Calling all tea lovers out there!
It’s no secret that tea is the most popular beverage consumed in Britain, with over 165 million cups drunk daily. I never understood how big tea was in the UK until my first visit.
If you’re planning on visiting Britain’s capital, it’s only right that you embrace the country’s love of the good old ‘cuppa’ and search for the best afternoon tea in London.
From the whacky to the whimsical, I’ve searched (and tasted) high and low across the capital to find an afternoon tea experience to suit everyone’s tastes.
So sit back, relax, and follow my guide to the best places in London for a spot of afternoon tea.
The Ritz Afternoon Tea
Ask anyone where to try your first afternoon tea in London, and they’ll send you straight to the Ritz, the city’s most iconic hotel.
Before landing in London for the first time, I knew this was where I would have my first sip of famous British tea. Everyone rated the place so highly; if you were a rookie like me, you’d want to go where the experts are to help you with your selection.
I had the chance to sit in the exquisite Palm Court, where all of the hotel’s tastings take place. Between the sophisticated decor and the sounds of the resident pianist playing in the background, I felt like I was in heaven.
The tea menu was huge at the Ritz; I got to pick from 18 loose-leaf teas; my favorite was the Ritz Royal English, formed from a mix of Golden Kenyan, Assam, and Orange Pekoe; it had a full-bodied flavor that impressed me with some malty notes and even a slightly nutty undertone.
The selection of carefully crafted fresh sandwiches, cakes, scones, and pastries was a nice touch, too. The whipped cream was so heavy, but it added a lovely hint of sweetness to the scones, which had a light crumble as they burst apart.
The Ritz (€€€) – 150 Piccadilly, St. James’s, London W1J 9BR, UK – servings daily at 11:30 am, 1.30pm, 3:30pm, 5:30pm, and 7:30pm
Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea at The Sanderson
When I stepped into the Sanderson for the first time, I felt as if I were playing a part in a movie.
Their whole afternoon tea experience is themed around the book Alice in Wonderland; it was fascinating to see the effort that has gone into pulling it off.
The napkins were adorned with riddles, the plates had little images of bunny rabbits, tea was served in ‘drink me’ vials, and the menus were hidden in adorable books.
Another fun feature was the names of each of the dishes. For example, they had things on there like Marshmallow Mushrooms, ‘Tick Tock’ Victoria Sponge, and Carrot Meringue.
Various packages were on offer, so I decided to go with the Mad Hatters Rare Tea Pairing Package. It included three courses of sandwiches, scones, and pastries. Every round, a tea pairing was served alongside it.
The course that stood out to me the most was the scones; the crumble on the outside of them was extra buttery, and the Honeybush Plettenberg Bay Tea from South Africa topped all of the others I tried; it was rich in antioxidants and had no caffeine in it, which was a first for me. The flavor was almost wood-like, blended with subtle honey notes.
Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea at The Sanderson (€€) – 50 Berners St, London W1T 3NG, United Kingdom – Monday to Sunday, 12:00 pm to 7:00 pm
River Thames Afternoon Tea Cruise
Tea on the Thames, anyone? I initially read about this experience in a newspaper while out for breakfast one morning, and instantly, I was persuaded.
The cruise was for 90 minutes; we set off from the Tower Millennium Pier on Lower Thames Street at 3:30 pm sharp.
I was amazed at how gorgeous the vessel was; the design mirrored that of a palace with refined furnishings, and it had a 360-degree viewing deck where we could stand and see some of the riverside sights.
The menu was exceptional, with some of the options you wouldn’t even find at an afternoon tea setting in a five-star hotel, like the oaked salmon on granary bread with cream cheese. I could tell the salmon was carmelized because of how crispy the outside was. When I bit into it, I immediately got a smoky taste from it, but not too much so that it lost its taste.
My highlight was the roast chicken, presented with a sizable leafy green salad with a noticeable peppery flavor. The chicken was cooked excellently; the juices that it held made it so succulent. I noticed a slight garlic taste, too. The chef obviously used some garlic herbs. In my opinion, it only made it better.
