Afternoon tea is very popular in Joburg and I’ve tried quite a few different ones over the years. I’ve been meaning to do a Jozi Top Fives post on this topic forever.
Side note #1: Most of the fancy hotels in Joburg refer to their afternoon tea as “high tea”, I think because high tea sounds more grand. But I was recently schooled on this issue by the brilliant Katharine Love of Lindfield House (read more about Lindfield below), and learned that “afternoon tea” is the correct term for a fancy afternoon meal with tea and cake. High tea evolved as a lower class version of afternoon tea, which is the opposite of what these fancy hotel teas actually are. Read more on the distinction here.
A waiter pours hot water to make tea at 54 on Bath Hotel.
Side note #2: I’m really picky about my afternoon teas, which is one of the reasons I’ve put off this post for so long. Sometimes even the most glamorous teas don’t meet my expectations. I want every afternoon tea to be exactly like my first one in 1994, at Fortnum & Mason in downtown London. That tea was served by a frowning elderly Englishwoman in a black maid’s costume and included the fluffiest scones, the richest clotted cream, and the daintiest cucumber sandwiches I’ve ever tasted or ever will taste. No afternoon tea will ever measure up to that one, but I’m on a never-ending quest.
Side note #3: In case you’re wondering why I haven’t mentioned the the Four Seasons (formerly the Westcliff Hotel) in this post, it’s because the Four Seasons has recently, inexplicably, stopped offering afternoon tea. What a bummer, as the view is amazing and the Westcliff’s afternoon tea was legendary. Boo.
With that, here are my five choices.
My Favorite Jozi Afternoon Teas
1) 54 on Bath Hotel
I’ve had afternoon tea twice at 54 on Bath in Rosebank, and to me this is the best hotel tea in town. The setting is great (although they won’t seat you outside if there’s even a hint of rain), the service is great, the tea is great, and the food is authentic and delicious. The tiered tea platters are traditional, with large scones accompanied by jam and clotted cream, decadent cucumber and smoked salmon finger sandwiches, and well-crafted tiny desserts. If you really like one particular thing, the servers are happy to bring you more.
Traditional scones and finger sandwiches from 54 on Bath.
Delicious afternoon tea desserts. The mini cheesecakes are my favorite.
54 on Bath’s afternoon tea costs R245 ($18), or R295 ($21) with a glass of champagne. Read more about my first tea at 54 on Bath in this 2013 post.
2) Fairlawns Boutique Hotel
I blogged recently about the Fairlawns afternoon tea so I won’t repeat myself. But the Fairlawns tea is much along the lines of 54 on Bath’s tea — traditional, luxurious, and comparatively well priced. I love the setting at Fairlawns; it feels like you’re out in the country even though the hotel is just a few minutes from Sandton City.
The quirky tea room at Fairlawns.
Finger sandwiches, just the way I like them.
The Fairlawns tea costs R235 ($17) per person.
3) De Hoek Country Hotel
The De Hoek afternoon tea is what motivated me to finally write this post — I was invited to De Hoek for tea this past weekend. De Hoek is in Magaliesburg, about an hour outside of Joburg, and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend driving all the way out there just for tea. But this afternoon tea is a great add-on to a full day or weekend in Magaliesburg and/or the Cradle of Humankind, or to an overnight visit to the De Hoek hotel itself (read about my 2013 weekend at De Hoek).
The De Hoek tea is a little less traditional than 54 on Bath or Fairlawns, with fewer scones and finger sandwiches and more experimental stuff. In fact, my only complaint about the De Hoek tea is that there weren’t enough scones — our platter only had two very tiny half-scones with a small dollop of cream and jam already applied. But I especially liked the tea itself, which comes in traditional varieties as well as interesting fruity flavors.
My friend Michelle ordered this beautiful pink wild berry tea, served in a perfectly matching pink cup.
The beautiful tea tray served to us at De Hoek. I particularly loved the bottom tier — tasty balsamic salad jars, rye bread heaped with smokes salmon, and spinach spanakopita. Next time I want more scones though — they did say we were welcome to order more but I was too full after eating everything else.
The De Hoek setting can’t be beat — the gardens are so pretty and relaxed. Going there was a nice excuse to get out of town, if only briefly.
