Whether you’re in London or elsewhere in Britain, these are the finest establishments to partake of a tea, whether high, cream or royal.
A traditional afternoon tea is an experience that must be experienced in its country of birth, Great Britain. Here we explore 20 of the finest establishments in which to take your tea (10 in London and 10 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 lower classes. However, afternoon tea is sometimes referred to as high tea elsewhere. A cream tea simply signifies tea with scone and creams, 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 a Willy Wonka special tea.
Afternoon tea has been served here for almost 150 years, with a ‘tea connoisseur’ “scouring the world” for the best brews to serve with Claridges’ finger sandwiches, scones and sweet pastries in the art deco foyer.
The Egerton House Hotel, Knightsbridge
Another venue for our tea etiquette course, choose from vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, cream tea, the Great British Afternoon Tea and a teddy bear’s picnic for children under 12, with trifle, Battenberg and hot chocolate. There’s even a doggy tea for your pet. As a boutique hotel, it will feel like you’re sitting in your host’s living room – quite charming.
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.
Orange Pekoe, Barnes SW13
“No fuss, no dress code,” proclaims the site of this hidden gem, voted best tearoom in London by Time Out and one of the best teas in town by Tatler. Go on, try a rose petal prosecco with your sandwich.
The Original Maids of Honour, Richmond
You don’t have to travel far out of central London to stumble upon this delightful tearoom, with its own classic van parked up outside. Afternoon tea operates on a first-come, first-served basis. The tearoom is named after the maid of honour tart, apparently a firm favourite of Henry VIII. The outlet is also famous for its pies.
The Ritz, St James’s
Sipping your afternoon tea in the Palm Court, to the sounds of the resident pianist and harpist, whilst chatting to the “certified tea sommelier” (the only hotel with one, so it claims)… you truly are putting on the Ritz.
Sanderson’s Hotel, Fitzrovia
A themed Mad Hatter’s tea makes this a Wonderland stand-out, served on special crockery. And yes, there’s an Alice-style Drink Me potion.
Ting, Shangri-La, The Shard, SE1
At this contemporary room with a view, choose either an English or Asian tea. Each comes with scones; you just need to decide whether you prefer smoked salmon and ham sandwiches with macarons, or spring rolls and rendang brioche buns with pandan gateau and pink guava mousse.
TEAS ACROSS BRITAIN
Angel Hotel, Abergavenny, Wales
Served in the Wedgewood Room, in 2011 this Welsh hotel won the (sadly now defunct) Tea Guild’s top national award. Choose from afternoon tea and high tea, with additional warm savoury pastries.
Betty’s, Harrogate, Yorkshire, England
Opened by a Swiss baker in 1919, no one really knows where the name Betty’s comes from. Nevertheless, it’s a delightful break from a day’s shopping and sightseeing in Harrogate. There are five other Betty’s in the North of England, too.
Coombe Abbey Hotel, Coventry, Warwickshire, England
Set in a historic Grade I listed building, take a traditional abbots’ (afternoon) tea or a knight’s gentleman’s tea if you prefer a pie – perhaps with a glass of Pimm’s.
The Dabbling Duck, Shere, Guildford, Surrey, England
This picturesque village was the postcard-perfect home to Christmas movie The Holiday. At the heart of its high street, next to the duck pond, is this delightful – if constantly busy – tearoom.
The Edgbaston, Birmingham, England
Tea at this art-deco themed hotel, near Birmingham’s Botanical Gardens, is a five-hour affair, with vintage crockery and Krug champagne on offer.
Gleneagles Hotel, Auchterarder, Perthshire, Scotland
Best known for its golf and spa, this five-star hotel claims its Glendevon Room is the place in Scotland to partake of a cucumber and minted cream cheese sandwich followed by trifle and meringue tart.
The Royal Hotel, Ventnor, Isle of Wight, England
Another favourite of Queen Victoria, when she visited her island residence, Osborne House. Served in the conservatory, brasserie or Geranium Terrace. There is a child’s tea and a small Cake O’Clock option – cake and coffee.
Kinlock Lodge, Sleat, Isle of Skye, Scotland
A former hunting lodge run by the hereditary chief of the Macdonald clan and his family, with a Michelin-starred restaurant and a traditional Highland tea.
Rosylee, Manchester, England
Set in the trendy Northern Quarter, Rosylee opened four years ago as a tearoom but now serves food and drink all day. It still offers a traditional tea with finger sandwiches and miniature cakes – and chocolate-dipped strawberries in the royal version.
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.