What started as expectations of a mid-afternoon snack turned out to be a veritable feast in the mountains of Japan. Arriving at the Hyatt Regency Hakone, a modern mountain resort with rooms for pet owners and a hot springs spa, we were surprised to see the lounge on the ground floor full of happy guests gathered around a giant fireplace.
AFTERNOON TEA IN HAKONE
“What’s happening over there?” I asked the bell boy, who was taking care of our luggage. The entire hotel is on vacation mode in spite of COVID-19, by the way, so the staff are cheerful and all smiles, wearing neat blue-and-white uniforms. This visual of a happy team in stripes successfully put guests at ease immediately, by the way. It also helped many forget about the pandemic.
“As you will be here for several days, you must try our afternoon tea,” replied our bell boy. “It’s very popular. In fact, many of our repeat guests make sure to book this tea when they reserve a room here.”
This was all the incentive we needed to join the crowds. The pandemic was still in the air, in Japan and all over the world, so social distancing and masks were in place. Nevertheless, this did not stop anyone from enjoying the full afternoon tea experience of the Hyatt Regency Hakone.
CHAMPAGNE TO START
Considering we were in the mountains, this afternoon tea was very luxurious. We began with flutes of Ruinart, an excellent French champagne, and this set the mood for the rest of the experience.
First came plates of freshly baked scones with the requisite clotted cream, butter and jams. After all, a proper afternoon tea is not complete without warm scones and clotted cream.
Then the waitstaff brought each of us a multi-tiered tray laden with savory and sweet goodies. It was an aesthetic feast as well as a delicious one. In fact, we were all hesitant to begin eating because the trays simply looked too good to touch.
TOO BEAUTIFUL TO EAT
However, curiosity and hunger pangs soon set in. It wasn’t long before we were devouring our afternoon tea trays with gusto. That afternoon, the trays contained curry sandwiches, caprese salads and tiny bowls of marinated chicken. Then, the rest was more than enough to satisfy our sweet tooths. We had chiffon cakes, blueberry tarts, watermelon jelly, coffee rolls and macarons.
The weather was fine and everything was cosy around the fireplace. It was just the kind of relaxing afternoon we wanted to have on a summer holiday in Hakone.