What could be a better treat than lashings of tea and cake? AsiaLIFE gets a taste of the high life while investigating the best afternoon teas in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Photography by Rudi Towiro.
Legend has it that a British aristocrat invented the tradition of afternoon tea in 1841 when Anna Maria, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, came up with the idea in order to fill her hunger pangs between lunch and supper.
According to a social history of tea published by the UK’s Tea and Infusion Association, the Duchess began inviting friends to join her for the 5pm ceremony. By the 1860s, the fashion had caught on with afternoon tea – accompanied by small plates of bread and butter, England’s famous scones and crust-less sandwiches – taken by high society.
Centuries later and the genteel tradition is still in full swing. From The Palm Court at London’s Ritz hotel to the legendary Raffles in Singapore, diners can gather in opulent surrounds to sip on rare brews while devouring tiers of sweet and savoury treats.
With its rich colonial past, Cambodia is no exception. Luxury hotels and restaurants alike are serving up scones and petit fours by the bucket load. This month, AsiaLIFE looks at the best afternoon teas on offer:
The Highest Tea in Town:
Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra
Glinting rooftops and golden spires stretch out beneath Sofitel’s Club Millésime, a chic lounge perched on the 12th floor of the grand hotel on Sothearos Boulevard. From 3pm to 5pm daily, guests – who cannot help but feel special in the exclusive room, reachable only with an access card available from reception – can enjoy stunning views along with a scrumptious afternoon tea that nods to le goûter, the French equivalent of children’s snack time. Along with crust-less smoked salmon sandwiches and traditional raisin scones, sweet treats embody the brand’s French influence with mini éclairs, a layered opera cake and macaroons piled high. With a chocolate shop also on site, a variety of delicious hand-rolled truffles are included. Sofitel boasts an excellent selection of teas, which are available for purchase in stylish caddies. Try the Abricot Toscane, a refreshing blend of China and Ceylon mixed with apricots, or celebrate in style with an afternoon of free-flow sparkling wine.
Try at Sofitel, Sothearos Boulevard, Phnom Penh, from 3pm to 5pm daily. $15++ per person or $25++ including free flow sparkling wine. Booking in advance is recommended. Tel: 023 999 200.
Raffles Hotel Le Royal
Just outside the entrance to Hotel Le Royal’s Elephant Bar lies a cocktail glass said to bear the lipstick print of Jacqueline Kennedy, the American First Lady who sipped Femme Fatale champagne cocktails on a trip to Cambodia in 1967. Charlie Chaplin was also a guest of the hotel in 1963. With credentials like that, plus the fact afternoon tea was first served in the hotel in 1929, Le Royal is the perfect spot to transport you back in time. Choose from a traditional Western tea, including smoked salmon and roast beef sandwiches, or the Asian inspired “Angkor” high tea, a decadent chocolate-themed tea or a sweet and savoury macaroon version. All afternoon teas are classically presented on silver stands and accompanied by a choice of loose-leaf brews, while the spectacular surrounds are reminiscent of the atmospheric hey-day of Cambodia’s golden era.
Try at Raffles Hotel Le Royal,
Phnom Penh. Teas, served in the Elephant Bar, the conservatory or by the pool, cost from $14.50 upwards per stand, plus service charge. A glass of G H Mumm Brut champagne can be included for an extra $12.
Quintessentially English cucumber sandwiches grace the stylish tea stands at Public House restaurant, alongside buttery scones with jam and whipped cream, indulgent chocolate éclairs and zingy lemon tarts. The dining room’s slick surrounds – think sleek lines and exposed wood – is a great option for an intimate tête-à-tête, with tea sets starting at just $9 per person, including a pot of tea and a selection of “naughty treats”. The tea blends are all made by respected US company Harny & Son’s, and include classics like Darjeeling and Ceylon along with fragrant Camomile and Mint Verbena. Prices vary upwards according to alcohol consumption. If you’re splashing out, have a boozy tea complete with a bottle of luxury Pol Roger Champagne for $50 per head.
Try at Public House, Street 240½, Phnom Penh. $9 per person and up.
Available from 3pm to 5.30pm daily with a two-person minimum. Teas need to be booked one day in advance by calling
017 770 754.
The comfy velveteen seats of the Park Hyatt’s Living Room, a space created by famed designer Bill Bensley, are indicative of the luxurious environment in which this elegant Siem Reap tea can be enjoyed. Blending Asian and Western culinary influences, diners can enjoy three tiers of delights, including a crème brûlée infused with aromatic pandan leaf, chocolate brownies and a succulent banana cake. Savoury offerings also contain a touch of Asia, with rice paper rolls and peanut sauce nestled among more traditional egg salad rolls, smoked salmon tartar finger sandwiches and a basket of scones. A selection of warm treats in also included – all going perfectly with a pot of Oolong or Earl Grey tea.
Try at Park Hyatt, Sivutha Boulevard, Siem Reap. $25++ per person or $31++ with a glass of champagne at the Living Room, or the hotel’s outdoor courtyard. Served all day.