I tried a handful of teas and coffees; the table beside me had recommended the peppermint option to go with first. Usually, I’m not a massive fan of minty teas, but this one was an exception; it left a lightly cooled sensation on my palette, and with the added honey, it tasted very smooth.
The aromas immediately hit me as the coffee was dropped on the table. They were really intense, but that didn’t stop me. Whatever bean they used, it had an acquired taste; that’s usually how all jasmine-styled coffees are.
River Thames Afternoon Tea Cruise (€€) – Tower Millennium Pier, Lower Thames Street, EC3N 4DT – 3:30 pm every day
A Fashionista’s Afternoon Tea at The Berkeley
A visit to the Berkeley for Prêt-à-Portea is a must for any devoted tea lover.
Located in the heart of London’s fashionable Knightsbridge, The Berkeley offers an excitingly trendy afternoon tea inspired by London Fashion Week.
It was interesting to see how the pastry chefs at The Berkeley have created delicious pastries, mousses, and biscuits in the name of the hottest catwalk trends.
I wouldn’t know too much when it comes to fashion, but friends who did help pointed out some of the quirky creations, like the Versace gown smothered in the vanilla mouse.
The Pret-a-Portea was the package we decided on. It came with Berkley tea sandwiches with thin white sliced bread with a tinge of saltiness and delectable vanilla and chocolate flavored cakes and fancies and malty teas and bitter-sweet coffees, all influenced by the autumn catwalk.
For the first time ever, I tried white tea here called ‘White Peony’ which originates in southern China; it was full of flavored notes with a melony side, and it tasted rather interesting, to say the least.
A Fashionista’s Afternoon Tea at The Berkeley (€€€) – Wilton Pl, London SW1X 7RL, United Kingdom – Monday to Sunday, 1:00 pm to 5:30 pm
Gentlemen’s Afternoon Tea at Sanctum Soho
Forget dainty pastries and delicate crockery – afternoon tea in London has been given a masculine edge.
I was walking through London’s notorious nightlife district of Soho one day, and I happened to pass by this place called Sanctum Soho, offering a gent’s version of afternoon tea, a hearty alternative to the traditional affair consisting mainly of meat and liquor.
My friend’s birthday was coming up, so I said, ‘Hey, why not go inside and book it for him,’ so I did.
We reserved a seat on a private roofed terrace in an outdoor area overlooking the city; the views were insane, and we got a wonderful view of all of Warwick Street.
For £30 each, we got to tuck into a variety of bites from a Japanese-infused menu. It included a succulent serving of crispy shrimp with a tender coating that tasted like it was fresh from the ocean.
The mini juicy wagyu beef sliders were quite rich, and the sauteed veggie gyozas had a strong soya flavor.
We all loved the sweet desserts, including warm apple crumble that tasted like my grandma’s. The crunch from it was divine; that’s how you know it was baked correctly.
They offered us an upgrade for an extra £27.50 each, which we accepted. All of us got to have a full glass of Jack Daniels on the rocks; nothing beats the charcoal maple kick from it.
Additionally, we were offered a Davidoff cigar to go with it. I’m not usually a smoker, but it was gentlemen’s time, so my rules went out the window for a couple of hours.
Gentlemen’s Afternoon Tea at Sanctum Soho (€€) – 20 Warwick St, London W1B 5NF, United Kingdom – 12:00 pm to 6:00 pm every day
Afternoon Tea at the Savoy
An afternoon tea experience I can’t rate highly enough is the one I recently had at the Savoy Hotel in the Thames Foyer; their glass dome atrium breathes pure extravagance where an outstanding pianist plays throughout the day as guests indulge in their servings of tea.
I was amazed at how well the staff handled the big crowd during my time at the Savoy. They always kept a smile on their faces, even with the demands of the high-maintenance clientele.
