1. If you are staying at the Ritz Carleton you are a) a little ways away from all the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong (but a quick subway ride) and b) the hotel lobby is not on the ground floor but on the 103rd.
  2. It takes surprisingly little time to get to the 103rd These are some magical elevators.
  3. Afternoon Tea time at the Ritz hasn’t started yet so we are all in line next to the reservation desk. It is now quite obvious that no one goes for afternoon tea at the Ritz alone (as I am).
  4. It is a hazy and slightly cloudy day today but you can still see everything. I’m wondering if it is like this everyday. It feels a bit like being in an airplane while descending to the airport.
  5. Hong Kong is really full of tall buildings but they all look like dots compared to this one (and the Ritz apparently goes up to 118 floors!
  6. One of waiters brings me some luxury magazines to read while I enjoy my high tea and gives me a smile that felt like it said “ we know you are here alone but please don’t’ feel alone, you have us, chocolate, and these lovely magazines”.
  7. I order the Ecuador Chocolate Afternoon Tea which is why I am here. Café 103 teamed up with Ecuadorean cacao producer Republica del Cacao and Spanish confectioner Javier Guillen to create this chocolate centered afternoon tea.
  8. Apparently the chocolate used is the finest sustainable chocolates. As a sustainability expert I’m not always thrilled when the word is thrown around without any more information. I find little more to support that but I silence that part of my brain for now. Lets just take it all in.
  9. The waiter starts by bringing me a mini scone with cream and jam. Hong Kong was under British Crown rule from 1841 to 1997 which is where not just the scones but the whole afternoon tea is coming from I’m guessing. The scoop of clotted cream is the same size as the scone. I like their attitude.
  10. I know you are supposed to order tea with your afternoon tea but I order the Café 103 Signature Hot Chocolate. It arrives as I’m stuffing my mouth with scones (daintily of course). This new waiter also gives me a “ are you here along” look. I give him back a “I’m perfectly happy but do wish I had a better view” look.
  11. I take a sip of my hot chocolate. The strangest thing just happened and I can’t say this has happened much, if ever before. This first sip of hot chocolate transported me. It is very lightly sweetened and it tastes like looking at the Christmas windows at Galleries Lafayette in Paris the night before Christmas. It’s a cool and grey night with not many people around. I see it clearly for a moment and then it passes. I honestly don’t know how they did it, or why I think that, but that very strong memory popped into my head with that first sip.
  12. Needless to say the hot chocolate is beautiful. It is rich and incredibly creamy and smooth, with a nice balance of fruity and earthy notes. They are obviously using some nice chocolate but the waiter doesn’t know which one. It is a blend of three chocolates, a 70% darker chocolate, a 35% and a white chocolate with a hint of vanilla added.
  13. Every sip keeps bringing me back to Christmas in Paris. It is dark and cold but calm and dreamlike. In this sip I smell the chestnuts roasting at those small street side stalls and the smell they make when they put them in little paper cones when someone orders them. Once the sip is gone, the memory is gone too. This is even more amazing then their impossibly fast elevator.
  14. I take a moment to try to switch my memory to something more local, something more Hong Kong. I look out the window. To the right, where the really amazing view is, they have a large marble wall up against my table. This Café looks like it was designed to block the view not enjoy the view.
  15. One of the couples with the table right up against the window (jealous) has spend the past 15 minutes each on their respective phones. Glad they are noticing the view. Oh they are looking up at the view. False alarm, selfie time.
  16. I can’t get over this hot chocolate. I’m getting jet lagged zipping back and forth to Paris. Need to focus on Hong Kong.
  17. The woman interrupts my next trip to Paris bringing me a red contraption covered in sweets and savoury bites. This is the afternoon tea. I’m so happy with my hot chocolate I completely forgot that I’m here to taste all of this other chocolate. This is serious stuff.
