There’s nothing more British than the tradition of afternoon tea; a quintessentially ‘upper class’ heritage which has led to the age long trend of sipping the nation’s favourite brew from delicate china with fancy nibbles and petit fours.
To experience this true tradition we’ve listed the Top 5 hotels in London where you can indulge in this afternoon treat of milky tea, warm scones and triangle sandwiches. There’s no better way to spend an afternoon while visiting London, and it’s a welcome break from sightseeing.
So where did it all start? The institution of afternoon tea began in the early 19th century and it is believed that Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, started this routine after complaining of “having that sinking feeling” during the late afternoon. As a remedy, and a very effective one, the Duchess was given a pot of tea and a light snack privately in her boudoir, to last her until dinner. Who knew it would catch on?
Why not do the Duchess proud and put your feet up for an hour or two and indulge in some sweet treats and tea, just to say you’ve done it.
Our favourite haunts:
Claridge’s is one of London’s most exclusive hotels and a favourite of the rich and famous, so understandably its afternoon tea is pretty special. Having served the British tradition for over 150 years they’ve got it down to a tee. Pardon the pun. Served on fine china, you can feast on delicate finger sandwiches, apple and raisin scones, sweet pastries and a selection of over 40 different teas from all over the world, sourced by the hotel’s very own tea connoisseur. If you prefer the hard stuff and are after something a bit more bubbly, why not add some champagne to your order for the ultimate indulgence – great for a romantic break. And if you’ve got kids, don’t fret, there’s a special afternoon tea just for them as well.
For an experience more akin to Alice and Wonderland, head to The Savoy, another of London’s most prestigious hotels. Inside the hotel is transformed into a garden party on a fresh summer’s day, with a gazebo, bouquets of flowers and a romantic piano player for entertainment. The tea itself is world famous and consists of delicious sandwiches, homemade scones with clotted cream & jam and a mouth-watering selection of seasonal cakes. So if you have a sweet tooth, The Savoy is the place for you.
A bit of tea trivia, The Palm Court at The Langham was actually the first hotel in London to start the tradition of serving afternoon tea to the public over a century ago. So if you want to experience the good, old fashioned custom and stir in a little history, then this is the place to come. The Langham serves a proper afternoon tea with gourmet finger sandwiches, a modern twist on classic British desserts such as Victoria sponge, strawberry meringue and royal gala apple with champagne, and of course, home baked scones. If you’re a sucker for tradition there’s really nowhere else to go.
The Goring was awarded the coveted title of Top London Afternoon Tea 2013 by the prestigious Tea Guild last year, so this Fitzrovia hotel is top notch when it comes to Britain’s afternoon snack. Guests can enjoy their afternoon tea next to a roaring fire in winter or in the charming garden in summer, making it one of the few places to offer al fresco afternoon teas in the capital. The menu consists of dainty finger sandwiches, homemade buttery scones, a variety of handcrafted pastries and a wide selection of perfectly brewed teas.
Quaintly named Prêt-à-Portea you will start to notice the fashion influences on this British tradition. With special themed afternoon tea at The Berkeley, their menu is inspired by the trends of the season, changing every six months to keep up with the vogue. A fashionista’s dream, this afternoon tea includes a Burberry trench coat ginger biscuit, a Saint Laurent red duffle bag made from Victoria sponge and a Jean Paul Gaultier gold quilted banana and caramel crémeaux with passion fruit compote, all served on iconic Paul Smith fine-bone china. Add a little ‘couture’ to your experience with some champagne to really do it properly.
There really is no better tradition to try in London than afternoon tea; and with our Top 5 you won’t be short of places to go. Take advantage of the London Pass and combine your experience with free and fast track entry into over 60 top attractions in London, not to mention a free travelcard and a free guidebook. The perfect sightseeing package for any visitor to the capital!