I have never been much of a tea person, or a hot drink personal in general. Of course, this is surprising to anyone in England as the British are known for their afternoon tea. I never ventured into trying one until a friend surprised me with one for my birthday.
To give you an insight into how a classic afternoon tea works. Traditionally, it comprises of three courses and lasts for a couple of hours. Firstly, it starts with choosing your tea! The tea menus at afternoon tea are extensive, with types of tea that only tea fanatics will be familiar with (first-flush, loose-leaf etc.). Accompanying your first tea is a selection of small finger savoury sandwiches, each of them different, and some restaurants will offer unique combinations.
Then comes the next course, traditional British scones accompanied with another tea. The delicious British scones – plain or with raisins and sultanas – are typically served with Cornish clotted cream and berry jams, like strawberry and raspberry. The first time I tried scones was at the Rosewood Hotel and I found them to be so tasty that it has now become my favourite British food. I even get them from the local market at times and have them at home for breakfast.
And last but not least is desserts. Each hotel will offer a palette of different desserts, which is why it is a different experience every time you go for an afternoon tea. Although the desserts come in at a point of time when you are completely full with all the sandwiches and scones, it is really difficult to resist them.
My Pick of Interesting Afternoon Tea Experiences in London
- Rosewood Hotel, Holborn
Located by Holborn Station (and hence, very close to LSE), the Rosewood Hotel holds a very elusive afternoon tea experience with exquisite attention to detail. The afternoon tea salon has ambient lighting, very comfortable seating and it is a beautiful setting for afternoon tea. The hosts are generous, remember your dietary requirements and you are allotted a two-hour slot. The sandwiches were healthy, tasty, well presented and unlimited. The next course, the scones, were filled with raisins and served with a selection of jams and clotted cream. And the final course really heightened the experience for me and sealed its way to the top of my list! The cakes were beautiful abstracted representations of famous art pieces by artists, like Andy Warhol, Banksy and Picasso.
- Brown’s Hotel
One of the oldest organisers of afternoon tea, this is said to be the Queen’s favourite. This was an interesting experience for me for three main reasons. 1) Like I mentioned, I’m not a fan of hot beverages, but the Brown Hotel offers a selection of many teas, which they serve as iced teas as well, which is great for me and for afternoon tea in the summertime. 2) The tea venue has its own pianist so guests can enjoy live music while relishing the extensive selection of teas, some which are available exclusively at Brown’s Hotel. 3) The afternoon tea itself! The afternoon tea is served in the traditional three-tiered plates. The host offers great pairing suggestions and advice about the tea selection. There is a good variety of sandwiches, with vegetarian and vegan options available too, and the desserts are well-presented. The hotel happily allows guests to bring desserts home in a to-go bag, letting you enjoy as many sandwiches and scones as you’d like!
- Taj 51 Buckingham Suites Hotel
This option is for food enthusiasts and Indian food lovers! This luxury hotel is located right next to the Buckingham Palace, and offers all kinds of Afternoon Tea experiences, like Alice in Wonderland; however, the experience that caught my eye was the Jasmine Indian Afternoon Tea. What sets this afternoon tea experience apart is its focus on Indian-ising all aspects of the experience, from the table cloth to the china, to the food. The experience begins with a selection of various types of sandwiches and puffs, incorporating mild Indian spices and ingredients, such as cottage cheese and spicy potatoes. Next comes the raisin scones with a unique mango compote. And then the desserts! They were truly the highlight. Expect delicious Indian desserts such as kulfi, gulab jamun, barfi, ras-malai and more in a Western-ised version with tart cups, compotes, pastries and more.
- The Berkeley Hotel
The Berkeley Hotel offers a unique designer-inspired afternoon tea that transports you to a world of fashion. Previously, there was a Victoria Beckham inspired afternoon tea; and this season, the afternoon tea is inspired by the designs of Christian Dior. They transferred the signature Dior Collection into their biscuits and bakes. The tea also includes an assortment of tasty skewers and tea sandwiches.
A Londoner favourite is afternoon tea served at the Gallery at Sketch. Sketch has quite a unique take on the afternoon tea experience. The best part of the afternoon tea here is certainly the tea itself. Instead of selecting your tea from the menu, there are waitresses moving trolleys around the hall with jars filled with an assortment of teas, so you can actually sniff the teas before you make your decision.
- Patisserie Valerie
With a number of branches dotted around London, Patisserie Valerie offers a pocket-friendly afternoon tea, priced at £25 for two. Their afternoon tea menu comprises a selection of traditional finger sandwiches, scones and a selection of miniature Patisserie classics.
Some other famous afternoon teas in London are at The Ritz Hotel, The Langham, Hotel Cafe Royal and Fortnum and Mason.
I have fallen in love with going to afternoon tea and feel like I’ll be doing them again and again. However, instead of going to the expensive ones, again and again, London also has more pocket-friendly afternoon tea escapes like Caffe Concerto and Patisserie Valerie. Almost every hotel and bakery has an afternoon tea menu. Don’t get mistaken and treat the afternoon tea as a thing only for the tea-lovers. It is a complete dining experience, which must be tried at least once while you are here in London. It’s about getting out your pretty dresses or formal wear and head out on a delicious brunch or an afternoon meal. I mean it is an elegant, fun thing to do after all.
Do leave in your afternoon tea experiences in the comments! What’s your favourite place for afternoon tea?