Afternoon tea at De Hoek costs R325 ($23) per person. De Hoek also serves spectacular dinners — I wouldn’t recommend doing both in the same day because your stomach might explode.
4) The Saxon
The Saxon is the fanciest hotel in Joburg, and its afternoon tea needs to be on this list simply because visiting the Saxon is such an experience. Where else in Joburg will a chauffeur meet you at the parking garage in huge white BMW, to drive you 100 meters from the parking area to the hotel?
Champagne on the Saxon pool deck.
The Saxon is known for its gourmet food and the afternoon tea is no exception, with high-end leaf teas and delectable savouries and sweets. The cuisine and presentation veers a bit too far from traditional afternoon tea, in my opinion, but it’s hard to complain about food that tastes so good.
My favorite all-time photo from the Saxon. Read more about it in this post.
The Saxon tea is R325 ($23) per person Tuesday through Thursday and R395 ($28) on Saturdays, when you can listen to live piano music.
5) Lindfield House
I’ve saved Lindfield House for last because I think it’s the best. I’ve blogged about Lindfield twice before (read here and here) because it’s one of my favorite tourist attractions in Joburg. Katharine Love, the owner and curator at Lindfield, gives incredible tours of her Victorian house and she serves a fantastic, home-cooked afternoon tea at the end of the tour. (Note that the full afternoon tea must be booked in advance.)
My first tea at Lindfield House, with my mother in 2011. (Photo: Jon Hrusa)
Return to Lindfield House in July 2016, with Fiver.
Lindfield House is the best deal in Joburg for afternoon tea. A full tour plus a full tea costs R120 ($8.50). Just keep in mind that Lindfield House is a museum, not a hotel/restaurant, and the tea is an add-on rather than a main event. Nonetheless, I love it.
Got any other Jozi afternoon tea recommendations? Bring’em on below. In the meantime I’m going to make a cup of tea.
I’ve received complimentary afternoon tea at Fairlawns, the Saxon, and De Hoek. Opinions expressed are mine.
I am so wanting a sugar fix!
Haha! My job is done then.
Also check out the Silver Teaspoon in Northcliff….very pretty.
I’ll add it to the list! Thanks.
There’s quite a lot of drool on my keyboard now.
Haha. Are there lots of places to have afternoon tea in LA? Doesn’t seem like a very California kind of thing.
It’s not. Very sad. I think the Ritz and Huntington Gardens are some of the only ones.
High Tea at Michelangelo is also awesome. It’s a buffet of savouries and sweets and you can eat as much as you like. Priced at R255 per person it’s well worth it. Complimentary tea and coffee as well as juice.
I’ll have to check it out. Although I must confess I am biased against buffets. I guess I’m a purist but I prefer to have my high tea brought to me on a platter.
What? Are they crazy at the Westcliff? Starting with not keeping the name? It’s like giving the Big Five a different name. It’s an institution!
I’m SO hungry right now and those scones are staring at me mockingly. Scones with cream and jam are one of South Africa’s best food groups. Have you ever tried the ones you can buy frozen at Woolies? They are fabulous!
A PR person from the Four Seasons Westcliff emailed me and here is the explanation he gave: “The reason they no longer offer it is because there was more demand for lunch at View and brunch at Flames on weekends.” Ridiculous.
They all sound so amazing! xo Loren // http://www.thinkelysian.com
I think I like the things you like in Joburg. Can you suggest a suitable venue to host a 50 person cocktail party?
Such fine looking places for high tea. I really like the look and feel of the boutique hotel one. I too like finger sandwiches. They are the best – small and it leaves you room to try other sandwiches and of course other things on the menu, while filling enough that you feel full until the next meal time, if you get what I mean 🙂
Here in Melbourne, Australia, high teas are popular. They are popping up everywhere in the city, from high end chocolate places to fancy scone places, and they are always packed on the weekends 🙂
I guess high tea is hot throughout the world! Thanks for the comment, Mabel.
Please come and try the new Alice In Wonderland High Tea at In The Forest Venue – it’s really something magical.
Looks awesome! I’ll add it to the list. Thanks.