Balmoral Hotel Afternoon Tea: Best High Tea in Edinburgh

Looking to enjoy the best High Tea in Edinburgh? Look no further than Balmoral Hotel Afternoon Tea.

Skip inside the Scottish capital’s iconic luxury hotel and you’ll find a parade of tea lovers relaxing at the elegant Palm Court. Point your pinkies up while enjoying the relaxing mid-afternoon British tradition of Afternoon Tea.

Balmoral Hotel Afternoon Tea takes place in the elegant Palm Court.
Balmoral Hotel Afternoon Tea takes place in the elegant Palm Court.

What is Afternoon Tea?

Afternoon Tea, also known as High Tea, is a royal ritual, introduced in Britain in the early 1840s. The culinary tradition evolved into a mini meal to help stave off hunger pains before the evening meal at 8pm.

British High Tea was initially launched as a private social event for ladies looking to climb the echelons of high society. It wasn’t until Queen Victoria embraced the Afternoon Tea ritual that it became a more well known, larger scale “tea reception.” These historic receptions often included over two hundred guests who would drop in between the hours of 4pm and 7pm.

Across the United Kingdom today, Afternoon Tea is typically enjoyed on special occasions. It’s a posh indulgence for piping hot tea or iced tea lovers looking to celebrate a birthday, baby shower, pre-wedding party, Christmas or Mother’s Day.

A harp is played each day during Afternoon Tea service from a petite balcony overlooking the Palm Court.
A harp is played each day during Afternoon Tea service from a petite balcony overlooking the Palm Court.

Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh

The Balmoral Hotel Afternoon Tea is considered Edinburgh’s best. Sitting perched over Princess Street, Scotland’s landmark luxury hotel is located beneath Edinburgh Castle. The hotel officially opened its doors in 1902 and was immediately pronounced as one of the world’s greatest railway hotels.

In 1991 celebrated Scottish actor Sean Connery officially reopened the hotel as The Balmoral, Gaelic for “majestic dwelling,” following £23-million refurbishment. In 2010, Oprah Winfrey filmed a one-hour episode of her show at The Balmoral’s Scone & Crombie Royal Suite with author J.K. Rowling. The Harry Potter author explained that she finished writing the last book in the series here.

The Balmoral Hotel’s architect, William Hamilton Beattie, crafted a Victorian design, influenced by the traditional Scottish baronial style. Step inside and you’ll encounter a sumptuous lobby, well-appointed suites, cozy cocktail bar, and pretty Palm Court serving Edinburgh’s best High Tea.

Begin your Balmoral Hotel Afternoon Tea service with a celebratory champagne cocktail.
Begin your Balmoral Hotel Afternoon Tea service with a celebratory champagne cocktail.

Balmoral Hotel Afternoon Tea at Palm Court

The hotel’s Palm Court is an Edinburgh institution, a glittering glass dome featuring a sparkling Venetian chandelier. Located in the very heart of the Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh locals have been gleefully attending Palm Court’s award-winning Afternoon Tea since the property first opened in 1902.

Balmoral Hotel’s Palm Court was given a top to bottom facelift by Rocco Forte Hotels in September 2013, modernizing the room into a light and lovely Afternoon Tea lounge.

Ask your server to point out the subtle local references throughout the decor. You’ll find thistle patterned sofas and specially commissioned hand-painted De Gournay wallpaper featuring well known follies of Edinburgh incorporated into the dramatic Scottish landscape. Contemporary cool grey tones are contrasted against bright blues while colonial palm trees offer a flash of nature’s greenery.

Enjoy romantic music offered by a local harpist from 2:30pm to 4pm Monday to Sunday (May to September) and Wednesday to Sunday (October to April). Balmoral Hotel Afternoon Tea is served daily from noon to 5pm.

Guests at the Balmoral Hotel choose from an extensive list of premium loose leaf teas.

Balmoral Hotel Afternoon Tea Menu

Edinburgh born Ross Sneddon is the Executive Pastry Chef at Balmoral Hotel and has been honing his skills for the past two decades. In 2004 Chef Sneddon became the head pastry chef at The Balmoral’s Michelin-starred Number One restaurant. After various roles in well-known kitchens from New York City to London, Chef Sneddon returned home as Executive Pastry Chef at The Balmoral in 2015. Today, Chef Sneddon and his pastry team are responsible for serving the best High Tea in Edinburgh.

Dobbernationloves had an opportunity to chat with Chef Sneddon who chirped, “The art of Afternoon Tea for the team here at The Balmoral is ingredient-led and driven by the idea of gastronomic excellence. It’s the season and quality of the product that inspires us, rather than aesthetics or fads. By bringing a contemporary twist to classic Afternoon Tea, we constantly aim to excite our guests in Palm Court through the introduction of new flavours while doing the simple things well, such as producing the best scones in the country. There is nowhere else in Edinburgh with such a rounded offering for guests – from the quality of food and tea to the ambience created by our live harpist and elegance of Palm Court itself, The Balmoral is the statement address in the city for Afternoon Tea.”


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A dramatic pouring ceremony is the highlight of our Balmoral Hotel Afternoon Tea.

Balmoral Hotel Afternoon Tea Three-Tiered Service

Balmoral Hotel Afternoon Tea is £40 per person. Add a splash of vintage champagne to celebrate a special occasion.

