I’m sure women around the world would nod to an invitation for afternoon tea. The coming together around a beautifully laid table filled with delightful nibbles is one of the most sociable, relaxing and enjoyable events. Whether it is around local fare or the classic English afternoon tea stacked with scones, pastries and a pot of Earl Grey, women simply enjoy the company of friends along with a good nibble.
Regrettably, afternoon tea is not a daily ritual for most, especially for busy professionals and modern day moms with hectic schedules. Back in the day, afternoon tea was associated with the genteel society, expatriates and the affluent. After all, who could afford more than an hour during the day sipping on tea, nibbling on fine tarts and warm scones and superfluous chatting? Today, it is still an indulgence when we have the luxury of time.
Much to my delight, I had some time to spare while on a short holiday in Kuala Lumpur (KL) and I had just the perfect place to savour afternoon tea. The iconic Majestic Hotel is a well-worn building dating back to the 1930s where it was a home away from home for international travelers and the perfect place for fancy government events and social gatherings. Recently, the hotel underwent a major facelift reflecting its glory days and the building’s symbol as a national heritage treasure.
Afternoon tea at the Majestic starts at 3pm through to 6pm where the hotel’s Colonial Café and tea lounge transforms into a stage of tables covered with crisp starched table cloth, laid with fine bone china plates, tea cups and tea pots. The actors are pleasantly poised waiters decked in perfectly white uniforms and aprons dancing from table to table pouring tea and serving fine delectable on multi-tiered china.
The hall echoes with soothing instrumental music played on the grand piano just beneath the magnificent gold dome ceiling. Light chitter chatter and laughter join the ambiance as I nibble on fine pastries, cucumber sandwiches, and warm scones with clotted cream while enjoying a cup of soothing Earl Grey.
My thoughts traverse to bygone years where the history of tea drinking was very much of the nation’s history. During the British rule, tea was introduced from China and Europe, both the Chinese and Europeans had a knack for picking and brewing tea leaves. As inquisitive travelers and the affluent society traveled the world, they brought with them small quantities of what was then known as costly and unusual herbs. This ‘herb’ was an exotic and rare commodity and became a luxurious indulgence only for the rich.
Today, with mass agriculture, tea has become a daily beverage known for its health benefits. It is the perfect alternative to coffee and carbonated drinks. I particularly love green tea and will always have a sachet tucked somewhere in my bag.
The creation of afternoon tea as a ritual was the idea Anna Maria Russell, the 7th Dutchess of Bedford. She set it at 4 o’clock between a full breakfast and supper (dinner). It was the perfect time for ladies to come together to share stories and would sometimes include indulgent gossips.
Subsequently, afternoon tea permeated society and since Malaysia was once under British rule, afternoon tea was woven into its social tapestry. Carried out with thoughtful attention to detail and consideration of style, the sharing of a cup of tea reminds us of our links with the past, of the olden cultures and of the importance of recognising and appreciating the innate beauty to be found in such simple actions.
At the Majestic Hotel, where all things from yonder are celebrated, afternoon tea can be accompanied with an extravagant massage aptly dubbed “English Afternoon Tea” to mark a truly memorable experience. I was whisked to the Majestic Spa, a separate building from the hotel with its own infinity pool overlooking the Moorish-style railway station and the buzzing city scape. The cosy interiors of the spa breaths refreshing colourful tones against the stark white walls, tall whimsical arm chairs on glossy black flooring. This distinctive minimalistic art nouveau style of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s famous Tearoom of Scotland is reflective of the era where tearooms were a place for businessmen to meet and read the paper and where ladies gathered to socialize and play cards. To sum it, it was a place to lounge and relax.
My 2-hour spa treatment started with a refreshing citrusy mocktail before being ushered to the lounge area above the reception. Once here, everything feels secluded and private. My masseur, a fine young lady proceeded to give me a foot scrub. The signature ‘Gift from the Garden’ scrub which is a mix of lavender petals, rice husks and other beautiful handpicked herbs from the English garden. The warm lavender scented water is poured into a beautiful foot wash basin where my feet are left to soak. She proceeded to give me a head and scalp massage, a prelude to the bliss that was to come.
The rest of the spa was in a treatment room that is exceptionally spacious. With a standalone clawfoot bathtub, separate shower and toilet and two massage beds, the room was more than welcoming. Pampering continued with a decadent body scrub that looked and smelled good enough to eat – a mix of milk, honey, rice husks and berries. By this time, I was already feeling luscious but it did not stop there. A spa experience would be incomplete without a massage. The long, firm strokes repelled any tension left in my body and finally it capped off with a fragrant English rose facial and some relaxing breathing exercises.
The treatment was seamless and being a spa addict, I was utterly contented. Despite it being a 2-hour treatment, the hours seemed to have drifted by. As I sip on my camomile tea and savour the homemade oatmeal biscuit at the spa’s reception, I can’t help but wish time stood still.*Go behind the scenes and peel over the layers of history of the enchanting Majestic Hotel, Kuala Lumpur.