“The British afternoon tea in China is a forgotten meal, which we should rediscover and make popular again,” Tim Hunt, the Executive Chef and Food and Beverage Director at EAST Hotel, told me when I visited recently. I could not agree more as I spent four years in London and enjoyed many afternoon teas in hotels. It’s one of the things that made me feel sophisticated and posh; the afternoon tea in the English countryside is something I think back of fondly.
Nowadays, afternoon tea is savored as a special occasion, usually in a hotel. Food is served in a tiered stand with a pot of tea, or even a glass of champagne. But its history dates back to the 1800s, when the wealthy classes in England started drinking tea in the afternoon. A century later, afternoon tea developed into its current form and was enjoyed by the upper and middle classes.
Beijingkids decided to invite mother and daughter pair, Angela Im and Isla Gillespie, both British-American, to sample afternoon tea at Feast at East. The family has been living full time in Beijing for two years, and also lived in London on and off for 10 years. Nine-year-old Isla is homeschooled and has a busy schedule of Chinese, Korean, math, history, and violin classes. She enjoys playing outside and reading the Bible with her mother.
Chef Hunt prepared a three-tiered afternoon tea delight. The top tier consisted of scones with jam and clotted cream while the next tier had sweet delights, red velvet cupcake, strawberry cupcake, brownies, and glasses with tiramisu inside. The third tier had savory delights of three different buns with roast beef, parmesan, and horseradish; with egg salad; and with salmon salad. Gillespie felt especially prim as her mother put the napkin in her lap, and she loved the tiramisu, calling it her “favorite dessert.”
Hunt explained that he is always looking for new high quality local produce supporting the development of local farms. He tries to source as much as possible from local and certified organic suppliers, and takes pride in the dishes he serves to his guests. For the tea, Hunt said the hotel imports it from British company Newby, which is part-owned by a charitable foundation that funds educational projects in many countries worldwide.
Mom and daughter were both pleased by the tea and appreciated the treat. When asked if mothers should be taken to East for Mother’s Day, Im responded, “Yes, I would love if my family brought me here again for Mother’s Day!” That comment was easy to believe since giggles and hums of delight laced the afternoon. It’s a joy to be at East, as the environment is hip and bubbly, and its servers make you feel welcome.
Feast at EAST
Afternoon tea delights at Feast are priced at RMB 188 and served daily at 2.30pm-5.30pm
2F, EAST Hotel Beijing, 22 Jiuxianqiao Lu Chaoyang District
Photos by Uni Yu
This is an updated version of the article that originally appeared on p. 20-21 of beijingkids April Issue. Download the digital copy here.