Taking afternoon tea is lovely and all if your mum's in town, you have clients to impress or you just love overpaying for finger sandwiches.
Most of the time though, they're pretty stuffy, dull affairs. The brunch craze has truly taken over Beijing in the last couple of years, but we can't see afternoon tea having the same renaissance. There's not the same emphasis on booze, for one thing (though some of Beijing's best afternoon teas
do include champagne).
The team at the Ritz-Calrton Financial Street have other ideas. They've set out to make afternoon tea fun by partnering up with various companies to provide more excitement than you can get from clotted cream alone.
First up is US company Tesla, makers of super high-end electric cars. At the Tesla Tea Time you can go for a spin around Financial Street in one of the shiny new Model S vehicles (worth around 650,000RMB) before – or, preferably, after – you've re-upped on caffeine. You'd better hurry, though – the promotion finishes on Sunday.
We get more press releases about afternoon tea than you might think at Time Out towers, and the majority go straight on the later-base. You'd better believe we went to check out this one, though. Here's what happened.
The Tesla Model S, in 'dickhead red'.
Here she is. What a beaut. From the looks of it, this red model is on display and the silver car – the one with the scuffs on the hubcaps, war wounds from some over-caffeinated Beijing driving, no doubt – is the test model.
The interior. It smells of new leather; no rich mahogany, though.
We meet a friendly chap from Tesla, Mr Chen, who'll accompany us on our test drive. He asks us if we can drive, which we assure him we can. We're not lying or anything but this seems a bit casual – no licences are showed and no disclaimer documents signed.
We suppose it's all moot, as neither of us hold a Chinese driving licence, so aren't technically allowed on the roads anyway. Ah, Beijing! God bless your loosely defined laws.
Mr Chen, not looking entirely confident in our driving ability.
We sit down and get acquainted with mission control. Having never driven an electric car before, all the screens are slightly overwhelming; like a giant iPhone on wheels. Later on, Chen shows us how to change the tyre pressure with a touchscreen and we suddenly bounce up and down in the car like a bunch of rude boys in a lowrider.
Here's the cockpit.
We've not driven for a few years, and never driven in Beijing, so we're a bit on edge. We alleviate the tension with a classic joke: 'So, right pedal is go and left is stop, yeah?'.
'Yes', says Mr Chen, with a straight face and fear in his eyes. Ice breaker fail.
And we're off! It's excitement all the way around the block. In our five-minute ride we dodge two cars that cut us up and use the horn once. We hit a dizzying 26kmph on a rare patch of road with no traffic – slower than your average e-bike cruising speed. Essentially, though, the Tesla Model S is one giant, fancy e-bike. Dozens of batteries are at the base of the car, powering everything; the bonnet (hood) is completely empty, which looks pretty weird.
At such slow speeds you can't really tell you're in an electric car until you take your foot off the accelerator, at which point the car slows down quickly. Still, get this bad boy on the open road and it can reach 210kph (130mph).
So that's it, really. Ta-da!
Editor Lee Williamson, annoyingly pleased with himself.
The tea itself is of the quality you'd expect from the Ritz, a hotel with real heritage in the afternoon constitutional.
The price is 318RMB for two people, plus 15 percent service charge, which gets you tea (duh), and three tiers of yummy little sandwiches, cakes, tartlets, puffs, slices, crumbles and creams – you know the drill. Here's the tray, with a delicious (literally) piece of cross-branding.
So lot's of fun. Check it out this weekend while you still can.
Yes, 300-odd RMB isn't a small amount of change, but for a weekend day out for two that you won't forget in a hurry – plus all the luxury trappings of the Ritz to make you feel like a princess – we reckon it's worth it, if only for this amazing door opening mechanism.