The art of taking afternoon tea is not just about the tea, the food or even the atmosphere. It’s also about conversation and connecting with friends.
So what’s this about afternoon tea… alone?
There have been several cases when I’ve been in another country, traveling solo, and really wanted to have afternoon tea at a particular spot. I have this weird thing about going out to eat by myself. Personally, I think it’s weird. I try to avoid it.
So here’s how I’ve survived (and enjoyed) afternoon tea alone.
1. Strike up a conversation with your server
This depends on how busy the place is, but if you have questions they’ll usually take time to answer. If they seem like the conversing type, you’ll be surprised how must they want to talk to you about the tea, the hotel (if you’re in a hotel) and their country (if you’re overseas).
This is how I found out a lot about the history of a hotel, the country I’m in and more about the afternoon tea culture in that location. While in London at The Bloomsbury, I learned a lot about the Brexit and job situations in the UK. And while at The Mandarin Oriental Pudong, I learned that afternoon tea is a growing trend among upper middle class Shanghainese women.
2. Bring a book, notebook, laptop
Check out the area first before taking out either of these things.
In most places it probably won’t be appropriate to use your laptop. But you may be surprised. In a lot of business hotels that serve afternoon tea, business people have tea together, but mostly ignoring the tea tray and talking business with laptops/tablets. In that type of situation, feel free to blend in and use your laptop like I did at Four Seasons Pudong.
3. People watch
Of the 12 cities across five continents I’ve had afternoon tea in, they are for the most part, similar. Mostly groups of women dressed up nicely and conversing over their tea.
But you may find interesting things happening depending on where you are around the world. I spent two months in Shanghai and had plenty of occasions to get acquainted with the tea culture there. It really is interesting.
4. Sit at a communal table… or not
This also depends on the set up of the afternoon tea location. If at a hotel, it’s unlikely there will be a communal table.
There is a communal table though, at the British Museum. After walking around the museum, I had time for tea. I somehow ended up sitting with this random guy. It was my last day in London and I just wanted to reflect and get lost in my own thoughts. Instead, I ended up learning a bunch from this guy about life in London and even about some items that I’d miss and went back to see at the museum.
5. Just enjoy
I don’t believe there’s a right or wrong way to have afternoon tea. You can have it with a whole party of friends or just one friend. Even not having anyone to go with shouldn’t stop you from going.
Especially if you need some time to yourself, which is good once in a while, afternoon tea is a perfect time to do that.