Finding the Best Afternoon Tea in London

City Travel, England, Europe, Extras, Food & Wine — By on June 28, 2010 at 10:00 am

The best (and maybe most cliche) things about London include the queen, fish and chips, red telephone booths, Big Ben, and of course tea! Sure it’s tough to skip the touristy stuff but when you visit, you MUST indulge in afternoon tea. The British are crazy about their “cuppas” (cups of tea) and we wanted to know more about the hype. It’s like Sex and the City goes British–people dress up and meet up with friends for these exquisite delicate little luncheons. Our Lost Girl London expert Julie Falconer checked out the age-old tradition…

By Julie Falconer

Travel Website

Finding the perfect afternoon tea in London is a quite a delicious quest. From luxury hotels to famous London tea rooms, many establishments vie for The Tea Guild’s annual Top London Afternoon Tea award. But why let the guild have all the fun tasting? Every London visitor can be a judge if she knows what to look for.

A Two Second Summary of the Tea Tradition

Afternoon tea started in the early 19th century when Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, began to have tea with friends each day. She initiated a trend that eventually became a tradition, such that afternoon tea is now an establishment in the UK.

Today’s afternoon tea consists of a set formula that each tea room embellishes with its own creative twists. Guests choose tea from a menu, and then the tea is brought along with a tiered tray of finger sandwiches, small scones, petite fours, savory canapés, and other gastronomic fare. Often “celebration” tea is available, which includes regular afternoon tea plus a glass of Champagne.

Where to Drink It

So where is the best place to enjoy this English tradition? According to The Tea Guild, it’s The Langham Hotel in London. This year the Langham won the guild’s “Michelin star” equivalent for the tea industry, the Top London Afternoon Tea award. Its excellent tea, pastries, and service stood out above the rest.

But the rest are still worth trying. Not least among these is the Lanesborough Hotel in London, which boasts of having Britain’s first dedicated Tea Sommelier. Die-hard tea drinkers can visit the Lanesborough to get the expert’s top recommendations.

For fashion lovers, Prêt-à-Portea at the Berkeley Hotel is the perfect afternoon tea. The hotel describes the pastries as “delicacies with a fashionista twist.” The Prêt-à-Portea menu changes semi-annually according to the changes in designer fashions. The current season’s highlights include an Anya Hindmarch-inspired apricot sponge cake ‘Halen’ bag hugged by marzipan and finished with a stylish bow.

For those that want less fashion and more tradition, look no further than the Ritz and the Wolseley. Their restaurants offer historic interiors and classic tea menus, and are two of the most popular places to enjoy afternoon tea in London.

Special Deals for Cheaper Afternoon Tea

Budget travelers can enjoy special deals for afternoon tea, including two-for-one specials and group discounts. Radisson hotels across Central London offer a two-for-one afternoon tea deal starting at £12 if you travel by train to London. Group discounts are offered by the likes of the Grosvenor Hotel Victoria and the Renaissance Chancery Court. Free champagne for groups is available from Swissotel The Howard, the Royal Garden Hotel, The Waldorf, Just St James, and the Sheraton Park Tower in Knightsbridge.

Whatever your interests, you can find an afternoon tea that suits your style and your travel budget. And who knows? Maybe you’ll come across the next winner of the Tea Guild’s award.

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  • Lovely stuff! I travelled to England this summer and had my first ever afternoon tea with a scone, and it was so delicious I figured I’d try make my own last week. I might have deviated from the norm maybe – I found a tonne of random scone recipes here and made 5 different kinds! My friends were so happy when I invited them round for tea and scones, complete with real whipped cream. Terrific fun!

  • Kerry says:

    Don’t forget the cream tea 🙂 That’s the best part. Freshly brewed tea with warm scones with cream and jam. If you look hard you may even be able to find clotted cream, which is even better! (not healthier though :))

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