Afternoon Tea at the Mount Nelson in Cape Town is somewhat of an institution. The hotel is said to not only serve one of the greatest teas in South Africa, but one of the oldest. Since the turn of the century, the royal and the rich alike have met at the Mount Nelson to partake in this age old tradition. Today, all walks of life come together to indulge in this British tradition that sets apart the day and allows ultimate relaxation.
It was a beautiful and sunny Friday afternoon that I set out with my American counterparts to the Mount Nelson. We traveled on foot as the hotel was only a fifteen minute walk from our accommodation in center-city. The occasion was also very special because I would be meeting with a friend I went to high school with but hadn't seen for over three years! She has been studying at the University of Cape Town and we got in touch. The last time we were together, we were wearing our graduation robes and now here we were sitting down to tea in South Africa! That is the magical thing about taking tea; it brings people together.
The Mount Nelson is beautiful. Old colonial elegance set against lovely and flourishing gardens. This alone was enough, but as we were led through to our reserved seating on the terrace, I knew the afternoon would be perfect. White porcelain cups and saucers waited for us next to linen napkins and a gorgeous view of the grounds made for the perfect setting. Before long, our server Sydney came to chat with us. I want to applaud Sydney for being one of the best servers I have had to date. His knowledge and friendliness made the experience so much more memorable! I will hopefully return to meet him again one day!
The Mount Nelson is nontraditional only in that instead of the food being served on tiered stands, it is set up as a buffet with unlimited access. None of us were complaining. And the extensive tea menu with over thirty teas to choose from, and unlimited coffees and drinking chocolates were all at our disposal. And for the price of R165 (about $24) you get so much more than what you pay for.
As my Mount Nelson blend began to diminish, I ordered a fresh pot of tea from Sydney. This time I went for Ceylon Dimbula. A pure, unblended Ceylon with a lovely, rather oakey taste. I did add sugar to taste, but only a very small bit. This was my tea for the scones. I had one of each, a plain and a fruited, and spread with the fresh cream and apricot jam, they were splendid. These were probably the best scones I have had in South Africa yet!
We all sat and chatted, basking in the ambiance and beautiful weather as Sydney came by frequently to chat and replenish our teapots. The afternoon could not have been more perfect. Before we knew it, it was getting close to 6:00 PM and the last diners were leaving. We all said our goodbyes, but not without a picture with Sydney first.