There are few things more quintessentially English than afternoon tea and no visit to London would be complete without taking part at least once in this national pastime. Whether you’re pining for some fabulous finger foods or want to sip a bespoke blend of tea, hotels offer some of the most creative and luxe high teas in the land. Here’s a sampling of some of our favorites.
Best tea for the young (and young at heart): The Chesterfield Mayfair
The Chesterfield Mayfair knows the most direct route to a child’s heart is via their sweet tooth. The Original Sweetshop Afternoon Tea (inspired by Hardys Original Sweetshop) is as much about delighting the eyes as it is about tickling the tummy. Homemade cakes, pastries and candies in a rainbow of colors await guests at this child-friendly feast. There’s also finger sandwiches and scones to help balance out the sugar spike. If you’re visiting the city near holiday time, be sure to bring the family to the hotel’s Winter Wonderland Afternoon Tea. It packs a lot of holiday cheer into mulled wine, a Chesterfield Christmas blend tea, a chocolate yule log and more.
Best tea for Lewis Carroll fans: Sanderson London
Take a culinary journey down the rabbit hole with the Sanderson hotel’s Mad Hatters Afternoon Tea. Definitely one of the whimsiest takes on afternoon tea, it starts with a menu set in a vintage tome. Head-turning treats include smoked salmon Scotch quail’s egg, Queen of Hearts rose and strawberry Jammy Dodgers and some Mad March Hare vanilla pocket watch macarons. Wash down the imaginative fare with Alice’s exotic fruits “Drink Me” potion and a flute of Laurent-Perrier Champagne. This feast-of-fancy is served in a unique, specially-designed serving set. Until September 26, you can get your Mad Hatters Tea with a Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé twist (to celebrate the 50thAnniversary of Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé) that includes an exclusive pink floquet cake (a strawberry flamingo with a white chocolate Cuvée Rosé truffle).
Best tea for those who prefer posh over sassy: The Savoy London
Served in the elegant Thames Foyer with its striking Edwardian winter garden gazebo, this tasty tea is sophisticated but not stuffy. Along with the 30-odd teas on hand to quench your taste for tea, five classic sandwiches tantalize your palate with an updated take on timeless standards. The cucumber sandwich, for instance, is dolled up with a thin layer of cream cheese plus mint on caraway seed bread. Also breaking with mold, The Savoy serves a spring mushroom tartlet with caramelized goat cheese to go with those delectable, crustless sandwiches, just to shake things up a bit. Scones with homemade strawberry jam and lemon curd, plus fancy desserts, ensure you’re full till dinner or maybe even the next morning depending, on how many tartlets you take. And while you while away your time–you never feel rushed–a pianist tickles the ivories under the stained-glass dome above the gazebo.
Best tea for those who long to live like royalty: Rubens at the Palace
With an address smack dab on Buckingham Road, you can trust that this hotel knows how to make guests feel like royalty when they come for tea. You’ll sip a cuppa from the Palace Lounge overlooking the Royal Mews of Buckingham Palace, as you dine on an afternoon feast inspired by the Royal family’s favorite foods throughout the centuries. Examples of the royal repast include gin and tonic cheesecake (gin and Dubonnet with a lemon slice and extra ice is Queen Elizabeth’s favorite drink), English Rose macaron (in honor of the English flower), and Rubens chocolate cake (it was Prince William’s groomsmen cake). The hotel also has a Little Prince and Princess Tea for kids that features bite-size snacks and, if guests are staying at the hotel, children can enjoy their very own Master Chef experience making pastry.
Best tea for traditionalists: The Ritz London
An afternoon spent sipping tea at The Ritz’s Palm Court is to step back in time and experience mid-day snacking as the ultimate act of elegance, refinement and luxury. After all, the hotel has been serving afternoon tea since 1906. You’ll nibble on such classic delights as finger sandwiches, freshly-baked scones—served with Cornish clotted cream, of course—teacakes and more. You can choose between 18 different types of loose-leaf tea, sourced by tea sommelier Giandomenico Scanu. (The Ritz is the only hotel in the city with a certified tea sommelier.) Be sure to sample the property’s exclusive Ritz Royal Blend Tea, which is only available at the hotel. As one would expect, this posh, traditional tea comes with a strict dress code. Men must wear a tie and jacket, and no jeans or running shoes are allowed for either men or ladies. We suspect that tea tastes better when you’re all dressed up and fancy!
Best tea for fur-bearing family members: The Egerton House Hotel
This luxury hotel is going to the dogs. Your four-legged friends are more than welcome to join you in the property’s elegant Drawing Room to chow down at the hotel’s canine-approved Doggy Afternoon Tea. This feast for the four-legged set includes chicken and beef meatloaf, homemade dog biscuits and dog-friendly ice cream. Sophisticated Fidos will surely appreciate the opportunity to sip on Pawsecco (seriously, Pawsecco!). This tea for VIPs—very important pets—is sure to get tongues and tails wagging!
(Featured photo courtesy of The Egerton House Hotel)