and freshly baked savouries, chocolate and carrot cakes and cup cakes are on offer.
Open daily, 16:00 – 17:00
Tel: +27 (0)21 461 1094

chocolate cake
7.The Last Word, Constantia is situated in a private pocket of this historical suburb of Cape Town. Enjoy a relaxing afternoon enjoying the views of the Constantiaberg mountains in the pretty garden setting.
Open daily: 11:30 to 13:30 and from 14:00 to 16:00 (phone to book)
Price per person: R100
Tel: +27 (0)21 794 6561
Email: [email protected]

8. The Cape Grace
The Library at Cape Grace offers afternoon tea with delectable sandwiches, petit fours, macaroons and scones with cream and jam served on a dainty stack. Hot Malay savouries such as spring rolls and beef satays are also served. Eight special teas are offered. They range from Ceylon, famous for its sweet woodiness to the classic Early Grey accented with bergamot and a beautiful red strawberry and kiwi infusion that’s good enough to eat. The Deluxe Afternoon Tea comes with a glass of sparkling wine.
Open daily, 11:00 – 18:00
Price: Traditional tea is R75 per person; Sugar buffet is R12/item; Deluxe: R125 per person; Sugar and spice is R110 per person. Cream Tea with scones is R65 and a slice of home-made cake is R40.
Tel: +27 (0)21 410 7100 or [email protected]
See the menu here.

9. The Cellars Hohenhort
The Conservatory at The Cellars is another beautiful garden setting for a spot of tea. Afternoon Tea is served from 11:00 to 17:00. A set menu is available at a cost of R280 for 2 people. See the menu here. Alternatively you can order smaller portions from the menu such as scones or finger sandwiches. They have an extensive collection of teas for R20 each.
Tel: +27 (0)21 794 2137 or [email protected]

10. Twelve Apostles Hotel
The Leopard Room at the Twelve Apostles Hotel overlooking the Atlantic Ocean is a great spot to enjoy “Tea by the Sea”. A few years ago I treated a group of girl friends to High Tea here to celebrate my birthday. It’s a great spot for a babyshower or kitchen tea too! Dilmah Tea are served as are coffees and rich hot chocolate. Scones, clotted cream, lemon meringue tartlets, cupcakes, mini koeksisters, finger sandwiches, Almond strawberry cupcakes, selection of biscuits, chocolate brownie, cream scones with strawberry jam, éclairs, glazed fruit tartlets, macaroons, chocolate extravaganza are all a part of this delicious afternoon tea.
Open daily, 14:00 – 18:00
Price: Traditional high tea R165 per stand for two, Chocolate Tea by the Sea R185 per stand for two
Tel: +27 (0)21 437 4015

I hope I have the best spots covered! Most of the top Hotels in Cape Town appear in this list, let me know your favourite High Tea Hotel from this list or if I have missed one… A few other venues to try that are a bit further afield are listed below…

Grande Provence, Franshhoek
Open Saturdays and Sundays from 15:00 – 17:00.
Price: High tea platter R95 for 2 people
Tel: +27 (0)21 876 8600

Le Franschhoek Hotel & Spa, Franschhoek
Open daily, 11:00 – 17:00
Price: R135pp or R165pp (includes a glass of bubbly)
Tel: +27 (0)21 876 8900
Email: [email protected]

Grande Roche Hotel, Paarl
Open daily, 15:00 – 17:00.
Price: R95 per person
Tel: +27 (0)21 863 5100

Lord Charles, Somerset West
Open daily, 14:00 – 17:00
Price: R75 per person
Tel: +27 (0)21 855 1040

Another beautiful place that has been recommended to me to try is Tea under trees in Paarl. It’s a vintage-inspired place set in a beautiful park-like garden perfect for sunny afternoons with kids. Contact Debbie on +27 (0)82 825 5666 for more information about opening hours as it is closed on Saturdays.

I have yet to try any of these further afield destinations for High Tea – have you been to any of them??

“Rather three days without food than a day without tea.” Chinese Proverb

The History of High Tea
High Tea came about as a result of the 19th century English dining practice of large, meaty breakfasts with only a light picnic luncheon standing in the way of hunger until dinner was served at 8pm. It was Anna, Duchess of Bedford, who is accredited with “inventing” afternoon tea in 1840 as “a way to quell the inevitable hunger pangs between lunch and dinner”.

What’s the difference between High Tea and Afternoon Tea?
In South Africa we call tea served in the afternoon at an upmarket venue a “High Tea” whereas the correct name for this is actually “Afternoon Tea”. I did a bit of reading and found this interesting bit of information… The practice of Afternoon Tea is often confused with the English “High Tea” which was a hearty rural working class supper consisting of hot meat, cheese and egg dishes served around 18:00. High Tea itself was designed to refuel the body after long periods of labour in less-than-agreeable environments.

Afternoon Tea Etiquette
A formal afternoon tea is traditionally performed according to certain rules of etiquette of which the most famous is the raised pinkie finger. This is thought to be due to all porcelain teacups having come from China at the time and having no handles. To prevent spilling, these cups were held by placing one’s thumb at the six o’clock position and one’s index and middle fingers at the twelve o’clock position, while gently raising one’s pinkie up for balance. When the handled tea cup was introduced by the Meissen Porcelain Company in 1710, the tradition continued in its new form by pinching the handle – placing one’s fingers to the front and back of the handle with one’s pinkie again extended for balance.

The idea behind Mothers’ Day (and this post) is a happy one, but I realise that it is a day that can be quite painful for many. For those who are not yet moms, those who have lost a mom or a child and those who are far away from loved ones or don’t have a good relationship with their own mother or child it can be quite a hard day and I think it’s important that we are aware of that should we run the risk of being caught up in our own celebrations. One way to do this is to look for ways to include these people and a great way to do this is if you don’t have your own mom around to treat a special woman in your life as an “honourary” mom for the day. Who wouldn’t want to receive a bunch of flowers, a special card and an afternoon spent enjoying a High Tea at a beautiful place??? Look around and see who you can spoil!

images: Kathryn Rossiter

Kathryn Rossiter

Kathryn is a South African lifestyle blogger and mom of 2 who has been blogging daily for almost 6 years! She writes about travel, health, beauty, fashion, decor and family... but not food (unless it's food she's eaten made by someone else) as she is a hopeless cook. She only wakes up early for 2 things... a red-eye flight to somewhere exotic and early morning game drives. She has just finished an extensive home renovation and would prefer to never see another box again. She's never met a chocolate or glass of bubbles that she didn't like!

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  3. Pinkies were up on a rainy afternoon last week in Capetown when the brightest idea was High Tea on the enclosed terrace at the Mount Nelson Hotel.The signature tea from the rose petals from the Nellie’s gardens was my tea of choice and it was subtly floral and herbaceous. The savories were outstanding from the delectable roast beef and smoked salmon tea sandwiches to the wonderful mushroom empanadas.
    As a devotee of the finest high teas in cities throughout the world I can say the ones found here were outstanding. I chose the strawberry jam and longed for the clotted cream that awaited at the Windsor Table….but my arteries were really gearing up for the amazing spread of sweets, cakes and pastries. Our server was so helpful in helping us plan a strategy to keep up our endurance, We felt like lingering long into the evening. The high tea at Mount Nelson Hotel lives up to its reputations as the best high tea in the world.

  4. Dear Becoming you,

    trust you are well.

    Could you please be so kind to remove the Grande Provence High Tea as we no longer serve a high tea.

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