Tea has been an important part of British culture since the 17th Century, and you’d be hard pressed to find a society on this side of the globe that loves it more. While coffee houses preceded tea rooms in London, the culture quickly flipped when Thomas Twining opened the city’s first tea room in 1707. Now you can find them in every borough and neighborhood. While many offer the poshest experience they can, others have a more niche theme to them. These unique tea rooms offer a wide variety of experiences for their patrons and turn a cultural habit into a fun event. Next time you visit London, consider trying one of these ten creative ways to experience your afternoon tea.
Verdi at the Royal Albert Hall
The Royal Albert Hall has been serving afternoon tea for well over 100 years and in its own restaurant, Verdi, you can have a musical experience as you sip your tea and dine on scones and sandwiches. Verdi regularly hosts a variety of musical performances from string trios to opera singers and the price is relatively inexpensive at £25.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Fans of Roald Dahl’s masterpiece of children’s literature will want to try this Wonka-inspired tea that includes not only the biscuits, cakes, and sandwiches of a normal tea but also a great number of sweets. From homemade candy floss to a golden chocolate egg filled with cheesecake and mango, your sweet tooth will be fully satisfied. Located at One Aldwych Hotel, you can enjoy the tea in the lobby or the Indigo restaurant.
Mad Hatter’s Tea Party
From one literary classic to another, it’s a crazy fun time when you step into the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party at Sanderson Restaurant in Fitzrovia. The dining wear is adorned with kings, queens, clocks, playing cards, and other symbols from Lewis Carroll’s books, while the food and drink ranges from “melting” cheesecake to “Drink Me” potions.
Ultimate Afternoon Tea at the Cookery School
Of course, maybe you’ve got a taste for being a chef and want to learn how to prepare an afternoon tea instead of just indulging. The Cookery School offers a course in how to host a traditional afternoon tea that includes lessons in brewing the tea itself as well as preparing the savory and sweet dishes to go alongside it. Of course, after learning to make it all, you get to sit down and enjoy the fruits of your labors.
If you’re a little pressed for time and can’t decide whether to take a tour or get afternoon tea, City Cruises lets you do both as you cruise along the Thames. There’s a variety of teas and food to pick from and quite a view as well. Guests can take in the sights below as they dine on their meal or, once finished, can head above decks to enjoy a wonderful view from the water.
Victorian Afternoon Tea
Stepping back in time, the Victoria and Albert Museum offers an afternoon tea as it would have been during the lives of the museum’s namesakes. The museum worked with food historian Natasha Marks to craft savory and sweet food items appropriate to the period such as Mrs. Beeton’s cucumber sandwiches, gooseberry tarts, and Indian ham sandwiches, amongst other items.
The only chain of tea rooms on this list, Yumchaa is a more low-key experience that nonetheless is a delightful culinary experience. Yumchaa has probably the widest variety of teas of anyone mentioned in this article, including collaborations with different tea brewers and even a blue fruity tea you can try. Much like the Cookery School, they also offer a masterclass in tea brewing so you can learn how to make the perfect cuppa.
B Bakery Bus Tour
So it’s possible that you’d like to do an afternoon tea tour, but moving water makes you seasick. If you don’t want to lose your sweets and sandwiches, B Bakery offers afternoon tea on an old double-decker bus that takes you through the streets of the city and past many famous landmarks. Additionally, B Bakery brings a little bit of France to a British tradition with its sandwiches, pastries, and cakes inspired by French cuisine.
Around the World in 80 Days
There are several bars around London patterned after Phineas Fogg’s amazing journey, chronicled by French author Jules Verne, but you can find more than drinks at the Mr. Fogg’s Residence in Mayfair. Putting a boozy spin on afternoon tea, the Luxury Afternoon Tea includes a couple of tea-infused cocktails severed with teapots along with a delicious array of the usual food items from around the world to allow guests to experience Mr. Fogg’s trip for themselves.
More is brewing at Potion Room Afternoon Tea than just tea leaves. This Harry Potter themed tea room is in the basement of Soho bakery Cutter & Squidge, which certainly adds to the atmosphere and makes you feel like you’re in Snape’s class. You’ll make your own tea-based potions while dressed in cloaks and munching on some truly magical snacks.