High Tea Experiences
High Tea Experiences

Indulge in Exquisite High Tea Experiences Across New Zealand

There’s something undeniably charming about indulging in a high tea experience. Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or simply looking for a delightful way to spend an afternoon, high tea offers a perfect blend of elegance and comfort. In New Zealand, high tea has become a beloved tradition, and for good reason. The combination of finely brewed tea, delectable treats, and a sophisticated setting makes high tea an unforgettable experience. Let’s explore the exquisite high tea experiences across New Zealand that will make you feel like royalty.

What is High Tea?

Origins of High Tea

High tea, contrary to what the name might suggest, was initially a meal for the working class in England. It included hearty dishes like meat, bread, and cheese, served in the late afternoon. The term “high” referred to the high-backed chairs and tables typically used during the meal. Over time, high tea evolved into a more refined social event, featuring delicate finger sandwiches, scones, and pastries. This transformation was driven by the upper class, who turned it into an elegant afternoon affair, often enjoyed in the company of friends.

Evolution of High Tea

As high tea became popular among the upper class, it transformed into an elegant affair with a sophisticated menu and elaborate settings. The introduction of dainty sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, and an assortment of pastries became the norm. Today, high tea is synonymous with luxury, often enjoyed in upscale hotels and tea rooms around the world. The evolution of high tea has made it a versatile experience, accommodating both traditional and modern tastes.

Why High Tea is Popular in New Zealand

Cultural Influence

New Zealand’s colonial history has a significant British influence, which naturally extends to culinary traditions like high tea. The practice has been embraced and adapted, making it a popular pastime for Kiwis. High tea has found its place in New Zealand’s culture, blending traditional British elements with local flavors and ingredients. The cultural integration of high tea has made it a cherished tradition, reflecting the country’s rich heritage and love for refined dining experiences.

Perfect for Social Gatherings

High tea provides a relaxed yet sophisticated atmosphere that’s perfect for catching up with friends, celebrating milestones, or simply enjoying some downtime. The combination of exquisite food, beautiful settings, and the ritualistic nature of the tea service makes it an ideal choice for social gatherings. Its popularity in New Zealand is a testament to the country’s love for good food and great company. The communal aspect of high tea makes it a special occasion, fostering connections and creating lasting memories.

Top Places for High Tea in New Zealand

High Tea in Auckland

Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, offers a variety of high tea experiences that cater to different tastes and preferences. Here are some of the best spots to indulge in high tea in Auckland:

Best Spots in Auckland

The Cordis Hotel, formerly known as The Langham, is renowned for its luxurious high tea offerings. The elegant setting and impeccable service make it a top choice for high tea enthusiasts. Guests can enjoy a selection of finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones, and an array of pastries, all paired with a variety of fine teas.

The Chelsea Sugar Factory, with its historic backdrop and delightful menu, offers a unique high tea experience that combines tradition with a touch of nostalgia. The factory’s high tea includes sweet treats made from their own sugar, adding a special touch to the experience.

Other notable places include Bellini at the Hilton and the Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour, both known for their stunning views and exquisite high tea menus. These venues provide a scenic backdrop, enhancing the overall experience with their picturesque settings.

High Tea in Wellington

Wellington, the capital city, boasts a vibrant high tea scene with several charming venues to explore:

Must-Visit Venues in Wellington

Martha’s Pantry is a vintage-themed tea room that offers a cozy and nostalgic high tea experience. The decor and ambiance take guests back in time, while the menu features classic high tea items with a contemporary twist.

The Hippopotamus Restaurant & Cocktail Bar, located in the Museum Art Hotel, provides a lavish and artistic setting with a menu that showcases both classic and contemporary high tea offerings. The blend of art and culinary excellence creates a unique and memorable experience.

Floriditas and Louis Sergeant Sweet Couture are also popular choices, known for their delightful pastries and elegant ambiance. These venues offer a refined atmosphere, perfect for enjoying a leisurely afternoon with friends or family.

High Tea in Christchurch

Christchurch, with its English heritage, is a perfect city for high tea enthusiasts. Here are some top high tea locations in Christchurch:

Top High Tea Locations in Christchurch

The Chateau on the Park, a DoubleTree by Hilton hotel, offers a picturesque setting for high tea, surrounded by beautiful gardens. The serene environment and exquisite menu make it an ideal spot for a relaxing afternoon.

