Afternoon Tea at the Mount Nelson Hotel

The Mount Nelson Hotel has long been Cape Town's most iconic and historical institution that was originally built way back in 1899 for ship liners that docked in the city's port. Back in the days Mount Nelson had played its share of hosting distinguished hotel guests including Winston Churchill and the Prince of Wales. It was also the first place in South Africa to have a heated swimming pool and running cold and hot water. It was the hotel to stay at in Cape Town in the early days for those who could afford it.


Afternoon tea at the Mount Nelson has long been a standing tradition of the hotel and today the mention of Mount Nelson is almost always synonymously tied to afternoon tea. At present day, given the great number of newer and more modern hotels that have popped up all over Cape Town, the Mount Nelson is no longer considered the best hotel to stay at but the tradition of afternoon tea is what helps preserve the heritage of the historic hotel today.


Afternoon tea at the Mount Nelson arguably offers one of the best tea experiences in the world. This place is serious about its tea. We were presented a tea menu with several pages of teas to choose from. Each tea was distinctly different not in type and flavor but also in brewing time. When our tea pots were brought to our table, the server said to let my Russian blend tea leaves steep for 3-5 minutes while T's choice of Rooibos orange spice tea leaves had to be steeped a little longer for 5-7 minutes. An hourglass sand timer was also brought to our table to help us know when our tea is ready. The sand was measured for 5 minutes and when the top bulb is empty, that was when my Russian blend was ready. We then inverted the hourglass sand timer to continue the timing for T's tea. It was a ritualistic afternoon of tea.



The food was presented buffet style consisting of a plethora of finger sandwiches, cakes, cookies, and fruit.


Some of the different types of finger sandwiches included smoked salmon, cucumber, and egg. Other savory items were mushroom puff pastries and fried dough fritters.


One of my favorites was the strawberries and cream cake that came with a light and soft sponge cake and cream that was just perfect without being overly sweet. The red velvet mini cakes were also impressive and I was able to taste the chocolate cake in it, which truly brings red velvet back to what it is really is: chocolate flavored cake stained with red coloring. Many of the red velvet cupcakes I've had recently stopped tasting like chocolate, although delicious. The red velvet cakes at the Mount Nelson stays true the origins of the flavor. There were also a variety of flavored macarons which included strawberry and chocolate. Mini pancakes were also part of the spread.

The fruit cake tasted wonderful with just the right dense texture. There were classics like chocolate eclairs, as well as the more unique options like coconut covered ginger cinnamon balls.


It is really a haven for pastry lovers. The lemon tart with meringue was not too tangy and the pastry shell was delicately crisp. Other petite cake squares included the chocolate layer cake and butter layer cake covered with white sugar fondant and orange fondant.

The afternoon tea was an elegant affair and the hotel offers a choice of seating either in the lounge, terrace, or garden. We chose to be seated in the charming lounge.

There is so much history to the Mount Nelson and spending an afternoon over tea at this hotel was a very nice way for us to experience that little bit of heritage that the hotel maintains up to present day. It made a memorable and iconic Cape Town experience for us.

Mount Nelson Hotel
76 Orange Street
Cape Town 8001


  1. Hi Terina,

    Found your blog when searching for blogs about Mt. Nelson tea :) Love reading your blog!

    Looks like you had a wonderful trip to South Africa! We'll be leaving on a similar trip in a couple months. Looking forward to it.

  2. Hi Marcela

    I hope you enjoy South Africa. You will love it! Wish I could be back someday.


  3. Thanks Teri! We can't wait for our trip!
    Do you have any recommendations/tips based on your recent trip (in general)?