Afternoon tea is a quintessential Shanghai experience, but what is a non-tea drinker like my mom to do? She and I stumbled onto the answer one day while exploring the Sinan Mansions neighborhood and nearby Fuxing Park. After a blistering day of sightseeing, we were desperate for some ice cream. We walked into the nicest Haagen Dazs shop I’ve ever seen, hiding inconspicuously behind a drab gray facade. The warmly lit interior felt very European, with its red hues and plush curved sofas, while the uniformed waitstaff looked like they had stepped out of a 1950’s American soda shop.
We were about to order five dollar scoops of ice cream when Mom picked up a brochure on the counter. Featured inside was a special afternoon tea set that included a three-tier stand of ice cream treats. The theme was “spring fashion” and as soon as we saw the images of the chocolate stiletto and white chocolate handbag, we knew we had to have it. When the tray arrived, we were positively giddy!
Each treat was exquisitely designed and so pretty we could barely contain our girlish excitement. The top tier was our favorite, with its ice cream lollipops and delectable bites, which we happily gobbled up before they melted. In addition to the stiletto-and-handbag-shaped chocolates, the middle tray contained a scrumptious chocolate cupcake and a tangy mango mousse. High points on the bottom tier included a mixed berry tart, moist vanilla cupcake and vibrant scoops of sorbet. The only misstep of the entire set was a still-frozen ham quiche, the sole savory item among the lot.
Mom was able to enjoy her beloved diet Coke while I ordered the chamomile tea, which was an excellent pairing with all that sugar. Anything with caffeine would have been a serious mistake. The tea was served in dainty Haagen Dazs china and I was given a red porcelain Japanese-style tea cup as a free gift. In fact, the entire experience felt very Japanese, a culture with a penchant for all things cute. Why don’t we have places like this in America?
Have you ever indulged in afternoon tea?