Photo by Tatiana Vorona / Shutterstock
The tradition of afternoon high tea in Britain was first introduced by the Seventh Duchess of Bedford who was historically looking for a way to stave off her pre-dinner hunger pangs. The event, dating back to 1840, included tea and cake to be brought to Anna Russell each day around four o’clock. This tradition would develop to be a social gathering and what is now a long-standing ritual for the current Queen of England, Elizabeth II. We can’t think of a better way to savor the aromatic beverage than in the region’s capital city—from indulging in Britain’s finest bubbles to exploring the region’s historic architecture and castles, your trip to England is certainly not complete without a proper tea party at all the best places.
We take you through five of the most sweet and savory locations around the city to take your high tea—from the Savoy’s elegant tea parties on the Thames to Sketch Gallery’s Instagrammable art gallery.
We take you through five of the most sweet and savory locations around the city to take your high tea—from the Savoy’s elegant tea parties on the Thames to Sketch Gallery’s Instagrammable art gallery. Whether you need inspiration to host your own modern tea party or you are looking for a treat before the evening’s festivities, you can’t miss these high-end spots. Expect flowing champagne, novelty cakes, gourmet sandwiches, the world’s finest teas, and even an entire vegan menu at these famed destinations.
THE SAVOY HOTEL | JING TEA PROGRAM
The Savoy Hotel, London is a historical staple in the heart of London, just a stone’s throw from the distinguished Covent Garden district that dates back to 1889. Serving afternoon tea on the terrace (what is now the hotel’s glitzy restaurant) has been a tradition since the hotel opened. Along with a selection of tea and coffee, they used to serve delicate sandwiches and pastries, which were then followed by live music and professional dancers who led guests in a soiree of fancy footwork to burn off the extra calories. Today, afternoon tea at the Savoy provides the same elegant atmosphere but with an updated menu, flowing Champagne, and a pianist that brings the melodies of the past into the now. The Thames Foyer is a light-filled space set beneath a glass atrium that invites guests to jubilate and relax during the magical hour of the day—tea time.
Led by Savoy’s Executive Party Chef, Daniel Pearse, the modern afternoon tea experience is emphasized with culinary prowess at the forefront. Tiered cake stands display finger sandwiches, decorative pastries and scones with clotted cream and jam while hot tea is served from the JING Tea collection. Their herbal and floral tea leaves are mindfully sourced from regions like China and India and were then carefully chosen to complement the food at the Savoy. Try the fruit-forward Strawberry and Rooibos tea along with the Lemon Brioche filled with Oak Smoked Salmon and Fennel Pollen for a mouth-watering pre-dinner treat. The experienced wait-staff is ready to recommend pairings to guests based on the flavor profiles of the teas that were informed by JING’s expertise. Part of the Savoy’s modernization of tea time means offering expanded menus, so, vegan and vegetarian afternoon tea experiences are also available.
The delectable treats served with tea are as feminine as the décor and their list of spirits will tempt many and can be enjoyed from the glittering glassware.
SKETCH GALLERY | AFTERNOOON TEA AT THE GALLERY
This artist conceived restaurant is one of the most memorable and photo-ready places for afternoon tea in all of London. Those looking for an ambiance of whimsy will fall in love with the Millennial-pink interiors at Sketch Gallery designed by celebrated artists and designers. Donning a monochromatic palette of the flirtatious color, the Gallery features hundreds of colorful drawings by visual artist David Shrigley along with plush pink furniture reminiscent of a fairy-tale fashion boutique. The interiors were curated by Iranian-French designer India Mahdavi and are described as both avant-garde and eclectic all while remaining harmonious in appearance. While Sketch is also home to impressive art exhibits and their famous futuristic ‘pod bathrooms,’ a visit is not complete without attending their afternoon tea, which they serve every day of the week from 11:30 am to 4:30pm.
The delectable treats served with tea are as feminine as the décor and their list of spirits will tempt many and can be enjoyed from the glittering glassware. Don’t miss the caviar man donning a pink suit and distributing caviar to edacious guests. When you are through with tea, a trip through the historical building will reveal its previous inhabitants. Sketch was previously the headquarters of the Royal Institute of British Architects as well as Christian Dior and now consists of a parlor, a library, two restaurants and the East Bar, where a gorgeous list of cocktails can be found.
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CLARIDGE’S | AFTERNOON TEA
Afternoon tea at the art-deco landmark that is Claridge’s is like stepping back into the glamorous era where famous names from film and fashion once walked these halls. The elegant foyer is where the tea is savored and where Thierry Despont’s 1930s-inspired design drips with baroque detailing and a creamy color palette inviting guests to drink and dine like royalty. They have been serving tea here for 150 years where their executive chefs and tea connoisseurs craft sweet pastries and decadent sandwiches, which are paired with a variety of loose-leaf tea all served using the finest bone china and silverware custom made for the hotel.