The tea menu had over 30 options, including some green tea options. I enjoyed the Jade Sword the most; it was pretty grassy with a zesty aftertaste. What I loved was there wasn’t any bitter aftertaste; you know that’s a good cup of green tea because they have used properly filtered water rather than tap water.
If you’re going to have some of the sandwiches, don’t leave without sampling the Coronation Chicken. The little raisins with the granary bread mixed in with the chicken almost resemble the taste of a traditional Christmas dinner that the Brits are used to.
Afternoon Tea at the Savoy (€€€) – Strand, London WC2R 0EY, United Kingdom – Mondays, 12:30pm – 5.00pm, Tuesdays to Sundays, 12:30pm – 7:00pm
Grand Saloon Afternoon Tea
If you’re going to go for afternoon tea in London, you want to go all out, and the Grand Saloon at Theatre Royal Drury Lane is the best place to do it.
As far as afternoon tea settings go, the Grand Saloon is on another level; it’s drenched in style with lavish chandeliers, old-age artwork, and glamourous ceilings.
The reason I visited the Grand Saloon in the first place was because I got a voucher as a present a while back, so the last time I was in London, I said I better use it up before it expired.
I had the opportunity to try their well-praised Regency Breakfast Tea; it had a taste of soft florals with some malty notes. The tea paired so well with the smoked salmon and cream cheese crumpet, which was oily with a sweetened undertone.
To finish, I went for the vanilla cake with passionfruit. The texture was quite light and fluffy, and the buttercream gave it a frosty age. While the cake was delicious, my favorite part was the handmade chocolate cupid on the side, it topped it all off for me.
Grand Saloon Afternoon Tea (€€€) – Catherine Street in Covent Garden, London, WC2B 5JF – 12:30 pm to 5:30 pm, every day
Fortnum & Mason
Fortnum & Mason is one of the UK’s big-name tea houses, and I was lucky enough to visit their one in Picadilly last year.
Their standard package was certainly on the higher end of the scale, but there was so much in there that I was full for the day.
To start, we had some smoked salmon blinis, then some finger sandwiches, including the Suffolk-cured Ham with English mustard and fruity scones with somerset clotted cream that were almost biscuit-like.
We initially thought that was all we were getting until a handful of puffy patisserie was served with our pot of Fortnum’s Tea; it was slightly malty and even had a spicy kick, but it was so good that we ordered a second.
Fortnum & Mason (€€€) – 4th Floor, Fortnum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly, St. James’s, London W1A 1ER, United Kingdom – 11:00 am to 6:00 pm every day
Meadow Afternoon Tea at the Lanesborough Hotel
The last of our London tea room picks in the Meadow Afternoon Tea at the Lanesborough Hotel.
Everything about the Lanesborough Hotel left me speechless, from the lush flora surrounding the dining area to the tasty sweet treats like the chocolate brownies. It was very luscious, but it satisfied my sugar craving for the day.
The Lanesborough Hotel has three afternoon tea packages to choose from, including the Festive Queen Charlotte Package (only during the holiday season), the Standard Queen Charlotte Package (all year), and the Land of Snow Package (only during the holiday season).
My pick was the Queen Charlotte Package; it had everything I wanted: creamy devilled egg mayonnaise and mustard cress sandwiches that had a rich texture, homemade biscuit-like scones with an interior crumble topped with Devonshire cream, and a cozy chamomile herbal tea that had a strong hibiscus flavor.
After all that food and the chamomile tea thrown in on top of it, I was fit for the bed afterward; you know how soothing that stuff can be. I yawned the whole way home.
Meadow Afternoon Tea at the Lanesborough Hotel (€€€) – Hyde Park Corner, London SW1X 7TA, United Kingdom – Monday to Thursday, 2:30pm to 4:00pm, Friday and Saturday, 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm, Sunday, 3:30 pm to 4:30 pm
A wise man, Henry James, once said, “There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea,” and here at Eating Europe, we agree!
Make sure that you follow this guide and indulge in a deliciously decadent afternoon tea in London.
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