It's no secret that I love tea. Hell, my blog name is "tea" travels! ('Teh' is Malay for tea.) So today I bring you my top three high tea experiences in my home town of Wellington, New Zealand.
Firstly, there are a few things I look for:
1. The tea - duh! There has to be a good selection of quality teas to suit a range of palettes. Yet as high tea is often shared amongst a group, there also has to be other beverage options such as coffee or even milkshakes for teh uninitiated.
2. The food. High tea isn't all about the fragrant liquids, it's about the sweets and savouries that accompany them.
3. The atmosphere. When I attend a high tea, I want to feel fancy. This doesn't necessarily mean dressing up, but it does mean being in a great environment.
4. The service. You want the servers to be attentive so that your teacup is never empty for long!
5. The price. I understand that to have the previous four conditions brought to fruition, money is going to have to change hands. Yet when does the price become too high for the quality offered? (Note all prices are in NZD.)
Let's get to it then!
My top pick - Louis Sergeant
Though LS is unusual in that they only offer six different types of tea, they go about this in a very clever way. Instead of bringing you a personal teapot with your tea selection, they ask you at different times throughout the event if you would like a refill in your teacup, and which flavour you would like. As they have a small number of choices, they make large teapots of each flavour and go around the floor seeing who wants what. That means that you can try all six flavours if you want!
As LS is a producer of wonderful dessert creations, it was no surprise that their tasty tidbits were more than I was hoping for. Even their savoury beetroot profiteroles were mouthwatering, and I loathe beetroot. The atmosphere inside is excellent - it's pretty much always busy, but you get the service you need and the decor is lovely. With a central location on Featherston Street, it's perfect for a weekend visit with a friend as a break from shopping on Lambton Quay.
The prices range from $35 per person for tea only, $45pp including a glass of bubbly and $55pp for the real deal - French champagne. High tea is served from 2-5pm and bookings are essential.
My second choice - Hippopotamus Hotel
If you want the fanciest high tea experience, then Hippo is the way to go. When you arrive, someone takes your coat to the cloakroom, pulls out your chair as you are seated and places a cloth napkin upon your lap. The food is delicious, and you get a view out over the harbour. The dishes and teacups are made from fine bone china, and the sugar cubes are artisanally lumpy. Don't wear your trackies and trainers, though, or you'll stand out like a sore thumb.
At $39pp, the plain tea option isn't really worth it. Opt instead for the $45pp cocktail or bubbly. They also have the real deal for $55pp. High tea is served from 2-4:30pm and bookings are essential.
Last but not least - The Little Teapot
In the suburb of Kilbirnie, the Little Teapot provides a cheaper and quainter alternative to city digs. Here, everyone gets their own mini teapot with knitted tea cosy, and the food is almost as good as at the fancier establishments, just in a cuter setting. If you find yourself out in that direction, give it a go! At $25 per person, it's the cheapest high tea I've had, and everyone got a little take-home bag of cake balls (that is their name) too! Here it doesn't matter if you wear your trackies, but bookings are essential.
Two that didn't make the cut:
This may anger some people, as everyone seems to love it. However, I found that the food wasn't as good as the Little Teapot, and it was quite cramped inside (there is a capacity of 25 people, but with ten we were squashed in beween the wall and the counter). There was also an issue that the vegetarians of our group were given fish, which was quickly rectified but still strange. The option for vegetarian food is free, but gluten free, dairy free and vegan costs $5. At $30pp, I would always pick the Little Teapot over Martha's.
The two positives are the semi-central location on the far end of Cuba Street, and that there are hats and pretty fans available for use so you can feel like a lady.
If you have an extremely large group of people, then the Amora might be he best bet as they had an enormous amount of space. But aside from that, the food wasn't brilliant and the staff were inattentive to the point that we had to go up to the counter to get their attention (not good when you want a refill on your tea - very important!). And that was when we were the only people in the place! The price is $30pp, or $40pp with bubbly.