  18. The savoury bits are pretty classic. A mini crock monsieur (literally a smile bite size, I just pop it in my mouth and its done)., salmon caviar with mozzarella, crab rillettes with cream squid ink burger. I did a food tour this morning (with Hello Hong Kong, excellent and highly recommended) so I’m going to save these for later and focus on the chocolate.
  19. This modern art piece that they have carefully balanced the little desserts on is pretty but dangerous. The waiter drops desserts from one as she brings it to a long table filled with older ladies lunching next to me. The visitors seem to be loving the spectacle of it all and start giggling. They did start with champagne rather than tea. Does no one have tea at afternoon tea anymore?
  20. I start with dessert first and go straight for one called “The Panama Hat” because it is shaped like a hat (surprise). The waiter mentions that these are the hats the farmers use in the fields when they pick the cacao pods. It is an almond cookie base with a dark chocolate hat on top that is filled with a generous amount of banana ganache and passion fruit filling. They should sell boxes of these at the door. These hats are a complete meal if you ask me, and a good one.
  21. I’m not the only one starting with the desserts. The couple of front of me to the left is on a date and the man starts with dessert first. His date looks confused that he did. I’m impressed. Smart man. A keeper.
  22. Desserts are still falling from trays everywhere. I can tell before each time because there is an audible gasp and then giggle. I think it is just adding to the experience (assuming all sacrificed desserts are swiftly replaced). The art of making a tray that is both beautiful and functional.
  23. I tackle my second dessert, a rose (because there are roses in Ecuador I’m told). The waiter also points out a beautiful bouquet of roses at the front of the Café that ties everything together. I’m not sure about the link to chocolate, or really to Ecuador but it looks stunning. A raspberry chocolate mousse with raspberry coulis inside over a crunchy sweet biscuit. All very sweet for my taste but beautiful.
  24. All of a sudden I’ve noticed the music in the Café 103. It is elevator music. Now I can’t stop listening to it. I’m definitely not a fan. With all the good music in the world…what about music from Ecuador?
  25. Onto the “Feve” cacao, a caramel milk chocolate with hazelnut ganache mousse, chocolate cookie soil. Basically it looks like a little cacao pod that has fallen to the ground. It is serious stuff, very rich and decadent. Again, package these up in a box, sell them at the front door, bring them home and pop one into a mug of hot milk and you would have a pretty good hot chocolate!
  26. There is a second dessert that looks exactly the same as this. As first I think that they have given me two of the same (maybe because they expected the other one to fall during transportation?) but no, this one is very strong coffee flavour. I’m a hot chocolate girl, not a coffee girl. Moving on.
  27. Still wondering why you could have a café on the 103rd floor of a building and put a marble wall next to the tables so people can’t enjoy the view. This is now starting to bother me. I want to look at Hong Kong!
  28. I dive into the next mini dessert, a very light cheesecake like mousse (Javier likes his mousses obviously) with strawberry jam on top. My tastebuds are uninterested, they want chocolate.
  29. I remember watching a documentary about how they design the meals that you eat on flights and how your taste buds are very different high up in the air. That means that the meal will taste very different during a flight than it will on the ground. I wonder if 103 floors is high enough to affect your taste buds?
  30. I stand up to take a better look over my marble wall which I have already studied in detail. Below the café is a restaurant that has floor to ceiling windows over two floors offering the most amazing view of the city. However, the same designers that put in my marble wall perhaps, put in several design features including long silver wave structures along the windows that partially block that view as well (I’m guessing they also block the sun on sunny days so that is a good thing). I can hear a fountain but I can’t see it.
  31. The couple at the window to the right (with the amazing view) is still on their phones. The couple to the left on their date seems to be doing well. I think there will be another date.
  32. Annoyed with my view I change to the other side of my table. From here I can twist back to see beyond the marble wall and get glimpses of the harbour and the boats. It is nice to be back in Hong Kong!! It is a beautiful city from 103 floors above as well.
