Luxury Takes A Bite Out Of The Latest Collab Trend: 5-Star Afternoon Tea

Jing Daily’s monthly Chinese Collabs column looks at the China-related collaborations and drops that are transforming the luxury landscape. From local fashion brands to C-beauty, virtual idols to NFTs, and KOLs to lifestyle and games, it offers a curated selection of what’s dropping and the trends behind them. 

Clair He, a 26-year-old who lives in Beijing, frequently shares her lavish lifestyle on the Instagram-like platform Xiaohongshu. She recently went to the five-star resort Waldorf Astoria Beijing — dressed in a backless Saint Laurent satin dress with a pair of Machi Machi crystal heels — to taste the limited edition “Miracle Revitalizing” afternoon tea presented by La Mer (worth $110 or 798 RMB). 

Hundreds of wealthy young girls like her have posted the same experience on Xiaohongshu. La Mer x Waldorf Astoria Beijing’s collaboration garnered $165,000 (1.2 million RMB) in media impact value (MIV) as per Launchmetrics findings. It seems that luxury brands have found a new formula to drive organic traffic: a photogenic afternoon tea in a prestigious location. 

Not only do co-branded afternoon teas attract online traffic, but luxury resort consumers also align with those of prestige labels, making it a win-win. The overlap of the two sets a strong foundation for cross-border collaboration. “Luxury sells because it sells a story, a standard, a position in society, not necessarily the functional product. Being associated with the top resorts can help enhance brands’ image,” says Lisa Yu, founder of beauty incubator Gēnlab. 

In light of the above, many beauty and jewelry houses have recently joined the game — and even upgraded it.

CPB afternoon tea with beauty products and a spa

Clé de Peau Beauté’s afternoon tea set came with branded macarons and a gift box of facial products. Photo: CPB’s Weibo

In September, high-end Japanese skincare brand Clé de Peau Beauté (CPB) launched the “supreme series” afternoon tea set with luxury hotels across Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, and popular tourist destination Lijiang. Along with logoed macarons and mousses, glasses of champagnes, and refreshments topped with caviar, the $120 (888 RMB) set included a CPB Supreme series gift box and a 90-minute facial spa invitation. 

Although the price can be prohibitive for many, it helped the label target its desired consumers. The aim here is to make the audience try the beauty line and convert them into potential clients. “Engaging with luxury consumers is incredibly competitive, especially for the VIP segment,” points out Michel Tjoeng, SVP of sales and marketing at ChatLabs. “An invitation to the store just won’t cut it. Brands turn to five-star hotels for a more intimate luxury environment where there is no sales pressure.” Reservations for the afternoon tea were instantly booked, all the way until November. 

De Beers an artistic approach to afternoon tea

De Beers unveiled a butterfly-themed afternoon tea experience at the Ritz-Carlton. Photo: @露西陆FashionTherapy

On the occasion of Chinese Qixi in August, jewelry house De Beers partnered with the Ritz-Carlton. Taking inspiration from a Chinese allegory, the pair created a “Zhuangzi dreamt he was a butterfly”-themed afternoon tea. Beautiful butterflies constellated the entire experience. When opening the menu, 3D paper-cut butterflies appeared. Desserts, decorated with fondant butterfly figures, were placed in butterfly-shaped trays. Consumers enjoyed snapping pictures and sharing the artistic set online: Xiaohongshu blogger @露西陆FashionTherapy described the afternoon tea as “romantically tasting.” 

Making the experience even more memorable was the surprise gift at the end. Showing the receipt at the SKP store, shoppers could redeem a De Beers limited edition British teacup set with the butterfly print of the afternoon tea. Hence, the jewelry label drove traffic not only online but also offline to its retail store. “A holistic 360 approach is a good way, spreading the messages across all touch points so that people are aware,” Yu adds, while data from Launchmetrics revealed the tie-up generated $277,000 (2 million RMB) in MIV.

Chaumet an afternoon tea for each collection

Chaumet created afternoon tea sets based on different signature collections. Photo: Xiaohongshu

Parisian haute jewelry brand Chaumet allied with Mandarin Oriental (MO) in China to release afternoon tea sets for each of the jewelry maker’s signature collections. At the Beijing MO hotel, it launched “Tea time with Joséphine,” which took inspiration from one of its most iconic collections — Joséphine Aigrette — featuring desserts in the shape of the collection’s gems: water droplets and golden bellflowers. 

At Shenzhen’s MO, the theme was Chaumet’s “Bee My Love.” The five-star resort’s dessert chef, Chef Marc, fused the beehive shape into his desserts and used honey as the main ingredient to create a true feast for the eyes and tongue.

Meanwhile, the afternoon tea created in Guangzhou was done with the “Liens” line in mind. The desserts were decorated in its signature “X” symbol and doused in the deep blue of the brand’s iconic packaging. “Such brand partnerships are a way to create brand associations. The brand and the hotel can both benefit from each other’s images,” concluded Yu. The unique partnership generated a total of $121,000 (882,000 RMB) in MIV, Launchmetrics found.

Five-star hotels are well equipped with creative chef teams that can deliver high-standard and gorgeous-looking menus, strengthening the idea of a luxury experience. But in the now crowded afternoon tea race, luxury must engage creatively with shoppers; being good-looking is not enough to stand out. Clair He praised the combination of sweet and salty dishes in La Mer x Waldorf’s afternoon tea set as an authentic culinary experience. “Finally, some tasteful afternoon tea that is not simply visually pleasant,” she enthused. As with all things luxury, there must be more than meets the eye. 

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