Their take on the traditional English tea tradition means serving classic dishes from the region like the poached Scottish salmon and pastries decorated with seasonal fruit. Chocolate eclairs and scones are made from single-harvest beans crafted by the legendary French producers of chocolate, Valrhona. Hand-picked and hand-prepared teas are sourced from some of the oldest tea plantations, from England to China. Try the rare Malawi Antler tea, which is served in only one other place in the world and made from the shoots of the tea plant to reflect the rich flavors of the landscape with notes of lychee and apricot. Taking a more classic route will lead you to Claridge’s own English Breakfast Tea, which is served with milk and has an aromatic and malty finish. The preparation process of the teas involves the careful measuring of the leaves, ensuring the water is at the ideal temperature, and then steeping it for the length of time that best suits the guest’s preference.
A second straining of the leaves happens after the first pot is served, which experts say is even better than the first. Choose from their Traditional Afternoon Tea and the Champagne Afternoon Tea that is served with a chilled glass of Laurent-Perrier La Cuvée Brut. Tea is taken seriously here, so, if you are in search of a proper lesson on the art of serving and enjoying tea, Claridge’s is the place to do it in regal style.
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Photo by Patricia Niven
ROSEWOOD LONDON | ART AFTERNOON TEA
Art-fanatics and foodies alike cannot miss this fantastical tea party at the Rosewood London. The five-star hotel hosts a sophisticated afternoon tea in their Mirror Room that reflects a contemporary chic aesthetic with gilded accents. Their tea experience is just as elaborate as the setting and has proven its success by being awarded the Best Contemporary Afternoon Tea two years in a row at the Afternoon Tea Awards. The fact this award show exists is proof enough that tea time is taken very seriously around the world. Honoring the ritual is the hotel’s very own Executive Pastry Chef, Mark Perkins, who launched the art-inspired event. Previous tea times included showcasing some of the world’s most well-known artists in the form of edible delicacies. Perkins has drawn inspiration from street-artist Banksy, French sculptor Rodin, and earlier this year he took on the work of Vincent Van Gogh to reinvent some of his most iconic paintings from history. Currently, Perkins has collaborated with the Royal Academy of Arts to bring life to the inimitable work of Antony Gormley’s sculptures. Expect mini architectural structures holding re-creations of the art made with chocolate mousse, ginger jaconde sponge, and caramel cremeux. Mimicking Gormley’s larger than life artwork that is crafted from metal and clay, the display is a sophisticated take on modern design, elevating tea time to an education on the arts. After the freshly baked scones and loose-leaf tea is served, a series of these desserts are brought to guests which are then, photographed, Instagrammed, and devoured—in that order.
Photo by Patricia Niven
The desserts are accompanied by an extensive list of seasonal, black, green, white, and herbal teas to choose from. Those looking for a boozy addition to their afternoon can opt for the Dom Pérignon-themed tea time that is served with a vintage bottle of the celebrated spirit. Their more whimsical cocktails include the vodka-forward Romeo and Juliet or the rum-filled Pineapple Kush.
CAKE BOY CAFE | AFTERNOON TEA
Walking into celebrity-chef and cake-maker Eric Lanlard’s Cake Boy Café in London is like walking straight into Lanlard’s creative psyche. Adorned with twinkling lights dripping above the hot pink lounge there are shared tables stacked high with novelty cakes and pastries decorated with pigmented frosting and topped with fresh fruit. This is not your traditional tea time. Located on the south bank of the River Thames in Battersea, Cake Boy is an easy stop-in for travelers and locals looking for a delicious and casual treat before dinner.
Lanlard is considered to be one of the best patisserie’s in the world according to Vanity Fair and whose cake lounge and café hosts their own afternoon tea.
Lanlard is considered to be one of the best patisserie’s in the world according to Vanity Fair and whose cake lounge and café hosts their own afternoon tea. Cake Boy foregoes the scone and instead crafts up abstract sculpted desserts that are as fabulous in flavor as they are to gawk at. Like most tea parties in the city, their afternoon tea must be booked in advance. Their off-beat menu is more of a French flavor where guests can expect a smattering of specialty sandwiches with salmon, petit fours, macaroons, and chocolate tarts. Pair this with the exclusive teas from Singapore-based tea company TWG. Keeping with their contemporary aesthetic and style, the café offers a vegan champagne afternoon tea using scrumptious and innovative alternatives. Plant-based fillings in the sweets are just as yummy as the original as they have been taste-tested and approved by Eric and his team. Finish the meal off right with a glass of vegan champagne.