“Noooooooo”, my frail, ninety year old Aunt screamed at me from the top of her lungs, as I was just about to pour the brewed Ringtons tea, into her cup. “The milk goes first!”, she exclaimed, staring into my eyes with a stern and serious look, making quite sure, that this utmost important fact ,was transfusing into my brain.
Growing up in England, drinking tea, for me, was as common a routine, as blinking, or showering or complaining about the weather. It was a rare occasion when my icy hands weren’t wrapped around my favourite flower printed Tea Cup, at various intervals throughout the grey-skied day.
The art of drinking tea in Britain, is a tradition taken with utmost seriousness and pride. The custom, dates back to the 3rd millennium B.C in China, making England fairly latecomers to the Tea party, only to become the fashionable drink of choice in coffee houses, by the mid 17th century. Nowadays, it is the quintessential British beverage. After water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world, and it is the British brands that dominate the world market.
So, on a recent trip back to London, I decided to engage in the ultimate Tea-Trek, to discover the most curious and fashionable places to savor a soothing cup of Afternoon Tea. The conclusions from my sipping adventure, was first and foremost, that Tea was sure enough, alive and kicking, and as stylish as ever. In fact, tea has reinvented itself, over and over the centuries, just like Madonna. And you can guarantee, that if the Sex and the City ladies, had taken a girly getaway to London, instead of Abu Dhabi, this would be their pastime of choice, talking sex, over scones and finger sandwiches.
I have comprised a list of the Best Places in London to indulge in a soothing, hot cup of comforting Afternoon Tea. There is a good mix of traditional, eclectic, modern, trendy and stylish. A leaf to suit every tea lovers tastes:
- The Promenade at The Dorchester Hotel
Order the Champagne Tea, for the ultimate in ostentatious opulence. Sophisticated ladies gather in groups for weekend gossip, over delicate slices of savory finger sandwiches, (crusts cut off, of course), followed by warm scones, and a platter of cakes and tartlets, including raspberry macaroons, chocolate marquis and coconut mousse, with a crisp glass of pink champagne on the side.
Five sittings every day at 1.15pm, 2.30pm, 3.15pm, 4.45pm and 5.15pm. Afternoon Tea costs £35.50 per person or £45.50 with Champagne. Booking is essential.
- The Foyer at Claridge’s
Freshly baked scones with Marco Polo jelly and Devonshire Cream, is just the start to the indulgent treats on offer, from the Vintage Champagne Afternoon Tea Menu. Booking a room in one of Diane Von Furstenberger’s newly designed rooms is highly recommended, to sleep off your tea coma.
Served at 3.00, 3.30, 5.00 or 5.30pm. From £45.00-68.00
- The Wolseley
The grand dining room, boasting luxurious chandeliers, high ceilings and glorious charm, is a Mayfair institution where on any given hour you will be rubbing shoulders with London’s elite and famous.
Afternoon Tea costs 21.00, and Champagne Tea 29.75. Served from 3.30-6.30pm
- The Ritz
‘I’m having Tea at the Ritz’ is a fairytale phrase, one must strive to say, at least once in their life. Expect a Royal French affair in the magnificently luxurious, Palm Court.
Sittings at 11.30am, 1.30pm, 3.30pm, 5.30pm and 7.30pm every day.
Ritz Traditional Afternoon Tea costs £39 per person. Champagne Afternoon Tea costs £50.00 per person and includes a glass of Champagne. Celebration Tea costs £50.00 per person or £59 with a glass of Champagne.
- Aspleys at the Lanesborough Hotel
A tea sommelier is at hand, under the spectacular light filled conservatory, of the Five star Hyde Park Hotel. He will guide you through the numerous varieties of tea to suit every tastebud, while a live pianist demonstrates that music is the food of love.
Sittings at 4pm and 4.30pm every day. Please note that tables must be vacated by 6pm. The Lanesborough Afternoon Tea costs £35. The Belgravia Tea, at £45, includes fresh strawberries and a glass of champagne or £48 with Rose Champagne. A Minimum charge of £9.50 per person applies. Booking is essential
- Fortnum & Mason
After shopping for luxury Tea Cosies, and Bespoke Gourmet Food hampers, relax over some intensely flavored canape’s, lemon meringues, rhubarb tarts and a Darjeeling Autumnal Tea, all made from Fortnum’s classic recipes.
- Sketch (The Parlour)
Sip in style amongst the fashionistas and London’s long legged beauties at the trendy, modern, eclecticly designed, striking space. The funky music keeps you animated well through your long afternoon of weird and wonderful gourmet sandwiches and pastries.
Who says tea has to be classic and traditional? Attempt to nibble on cucumber sandwiches while watching Burlesque dancers shimmer, as Cabaret captivates the room. Teasemaids will be pouring your tea, at this cute and kitsch entertaining space.
Afternoon Tease 35.00
- Palm Court at The Langham hotel
Experience pure British elegance and tradition, as you undergo a gourmet experience, in the dazzling dining room of this exceptional 5 star Hotel.
Afternoon tea seatings: 14:00, 14:30, 16.30 and 17.00
High tea: 17:00 – 18:30 Champagne hour: 18:65 – 20.09
- The Orangery, Kensington Palace
For local and organic delights, alongside a brewed pot of Tregnothnan tea, from the UK’s first tea plantation, The Orangery, nestled behind Kensington Palace, is a slice of serenity amongst the chaos of the city. With very reasonable prices at that. From 9.95
For my complete list of The Fifty Best Tea Houses in the UK, click here.