  • A selection of premium loose leaf teas.
  • Seasonal Amuse Bouche
  • A selection of classic and contemporary sandwiches and savouries
  • Homemade scones, fresh from the oven served with clotted cream and preserves
  • A selection of pastries and sweet treats
  • A collectable tin to take home featuring Balmoral’s signature blend loose leaf tea.
Balmoral Hotel Afternoon Tea begins with a selection of sandwiches and savoury pastries.

Balmoral Hotel Afternoon Tea Loose Leaf Menu

Tea sommeliers at Palm Court offer a premium selection of loose leaf teas sourced from as close as Cornwall, England and far away as China, India, Nepal and Japan.

  • Emperor’s Golden Eyebrow: a prized Chinese black tea from Wuyishan Nature Reserve, Fujian Province. Flavours of tropical fruit, honeysuckle and burnt toffee.
  • Emperor’s Breakfast: a rare Chinese black tea from Wuyi Mountains, Fujian Province. Flavours of rich toffee, butterscotch and vanilla.
  • Rare Breakfast Blend: a 19th-century style English Breakfast blend from Sikkim, India, Shire Highlands, Malawi & Fujian, China. Flavours of aromatic honey with a deep malty finish.
  • Earl Grey: a traditional Early Grey from Satemwa Estate, Malawi & Reggio Calabria, Italy. Clean and bright infusion with citrus notes.
  • 2nd Flush Muscatel Sikkim: a black tea from Temi Estate, Sikkim, India. Heady, floral aroma with soft notes of muscatel grapes.
  • Cloud Tea: a fragrant black tea from LaKyrsiew Garden, Meghalaya, India. Light and floral as a Darjeeling with the rich caramel and malty notes you expect from the best Assam.
  • Green Whole Leaf: a Chinese green tea from Fuding, Fujian Province. Clean, bright and delicate.
  • Long Jing: a fragrant Chinese green tea from Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province. Fresh sweetness with rich green vegetal flavours and subtle note of hazelnuts.
  • Genmaicha: top grade Japanese Sencha from Shizuoka. Rich, verdant notes with a deep comforting aroma of popcorn.
  • Nepalese Himalayan Spring: a hand rolled Nepalese green tea from Jun Chiyabari Estate. Tropical fruit, mango, cooked pineapple and lychee notes.
  • Oolong: Anxi: a Chinese oolong from Fujian Province. The first infusion has a succulent sweetness with later infusions leading to green floral notes.
  • Jasmine Silver Tip: a delicate Chinese white tea from Fuding, Fujian Province. The tea is not flavoured but carefully scented over six nights with fresh Jasmine flowers.
  • Cornish Peppermint: a rare English peppermint grown on Tregothnan Estate in Cornwall. Menthol oils infuse more easily from dried leaves, giving a brighter, cleaner flavour than fresh mint.
  • Whole Chamomile Flowers: delicate flowers from Slavonija & Podravina, Croatia. Calming and caffeine free.
  • Lemon Blend: a global blend from Sri Lanka, Malawi & France. Lemongrass from Sri Lanka and Malawi has been blended with French lemon verbena.
  • Rose Petals: a romantic rose petal tea from Gujarat, India.
Scottish Pastry Chef Helen Vass enjoys decadent desserts at Balmoral Hotel Afternoon Tea.

Balmoral Hotel Afternoon Tea with Helen Vass

I was joined at the Balmoral Hotel for Afternoon Tea with celebrated Scottish pastry chef Helen Vass. The always smiling sweets lover famously won BBC 2 Bake Off Creme de la Creme in May, 2016. The popular British baking show was hosted by Michelin star chef, Tom Kerridge and judged by Claire Clark (former head pastry chef at Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry), Benoit Blin (Le Manoir) and Cherish Finden.

While sipping piping hot tea and slathering scones Vass detailed her rise to pastry chef fame in Scotland, “My first kitchen job was at 5* Hotel, The Blythswood Square in Glasgow. Then I went to work at Pastelería Èscriba in Barcelona. Back in Scotland I became head pastry chef at 2AA rosette restaurant, Number 16, in Glasgow. I then spent a stint on the Isle of Skye at 3AA rosette restaurant, The Three Chimneys. Afterwards I made the move to London for Bake Off judge, Claire Clark at her patisserie catering company, Pretty Sweet. Today, I am a pastry lecturer at South Lanarkshire College and I work at Eusebi’s in Glasgow as creative director and pastry chef.” 

Between soothing sips of Earl Grey I eagerly watched Vass nibble on petite sweets. After oogling at the Balmoral Hotel’s Afternoon Tea opulence she chuckled then chirped, “I used to always walk past The Balmoral as a child and think what a grand place it was. It was a delight to finally have an opportunity to sample Chef Ross Sneddon’s Balmoral Hotel Afternoon Tea service. I loved the whole experience as it wasn’t just going for afternoon tea but a really celebratory moment. The staff, the ambience and the food all worked together to create a great memory. I think the nicest touch was the hand made chocolates and loose leaf tea given to guests as a take away. It’s a unique Balmoral memory that allows tea lovers to savour the moment for as long as can be.”

Guests are treated to a take away gift featuring chocolate truffles and loose leaf tea tins.

Afternoon Tea is a popular tradition in the United Kingdom as well as the British colonies and beyond. These are our favourite afternoon tea’s around the world:

Balmoral Hotel Afternoon Tea Reservations

1 Princess Street, 44-131-556-2414

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