Not to be confused with "high tea" (a heavier, working class evening meal eaten at a high dining table rather than a lower lounge table), afternoon tea is intended to sate rumbling stomachs until dinner - a relaxing social respite as the day winds down. Island chefs often add tropical touches: flavored iced brews and Caribbean breads and pastries. Some hotels limit service to their guests while others invite visitors, providing a civilized way to gain entree to elite resorts where the room rares are steep.
Panoramic ocean views provide the perfect backdrop for afternoon tea at the Rosewood Little Dix Bay, British Virgin Islands. The Pavilion Terrace, an open-air restaurant beneath four vaulted rooftops, serves innovative cuisine and offers sweeping postcard-worthy vistas of the sea from every table. Relax here for five minutes and the hustle and bustle of the real world seems light years away. About 75 guests per day have been enjoying this afternoon tradition since the resort opened in 1964. English scones, fruit brochettes, and local johnnycakes, along with banana bread and traditional accompaniments of creams and jams, are served with tropical mango melon tea, among other popular choices.
Teatime is a grand occasion at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman. Popular with guests and locals alike, the exhaustive menu includes finger sandwiches, scones and pastries. For little ones, the resort offers the Ritz Kids' Tea with hot chocolate and Nutella-and-banana sandwiches, and there are themed teas on holidays and a Teddy Bear Tea at Christmas. Tea is presented on Wedgwood china in the Silver Palm Lounge (named for the Cayman Islands' national tree, the silver thatch palm), and tea experts assist with selection from varieties like Green Tea Passion, Himalayan Peak Darjeeling and Kyoto Rice. Fresh-baked scones come with creme Chantille, lemon curd and jam, and sandwich selections include lobster-and-tarragon profiteroles. Those seeking a beverage with a bit more firepower can opt for champagne cocktails.
The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman beach cabana
Visitors to the British Virgin Islands can experience Peter Island Resort afternoon tea ritual that takes place in the Drake's Channel Lounge overlooking the pool and ocean. Presented on Eschenbach china, the resort's Caribbean Tea features sandwiches, carrot and banana breads, coconut drops (candied coconut) and passionfruit and mango tea, as well as imported blends. The resort enforces no dress code but politely recommends that guests cover up.
You could define luxury as something like this: sipping your favorite tea or fruit infusion while gazing at spectacular Crane Beach from your balcony on a balmy afternoon at The Crane resort, Barbados. Island insiders consider it a pleasantly indulgent respite from the rigors of the day. The resort's tea includes delicate cucumber and cream-cheese-and-chive finger sandwiches,chocolate or peanut butter cookies and warm scones with strawberry jam. English Breakfast is the most requested tea, but the slightly more daring can choose from a wide range of green, black and herbal varieties.
Nisbet Plantation, Nevis, has honored the teatime tradition since the hotel opened in the 1950s. Tea is served formally on the elegant Great House terrace along with scones with clotted cream, finger sandwiches, cookies and cakes. Imported teas like chamomile and English Breakfast share the limelight with such local infusions as soothing mint, lemon-grass and traditional bush tea.
Tea time at the world renowned Pink Beach Club in Bermuda is not to be taken lightly. Guests adhere to the resort's formal dress code: blazers for men, skirts or dresses for women. Presented at precisely 4 p.m. for the past 60 years, the service includes fresh-baked scones, biscuits and almost any tea imaginable. Most guests stick with the tried-and-true, such as English Breakfast, although non-purists can order - the horror! - coffee.