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Perhaps it’s a leftover from the colonial days- tea time, or what was and is known in some countries as tiffin. In Hong Kong, tea time takes on many versions- simple and at home or even opulent and at five-star hotels.

For instance, having high tea at the Peninsula Hotel is on nearly every visitor to Hong Kong’s bucket list. Why? It again probably goes back to the city’s colonial days when the rich and famous met in the lobby of one of the most famous hotels in the world to chat, to do business, to people watch. Even today, tea at the Peninsula is where to be seen and heard. Pretentious as it might sound, there’s a certain status attached to what has become a tradition.

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The Grand Hyatt was known for its expansive tea buffet in its extremely popular Tiffin Lounge. With this venue going through a makeover, the hotel’s Grand Cafe has introduced its own variation on the theme of enjoying tea time, something perfect for rainy days when one has time to spare and good friends for company. What’s offered are a selection of three different teatime menus.

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The first set that my friends and I sampled was called the Sam Dim Sam. This was an Oriental flavored selection served on a black square tray. We started with the scaled-down version of the famous Grand Hyatt Hainan Chicken. Next to this were two shrimp spring rolls in a shot glass resembling bread sticks, and a minced pork dumpling with quail egg in a small dim sum basket. At the front of the set were two very sweet honey glazed BBQ pork puff pastries, and two crunchy slices of sesame shrimp toast. Next to these were two dumplings in soup, reminiscent of a side stall favorite- Won Ton Noodles in Soup.

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It was a classic dim sum set and the different tastes complemented each other. What was pleasing was that none of the dishes were greasy. I love dim sum, but there’s nothing worse than leaving the table with that feeling of having over-eaten.

The spring rolls were crunchy, the pastry was light and flaky whereas the dumplings were fresh. There was really nothing to complain about. However, the classic Chinese ‘look’ of the presentation was ruined when they brought us the complimentary drink. Meant to be a typical Chinese milk tea, it was served in a garish mug that would not be out of place at a children’s tea party with dolls. If one is going for a particular presentation, why ruin this with something totally off-kilter?

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The dessert to this meal was a Hong Kong Egg Tart and Milk Tea Ice Cream Coupe with Sago and Ginger Jelly. I enjoyed these desserts, especially the ice cream mix and it’s presentation. However, why serve a milk tea dessert and drink? Maybe they should substitute the drink for a classic green tea or some other Chinese tea?

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My friends commented that it was a typical traditional Chinese tea set, and how this was a good thing. “You don’t mess around with Chinese food”, they stated. Super tasty and not too heavy, but they need to work on the drink issue.

Lobsterlicious was the name of the second menu item that we tried. What is the first thing everybody reaches for when a meal is set in front of you? The fries, of course! Well, these shoestring fries had an extra touch of saltiness to them as they were dipped in seaweed spice. Good stuff!

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I have never tasted a charcoal bun before. Drawn to its dark color which contrasted with the red lobster and green leaves, it was the first thing I tried. The lobster and bun go really well together, however, the chef may have been a little too heavy handed with the garlic.

You cannot go wrong with a croquette, in my opinion. The one small lobster croquette offered was delicious, but I do wish there had been more of these.

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I found the rest to be slightly bland, though the presentation was 100% on point.The complimentary drink fit in perfectly with this set- a peach and vanilla bean ice tea. The colour blended beautifully with this, however, it could have had more vanilla or more peach. Again, it was just slightly bland.

This set had my favorite dessert. The coconut mango crepe was light, refreshing and sweet. What a perfect dessert! The mango pudding with coconut sorbet mixed together in a jar was beautiful. Again, I didn’t feel heavy, only just right. This was by far the best part of the tea for me.

There is a third tray that we sadly did not get to try. This is called the Toasty Tea Time which consists of 3 types of toasties, including the ham, cheese and truffle toasty which I have tried and loved! A soup is included and curly fries. The drink is a green tea and coconut milkshake topped off with a banana split ice cream Sunday dessert. I look forward to trying this in the future as it sounds absolutely divine.

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In my humble opinion, the tea sets could still be worked on a touch more. I love the black almost Japanese ‘look’ of the tray blocks on which the food is presented. However, take it one step further. Give us cutlery that will match, and, most certainly, a tea cup that will match. Even a Chinese tea cup would have worked better.

We were told the Grand Cafe want to try and give tea time a different look as opposed to the traditional tea tray look. Good move- a new style and therefore less chance of being compared with what longtime Hong Kong Belongers have grown accustomed to at the Tiffin Lounge. I still feel they could take the look one step further.

The lobster set needs a touch more flavour, but its presentation was fantastic!

We had a lovely relaxed afternoon and I would like to thank the Grand Hyatt for inviting us for tea. Certainly, a great way to pass the time with some friends on a lazy Sunday, or any day of the week. Even treating yourself to tea brings an air of style and class to your day.

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However, the Grand Cafe’s tea set – if they get it right- will provide a customer with an atmosphere that’s modern as opposed to being neither here nor there.

Still, sipping on my champagne and finishing the last bite of the croquette, I had a moment of feeling like a modern day Holly Golightly. Next stop: Tiffany’s.

By Kat Coetzee