High tea at the Cape

Afternoon tea is believed to have been created in around 1840 by Anna Maria Russell, the Duchess of Bedford, to bridge the long gap between meals as dinner was only served after eight among the wealthy classes. Afternoon tea is often referred to as high tea outside of the UK, although strictly speaking that was the evening meal of the working class in a newly industrialised Britain in the early 19th century.

No visit to Cape Town, a Great Wine Capital of the World, would be complete without partaking of that most civilised of traditions at Belmond Mount Nelson, which opened its doors in 1899 and could rival anything London had to offer at the time. The Nelly, as the hotel affectionately became known, is famed for its afternoon tea, which is served in the gracious pink hotel’s luxurious lounge or on the terrace.

Delicate finger sandwiches, delectable cakes and freshly baked scones served with preserves and clotted cream are the order of the day. The Mount Nelson even has its own signature tea expertly blended from Darjeeling, Kenya, Assam, Keemun, Yunnan, Ceylon, leaves, with rose petals from its own gardens. A glass of South African Méthode Cap Classique or French Champagne can be enjoyed too (at an additional cost). Afternoon tea is served daily between 13h30 to 15h30 or 15h30 to 17h30; or you can opt for the lighter morning tea, which is served daily from 09h30 to 12h00.

This fine colonial tradition spread out into the Cape winelands and can now also be enjoyed in the serene and scenic setting of a wine farm. At Anthonij Rupert Wyne in Franschhoek, which is owned by Johann Rupert, you can indulge in high tea at the beautifully restored Manor House, which features yellowwood floors, wooden beamed ceilings, furniture in the style of the mid-nineteenth century in the Cape and an art collection depicting Cape landscapes of that period.

Savour savoury options such as smoked salmon blinis or spinach, tomato and pine nut phyllo tartlets; or sweet ones, from the likes of lemon polenta cake with orange cream cheese and caramelised citrus to red berry and lemon curd tartlets. On offer is a fine tea selection from TWG Tea Grande Crus Prestige, including black and green teas; as well as good old South African rooibos tea, which you can sweeten with some of the estate’s own honey. Also on offer is great coffee – the Rupert blend is specially roasted for the estate by nearby Terbodore Coffee Roasters. You can also order a bottle of L’Ormarins Brut Classique or Brut Rosé to enjoy with your high tea. There is a breakfast high tea menu too. Open Mondays to Saturdays from 10h00 to17h00; reservations are essential (24 hours in advance) and bookings are for a minimum of two to 20 guests.

At nearby La Motte, owned by Johann’s sister Hanneli Rupert-Koegelenberg, you can enjoy the estate’s Winelands Tea at Pierneef à La Motte, either in the restaurant, on the stoep or in the lovely garden.

The offering includes savoury treats, such as trout-filled pancakes, and a variety of sweet ones, from chocolate truffles to macaroons and delicious cakes. Guests can choose from a selection of the finest teas of the world, a cup of La Motte’s house blend of coffee, or even opt for a glass of refreshing homemade fruit cordial in the heat of summer. Following the old Cape custom when the man of the house often served some sweet wine (called a soet sopie), guests also have the option to order a glass of sweet wine or La Motte sparkling wine, at an additional cost. Available Tuesday to Sunday from 15h00 to 16h30 (booking essential).

 – Lindsaye Mc Gregor