How the afternoon tea has become the 'it' way to celebrate occasions

Ladies nights are passé, hello afternoon tea


Purva Grover

Published: Thu 1 Sep 2022, 9:20 PM

Let’s start with a little nugget from history, the origin of afternoon tea dates to the 19th century, when high tea was reserved for British workers, who had to wait until after work to enjoy tea in a newly industrialised Britain. Once people finished work, tea would be served with bigger, almost main dishes instead of tea with cakes. From then to now, the concept of the afternoon tea has not only evolved but has become a tad fashionable and desirable, especially among the women folk.

Here in the UAE, we love our afternoon tea way too much, especially as it is no longer just about humble cucumber sandwiches, butter scones and fruit cakes. And it’s also not just what’s on the three-tier stand that is drawing in the ladies to the afternoon teas, but the whole experience surrounding it as well. “Afternoon tea has gained huge popularity in the region as it presents an opportunity to gather with friends in a leisurely and relaxed fashion. Dubai is a very sociable city with residents and tourists alike enjoying a packed calendar and an enjoyable afternoon tea is the perfect way to celebrate milestone events such as baby showers and birthdays, to name a few. Women seem to gravitate towards our afternoon tea as their social gathering of choice, additionally they opt to network, strengthen business connections, and launch products over afternoon tea,” said Bruno Guillox, general manager, Voco Bonnington, Dubai.

“As a result of the new lifestyle where we are busy with work and household chores, we don’t have enough time to set up an afternoon teatime or gather all family members for this light meal. Afternoon teatime has become a good opportunity to catch up with friends after work or to celebrate special occasions, it’s not the traditional afternoon tea any more, which you have every day at 4 pm like old times,” said Mohamed Mora, director, food and beverage, Raffles Dubai. They recently offered the Treasures of Arabia Afternoon Tea with special Arabian blends from Newby Teas which included Khus Garden green tea, Oud delight, Royal Kahwa, etc. to relive the grand tradition and celebrate Emirati Women’s Day.

A perfect midday break

“While consumers have been in awe of the popular and quintessentially British tradition, we can see a growing trend for high tea in the region as it combines consumers’ love for drinking their favourite freshly brewed beverage with tasty sweet and savoury bites,” said Sameera Muramudali, director, Food & Beverage, Millennium Place, Barsha Heights. “People are beginning to realise the importance to take a break and indulge in quality time with family and friends, but of course with the city’s signature style and panache, that elevates the mundane afternoon tea into a more refined and luxurious experience,” said chef Romain Castet, Sofitel Dubai, The Obelisk, where Bijou Patisserie: Le Goûter Afternoon Tea is presented in an elegant pastel jewellery box, with a key that unlocks a mouth-watering selection of Parisian savoury bites and sweet delights, made with French precision and panache.

“I believe that guests enjoy the experience of sharing an afternoon with their loved ones over high tea. Sharing as a concept has become increasingly popular across all dining as guests enjoy new experiences with their family and friends,” said Julien Jacob, executive pastry chef, Jumeirah Al Naseem. “There is an increasing demand for healthier options, with many guests choosing tea instead of coffee as they believe it to have superior health benefits. Tea is a beverage suited to any occasion thanks to its versatility and calming effects. It can be consumed in a wide variety of settings and locations at any time of the day, whether you’re with friends or alone for some quiet reflection,” added Bruno.

“Our high tea menu is just another way in which we can give our guests a unique and refined experience in the traditional Cipriani way. We’re constantly working to appease the guests, who are already familiar with the afternoon tea concepts,” said a spokesperson from Ciprani, “UAE-based clientele is well-travelled. Summers in Europe have exposed them to traditions and influences of British and French high tea culture, which have been widely embraced as new cultural practices in this region — particularly amongst our female clientele.”


“The perfect afternoon tea shouldn’t be dominated by one particular dish but comprised of a myriad of delicious flavours and optics, keeping the taste buds and eyes engaged,” added Bruno. “At Cipriani, we use clean, white china plates to ensure the food is the hero because we truly believe the more vibrant the dish, the more enticing it is to each guest,” added their spokesperson. At Al Mandhar Lounge, Jumeirah Al Naseem, the Turtle Tea is served rather artistically courtesy of a partnership with artist Idriss B. Inspired by his stunning creations, chef Julien serves up an afternoon tea with an assortment of savoury and sweet treats, using locally sourced ingredients, where possible; and to end the experience, guests are gifted Julien’s limited-edition takeaway dessert for the week, a box of baklava. “A showcase of colours and overall presentation is vital. Colours help to highlight the joy that should come from spending time with friends. But not only the colour, we also need to balance the flavours between the sweet treats and that of the textured savoury items,” added Sameera.

Balancing flavours

At Voco, the afternoon tea brings together the classic British tradition with finger food inspired by Ireland; offering small and perfectly portioned sweet and savoury items, with a selection of refined teas, served at The Authors’ Lounge. “Pastries are key here. And one of the most crucial aspects of producing pastries in the opinion of our pastry chef Sreeraj is the texture. Even if a dish has outstanding flavour and colour, a guest will not be impressed if the texture is lacking,” explained Bruno. “High tea is a 200-year-old British tradition with a rich history based on a delightful daytime ritual. Our biggest inspiration behind creating a high tea is to not just consider this as a meal, but rather a holistic experience of an extraordinary treat, that brings friends and family together to catch up and relax,” shared Sameera. At Twenty9 Lounge, Millennium Place Barsha Heights, you can indulge in a mouth-watering selection of classic fruit tarts, freshly baked buttery scones, homemade and handcrafted French pastries as well as bite-sized assorted sandwiches, all complemented with a delightful and endless stream of tea and coffee blends.

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