What could be more quintessentially British than a spot of afternoon tea? This great British tradition was introduced during the 1660s by King Charles II and his wife, but it did not become popular until the mid-19th century. Afternoon tea was adored by Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, in the 1840s. Because the evening meal wasn’t served until 8pm, which left a long time between lunch and dinner, she would become hungry around 4pm. She would request that a tray of bread, butter and tea would be brought to her chambers at this time.
This became a habit and later she invited her friends to join her during this afternoon snack, making tea time a social event. Eventually, having afternoon tea became a very trendy and fashionable thing to do and ladies would wear their finest gowns, long gloves and hats.
The traditional fare served at afternoon tea is dainty sandwiches with cucumber and other toppings, scones with clotted cream, cakes, pastries and other treats. Tea is served in beautiful tea pots, poured into delicate bone china.
Here are some of the loveliest places where you can take part in the British tradition of afternoon tea during your visit to London.
The Ritz Hotel
This is one of the classic spots in London for afternoon tea and this ritual meal has been served there since the hotel opened in 1906. Served in the elegant Palm Court, the tea includes many mouth-watering treats including smoked salmon sandwiches, raisin and apple scones, cakes and roast ham. There is a strict dress code for this high-class hotel – trainers, sportswear and jeans are forbidden. If you really want to experience the pomp and circumstance of a classic English afternoon tea, dining at the Ritz is a must-do while you are in London.
Seymour’s Parlour, The Zetter Townhouse
This strange and quirky drinking den within a Georgian townhouse is owned by the fictional Uncle Seymour and contains a dazzling array of eclectic trinkets including portraits, antiques and crystal decanters. You can cosy up in a secluded corner and enjoy a unique afternoon tea with cakes, pork pies and tea-infused cocktails. Try the freshly baked raison scones served with thick Cornish clotted cream and strawberry preserve.
Bateaux London Cruise on the Thames River
Did you know that for the ultimate London experience, you can combine dining and sightseeing andenjoy afternoon tea while floating slowly down the Thames River? Bateaux London offers an afternoon Thames River cruise on the Harmony that includes a delicious assortment of scones, pastries, sandwiches and tea. As you nibble on these yummy treats during afternoon tea on the Thames you will float past some of London’s most iconic landmarks, including the Tower of London, the Houses of Parliament, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the London Eye.
Fortnum & Mason
Fortnum & Mason have sold tea for more than three centuries, so they really know what they are doing when it comes to serving up a high-class afternoon tea. Served in the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon, a pretty room decorated in pale mint tones, the traditional meal comes with a selection of 82 different teas. If you aren’t sure which tea to choose, the highly knowledgeable staff members will help you to select the perfect blend for your tastes. While you sip and nibble, a pianist plays mellow tunes to set the scene.
Shangri-La at the Shard
Perhaps the afternoon tea experience with the best view, the Shangri-La serves up this special meal on the 35th floor of the Shard. There is an option for a traditional English afternoon tea or a version with a wonderful Asian twist, with juicy gyoza, steamed prawn dumplings, five spice blackened tuna and duck spring roll with hoisin and cucumber relish. Pay a little bit extra and you can accompany your afternoon tea with a bubbly glass of fine champagne while gazing out at the panoramic vista of London stretched out beneath you.
These are just a few of the most delightful places in London where you can enjoy afternoon tea – so why not book this unforgettable British meal during your visit? Make sure to book as far in advance as possible, this dining experience is very popular!