Experiencing a proper afternoon tea should be on everybody’s bucket list. Simply put, it’s a quintessential part of the British heritage and there’s literally nothing not to like about it.
Not only do you get to savour a perfectly-balanced brew of loose leaf tea, dainty (but delicious) sandwiches and some of the most beautiful cakes you may ever eat in your life, but it’s the perfect excuse to while away a couple of hours with good friends.
Whether you’re an afternoon tea veteran or are yet to partake in this elegant ritual of afternoon tea, here are five varieties you absolutely must try.
5. The Traditional Afternoon Tea
Firstly, make sure you’ve sampled a classic afternoon tea before going any further.
If in doubt, the proper event should include finger sandwiches, scones (with clotted cream and jam), finger sandwiches, some small pastries and/or cakes and, of course, tea. This tea could be a black tea like Assam or Earl Grey, or a herbal tea such as mint green tea or rooibos.
Food should arrive on a 3-tier stand – sandwiches on the bottom, scones in the middle and cakes on top – and tea must be served loose-leaf from a teapot, with a filter for pouring through.
If you’re yet to enjoy this traditional style of afternoon tea, what are you waiting for? Book you and a friend (or a group of friends) in for the epitome of British sophistication and an excuse to chat away some hours over delicious treats.
You can find a whole list of exclusive venues here, including the Ritz, the National Gallery and Blenheim Palace.
4. Afternoon Tea with a View
Once you understand what a traditional afternoon tea entails, it’s time to take it to new heights – literally!
There are locations all over the UK where you can enjoy an exquisite afternoon tea with an exceptional view. The best high-level spot in London is probably Aqua, which is found on level 31 of the Shard. Not only does it deliver amazing views of the London skyline, but guests can enjoy a stunning selection of treats, designed to give a twist to British favourites.
Outside of the capital, you can enjoy an uninterrupted view of the horizon by booking an afternoon tea at the i360 tower, in Brighton. From the top of this iconic, award-winning landmark you can take in spectacular views across the hills of the South Downs to the north, and the blue expanse of the English Channel to the south. Afternoon tea is served in the seafront tearooms at the base of the tower.
3. Boozy Afternoon Tea
Some people savour how a spot of afternoon tea feels rather prim and proper… While others would prefer to have it with a cheeky twist! If you fall firmly in the latter category, fear not. Most venues will allow you to upgrade your afternoon with a glass of Champagne for an extra charge.
Want something a little bit different? No problem.
Gin-lovers should book a table for “G&Tea” at Fogg’s Gin Parlour in Covent Garden. Here, you can sample a selection of over 150 gins before choosing the one you want to infuse the punny cocktails that complement your afternoon tea.
Vintage enthusiasts might want to try “Squiffy Picnic”, at Cahoots, a speakeasy in Soho that doubles as a post-war time capsule. Although you won’t actually get any tea, it’s worth the compromise for the traditional picnic snacks and excellent cocktails.
2. Afternoon Tea with a Theme
Feed your imagination as well as your appetite with a themed afternoon tea.
Cutter & Squidge, Soho, changes the décor of their tearoom seasonally, offering guests a limited-edition event in a truly magical location. Having just finished a “Cave of Wonders” styled event, the café staff are currently welcoming customers into their “Potions Room”. You’ll have the chance to create your very own edible concoctions in a mystical setting of witchcraft and alchemy.
Or, if you’re feeling nostalgic, visit the One Aldwych Hotel for an indulgent feast inspired by Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Alongside award-winning teas and infusions, you can savour gold-covered chocolate eggs, whimsical stems of candyfloss and brightly-coloured savoury snacks.
Prefer fact to fiction? Try an afternoon tea at The Ampersand for a table of treats that have been inspired by the Science Museum next door. The cakes and pastries are something to particularly behold, shaped like lab equipment and planets – including chocolate fossils that need to be brushed free of their Oreo-dust coating.
1. World-inspired Afternoon Tea
Bored by scones and finger sandwiches? There are countless options for trying afternoon tea spreads that have been given an international twist.
Take, for example, Ma Plucker, which serves up a Deep-South inspired menu. Their perfectly-proportioned tray of treats that typically includes crispy fried chicken and pulled chicken on mini brioche buns. All this is finished with a slice of traditional cherry pie and a side of boozy iced tea, as is only fitting.
Maybe you’d prefer some eastern influence? Issho, Leeds, offers traditional green teas alongside bite-sized Japanese snacks like edamame beans, Temari sushi balls and mochi ice cream balls.
Wherever you decide to enjoy your afternoon tea, make sure to fully savour the occasion with a little bit of dressing up, great company and plenty of time to relax over several hours. Enjoy!