The George, another top choice, provides an intimate and elegant high tea experience with a menu that features locally sourced ingredients. The emphasis on fresh, local produce adds a special touch to the high tea offerings.

Other notable venues include the Mona Vale Homestead & Pantry, known for its stunning garden views, and the Penny Black Victorian Tearoom, which offers a charming and traditional high tea experience. These venues combine beautiful settings with delicious food, creating an unforgettable high tea experience.

What to Expect from a High Tea Experience

Menu Offerings

A high tea menu typically includes a selection of finely cut sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, an assortment of pastries, and, of course, a variety of teas. The sandwiches are often filled with classic ingredients like cucumber, smoked salmon, and egg salad. The scones are freshly baked and served warm, accompanied by rich clotted cream and fruity jams. The pastries range from delicate macarons to decadent chocolate tarts, ensuring a delightful treat for every palate. Some venues also offer champagne or sparkling wine to elevate the experience.

Ambiance and Setting

The setting of a high tea is just as important as the food. Expect beautifully set tables with fine china, elegant silverware, and a serene atmosphere. Many places in New Zealand offer high tea in picturesque locations, adding to the overall experience. Whether it’s a grand hotel lobby, a charming garden, or a historic tearoom, the ambiance plays a crucial role in creating a memorable high tea experience. The attention to detail in the decor and service enhances the sense of occasion, making high tea a truly special event.

How to Choose the Best High Tea Venue

Menu Variety

When choosing a high tea venue, consider the variety and quality of the menu. Look for places that offer a range of options to cater to different tastes and dietary requirements. Some venues provide themed high teas, such as chocolate high tea or vegan high tea, which can add an extra layer of enjoyment to the experience. The diversity in the menu can make your high tea experience more exciting and personalized.

Customer Reviews

Checking customer reviews can provide insight into the quality of service and the overall experience. Look for consistently positive feedback and recommendations. Reading reviews can help you gauge what to expect and identify any potential drawbacks before making a reservation. Pay attention to comments about the food quality, service, and ambiance to make an informed decision.

Price and Value

High tea can vary greatly in price. It’s essential to find a venue that offers good value for money, balancing quality, quantity, and cost. While some high tea experiences are priced higher due to their luxurious settings and gourmet offerings, there are also more affordable options that still provide a delightful experience. Consider what’s included in the price, such as the selection of teas, food variety, and any additional perks like champagne or special dietary options.

DIY High Tea at Home

Essential Ingredients

If you prefer a more personalized high tea experience, hosting one at home can be a delightful option. Stock up on essential ingredients like fresh scones, quality teas, and an assortment of pastries and sandwiches. You can find many recipes online to create your high tea menu, ensuring everything is made to your liking. Consider including a variety of teas, both traditional and herbal, to cater to different tastes.

Creating the Perfect Ambiance

To recreate the ambiance of a high tea, use your finest china, set a beautiful table, and consider playing some soft, classical music in the background. The goal is to create a relaxing and elegant environment. Decorate your space with fresh flowers and use delicate table linens to add to the charm. Hosting a high tea at home allows you to customize every detail, making it a unique and memorable experience for your guests. The personal touches you add can make the event feel even more special and intimate.


High tea is more than just a meal; it’s an experience. Whether you’re indulging in a luxurious high tea at a top venue in New Zealand or creating a memorable afternoon at home, the elegance and charm of high tea are sure to leave a lasting impression. So, gather your friends, dress up a bit, and enjoy the delightful tradition of high tea. It’s an opportunity to slow down, savor exquisite treats, and create cherished memories.


What is the best time to have high tea?

The best time for high tea is typically between 3:00 PM and 4:00 PM.

Do I need to make a reservation for high tea?

Yes, making a reservation is recommended to ensure availability and the best service.

Can I have high tea if I have dietary restrictions?

Many venues offer dietary options, so check in advance for gluten-free, vegan, or other accommodations.

How long does a high tea experience usually last?

A high tea experience typically lasts between one and two hours.

Is high tea suitable for children?

Yes, many places offer child-friendly high tea options.

What should I wear to a high tea?

Smart casual attire is usually appropriate for high tea.

Can I host a high tea at home?

Yes, you can host a high tea at home with the right ingredients and ambiance.

What kinds of tea are typically served at high tea?

High tea often includes a variety of black, green, and herbal teas.

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