  33. I save the best dessert for last, the Guanabana, a peanut paste with chocolate mousse guanabana jelly. It is the strangest combination of flavours but it is refreshing and bright with a subtle nut flavour. That and the Panama hat are my favourites.
  34. I just noticed that I have been here for an hour already. I guess I’m enjoying my lonely afternoon tea. The luxury magazines are on the floors.
  35. I ask for a box to take away my savoury bits that I haven’t touched. I’m going to eat them on the star ferry later, a romantic dinner on a boat.
  36. I look around and down and watch the star ferry zip across the water. It looks like a toy. Nothing looks real from 103 floors up. The city is strangely quiet (except the elevator music.)
  37. I try eavesdropping around me but all the conversations are in Cantonese. I give up and go back to looking at the city. I’m still the only one looking at the view.
  38. There are no westerners in the room. I’m the gorilla in the room…in so many ways. I think the waiters are starting to wonder why I’m writing so much rather than looking at the magazines.
  39. I remember now the documentary about airplane food said that in part the food tastes different because airplanes are not very humid, they are actually drier than most deserts which reduces the sensitivity of your taste buds to sweet and salty foods by quite a bit. So your hot chocolate tastes less sweet in an airplane which is why the Cadbury hot chocolate they serve on Qantas planes tastes so much better than here on solid ground.
  40. I ask for the bill. This mini feast will cost you HK$388 on weekdays and HK$408 on weekends and a 10% service charge is added because they did bring me magazines after all.
  41. In my new seat I see the end of a party downstairs. A woman received lots of beautiful bouquets of flowers. I’d like a party like that…hot chocolate and flowers at the Ritz.
  42. Phone couple is still on their phones but date couple is going strong. Oh, I take that back, they are now taking selfies and posting them on their phones. Maybe that means they are doing well? Maybe dating is just different here at 103 floors up.
  43. The lunching ladies to my side are having so much fun I briefly debate joining them even though I wouldn’t be able to explain to them in Cantonese why I am joining them. I’d just sit there and giggle along with them. One is licking her plate and I’m pretty sure she thinks no one can see her. I can. We should allow more licking of plates in fancy restaurants.
  44. The waiter brings me a fancy light blue bag with all my savoury goodies for my star ferry picnic. She thanks me for coming and hopes that I enjoyed my time with them. I’ve been here for almost 2 hours. I’m surprised; it really didn’t feel like that long!
  45. Just as I am about to leave another waiter brings me a plate with four more desserts! A little tiramisu, a coconut cart, a strawberry tart…I’m so full. I take a little nibble of each of them and then place them carefully in my fancy picnic bag that looks a bit like a bag from Tiffany’s.
  46. I pick myself up and walk back to the front of the café, taking a long moment to take in the whole view. Standing at the entrance you get the full effect of Café 103, something I definitely didn’t get sitting down. You have a 180 degree view of Hong Kong, Kowloon on the left and Hong Kong Island on the right. I can imagine this is stunning at night with the multi-coloured lights of the city.
  47. I think if you really want to enjoy the view at 103 floors up you are better off going to the restaurant area although I’m not sure what the restaurant is like. Apparently there is a bar on floor 118 called OZONE (apparently the highest bar in the world at 490 meters above sea level). If they sell their signature hot chocolate up there I’d highly recommend a hot chocolate on floor 118 of the Ritz.
  48. I zip past the ladies room before leaving. There is an amazing view from the toilets (I imagine there must be a coffee table book of the best toilets with views). From here you see in the other direction, a sea of fishing boats. A different but equally beautiful view of Hong Kong.
  49. I pass reception and one of the staff rushes ahead of me to press the button for the magical transporter to bring me back down 103 floors. I feel like a Queen, a very full Queen.
  50. If you want the full afternoon tea experience, alone or with others, they are only offering this special Chocolate afternoon tea until the 30th of November 2017!