Since moving to the UK, afternoon tea is a great British traditional experience I enjoy a few times a year. According to the history books, afternoon tea was introduced in England by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford in the year 1840. The Duchess would become hungry around 4 0’clock in the afternoon. As dinner was usually served around 8 o’clock in her household, it was a rather long break between lunch and dinner. The Duchess would ask for a tray of tea, bread and butter and cake to be brought to her room. This started to become a habit and eventually she invited her friends to join her. And so of course this led it to become the popular and fashionable social event that it is today.
London offers a wide choice of many wonderful afternoon tea experiences ranging from hotels, tea rooms and restaurants. Besides for the traditional afternoon tea where sandwiches and scones are served, you can also experience themed afternoon teas and gentlemen’s afternoon teas. The cost of a tea experience also varies quite widely in terms of how fancy the place is. It can start from as low as £15 a person up to £80 a person. Thanks to Groupon and Wowcher you can now buy deals online that have made the afternoon tea experience more affordable.
Over the years I’ve tried a lot of places for afternoon tea. Too many sweets and sugary eats makes the tea experience a very rich and heavy one for me. I’ve come to the conclusion that I prefer a good combination of sweet and savoury eats with my tea. After all I am a biltong, chips and Coke kind of girl 😉
My most memorable tea experiences so far:
- The Chesterfield Hotel in Mayfair – I’ve been to the Chesterfield Hotel twice and really enjoyed my experiences there. It’s definitely a hotel worth getting a little dressed up for for tea. Try to get a table in the enclosed outside area while you listen to the pianist and enjoy the magnificent surroundings.
- The Palm Court at Sheraton Grand Park London – My hubby and I were given this tea as a gift experience. We thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon tea here while listening to the harpist in this opulent art deco venue. The menu was amazing and the service was top notch!
- Soho Hotel – the Soho Hotel and the Ham Yard Hotel both belong to the Firmdale hotel group. Although these hotels may not be quite as posh as The Chesterfield Hotel I do like the modern and contemporary decor of these 2 hotels. I also find their afternoon tea reasonably priced with a good combination of savoury and sweet eats to enjoy in nice comfortable (but maybe slightly busier/noisier) surroundings.
- Ham Yard Hotel – the Ham Yard Hotel was less busy than the Soho Hotel on the day that we visited. It is probably my first choice over the Soho Hotel for an enjoyable and affordable afternoon tea experience.
- Teanamu Chaya Teahouse – Always on the lookout for different experiences, I was keen to have tea at the Teanamu Chaya Teahouse after hearing that they’ve been listed as one of Five of the Best Teahouses in the UK. This calm hideaway can be found off Portobello Road in Notting Hill. My friend B and I both had the ichi-go ichi-e afternoon tea. This is a ceremonius Chinese tea experience served with dimsum, pastries and sandwiches that were all worth trying.
- Brgr.co in Soho – This restaurant offers a fun American take on the English afternoon tea. The “tea” includes a selection of mini burgers, sandwiches, cakes and a mini milkshake all delicious enough to satisfy my sweet and savoury tooth!
- Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium – A few month’s ago I went to Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium. It’s not quite your traditional afternoon tea experience but it was still a unique and fun experience. You can read more about it here: Tea at Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium
- Roald Dahl Afternoon Tea at Aqua Shard – We recently experienced the Roald Dahl afternoon tea at Aqua Shard still to come in a future post. The highlight of the experience was the magnificent views over London.
Afternoon teas I still need to try:
- The Sanderson Hotel
- The Rosebery Lounge at The Mandarin Oriental
- Gentlemen’s afternoon tea at The Mandeville Hotel
- Great Fosters Hotel in Egham
I’m sure there’s plenty of other places that I’ve not yet discovered to add to the above list.
Afternoon tea is a great way to spend an afternoon indulging yourself and your partner or socialising with friends. If you haven’t experienced an afternoon tea I would highly recommend trying out some of the places I’ve mentioned or have a look at this site for many other afternoon tea venues around the UK.
What are your favourite afternoon tea places? Can you recommend any to me? I’d love to hear in the comments below.