To mark National Afternoon Tea Week, which runs from August 12-18, we have rounded up the finest establishments to partake of an afternoon tea, whether you are in London or elsewhere in Britain.
A traditional afternoon tea is a ritual that must be experienced in its country of birth, Great Britain. Here we explore 10 of the finest establishments in which to take your tea (5 in London and 5 across the country) – and perhaps even a fizzing flute of champagne.
Cream tea, high tea or royal tea?
First things first – high tea is an entirely different meal, an early, savoury dinner traditionally taken by the working classes. Afternoon tea is lighter and served around 4pm to bridge the gap between lunch and dinner. A cream tea simply signifies tea with scones and cream, as opposed to the sandwiches and other delicacies served in an afternoon tea. A glass of champagne makes your afternoon tea royal.
TEA IN LONDON
Brown’s Hotel, Mayfair
Queen Victoria took her tea at Brown’s, putting it high on our list. Today you can take tea in the English Tea Room (where else?), surrounded by wood-panelled walls and modern art. The tea library includes some of Brown’s own blends – if you’re feeling virtuous, you can even pick a healthy ‘tea-tox’.
This is a hotel where we regularly choose to take afternoon tea as part of our tea etiquette course, and it was commended at the Afternoon Tea Awards in 2016. Described on Trip Advisor as “a hidden gem among the Range Rovers of Mayfair”, it is currently serving an Original Sweetshop-themed tea complete with vintage candy and flavoured milk for the children.
The lavish Palm Court is rumoured to be the first venue to serve afternoon tea, more than 140 years ago. The elegant setting is complemented by music from a grand piano to complete the quintessentially British experience. Winner of ‘Best Afternoon Tea Service 2018’, The Langham also offers guests the option of enjoying their teatime treats as a picnic in one of London’s famous parks.
Fortnum & Mason, Piccadilly
A traditional tea served on duck-egg blue china in the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon of the F&M store, running since 1707. Choose from an astonishing 92 teas. For those lacking a sweet tooth, there is a good selection of savouries in the afternoon tea, as well as a real high tea, with Welsh rarebit and savoury scones.
The delicious afternoon tea served at Roast Restaurant is one of the capital’s best kept secrets. Enjoy delicious sandwiches, cakes and traditional scones while nestled high above the hustle and bustle of Borough Market.The menu boasts only the freshest of produce and vegan, vegetarian or gluten free alternatives are available on request.
TEAS ACROSS BRITAIN
Bettys, Harrogate, Yorkshire, England
Opened by a Swiss baker in 1919, no one really knows where the name Bettys comes from. Nevertheless, a traditional afternoon tea in the splendour of the Imperial Room is a delightful break from a day’s shopping and sightseeing in Harrogate. There are five other Betty’s in the North of England, too.
Gleneagles Hotel, Auchterarder, Perthshire, Scotland
Best known for its golf and spa, this five-star hotel claims its Glendevon Room is the best place in Scotland to partake of a duck egg mayonnaise and mustard cress sandwich followed by pistachio, apricot and honey gateaux. With a magnificent view over the Ochil Hills, it is an experience to be treasured long after the last morsel has been eaten. Make it even more special by adding a glass of the finest Veuve Clicquot Champagne.
The Royal Hotel, Ventnor, Isle of Wight, England
Afternoon tea at The Royal Hotel was another favourite of Queen Victoria, when she visited her island residence, Osborne House. Served in the conservatory, brasserie or Geranium Terrace, choose the Royal Afternoon Tea for an extra special treat. There is a children’s tea and a small Cake O’Clock option – cake and coffee.
Coombe Abbey Hotel, Coventry, Warwickshire, England
Set in a historic Grade I listed building, opt for an Abbots’ Afternoon Tea for a traditional three-tier selection of goodies or choose the Knight’s tea if you prefer more hearty savoury options. Gin lovers can add a pot of Hendrick’s Gin to their order and enjoy a refreshing G&T.
Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian, Scotland
A luxury former railway hotel, The Caley offers a full afternoon tea (including over 40 teas) in Peacock Alley, which has played host to guests from Charlie Chaplin to Elizabeth Taylor and Sean Connery. Tuck into decadent afternoon tea treats – including triple chocolate scones – to the sounds of a live performance by the in-house harpist.