Mention the British, and the first thing that comes to mind is their love for tea. In fact, the English tradition of afternoon tea – having a spot of tea and some light snacks – did not take root in social culture till the 1800s. Anna Maria, the Duchess of Bedford, began to partake in afternoon tea at five o’clock to tide over the long hours between an early lunch and a late dinner, and the practice gradually caught on as a social event among her circles. Today, afternoon tea is a luxury indulgence and certainly the quintessential British experience to go for when in London. We scoop out the top five afternoon tea experiences you should definitely set time aside for in the cosmopolitan city, and also share some age-old tea-drinking etiquette which might just come in handy.
Does tea or milk go into the cup first?
In the Victorian era, this would be the dipstick test for the quality of the hostess’ bone china. Fine bone china would not crack under the heat of the tea, and would not require milk to buffer its base. Hence, tea goes into the cup first, followed by milk.
What is the correct way to stir your tea?
Always stir gently, and do not clink the sides of your cup with the spoon.
How do you serve lemon with tea?
Use lemon slices instead of wedges, and use a lemon fork to place the slice into the cup after tea is poured. It is not recommended to add milk into a cup of lemon tea as the citric acid will make the milk curdle.
24-Karat Gold Afternoon Tea
51 Buckingham Gate, Taj Suites and Residences, London SW1E 6AF
This is a truly decadent experience for the afternoon tea aficionado. One might have come across 24K gold in plated luxury phones and anti-aging beauty treatments, but feasting on gold is a rare experience indeed. Indulge in a unique menu created by the hotel’s Executive Chef including scones, finger sandwiches and special items laced with edible gold – Gold Leaf Jelly, White Chocolate Delight with Gold Leaf and Strawberry Tart with Gold Flakes. Wrap up the feast with a half bottle of Luxor Pure Gold 24K Brut Champagne, one of the world’s most prestigious and rare sparkling wines. Produced in the Champagne region, Luxor was created due to founder Jean- Christophe Rousseau’s fascination with gold, and his desire to marry one of the most coveted treasures in history with the most luxurious of drinks.
The Great British Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea
Reform Social & Grill, Mandeville Place, London W1U 2BE
The first of its kind, the Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea is perfect for the masculine tea-drinker who tends to shy away from the typically dainty five o’clock experience. It all begins with the décor when one first steps in. Leather booths and dark-wood furniture, reminiscent of a gentleman’s club, sets the tone right. Its hearty menu presents the best of British ingredients including sausage rolls, steak-and-snail sandwiches, whisky cocktails, as well as real ale and chocolate cake.
An Award-Winning Afternoon Tea Fit For Royalty
The Goring, Beeston Place, London SW1W 0JW
Among The Goring’s list of royal patrons include Kate Middleton, The Duchess of Cambridge who resided in the hotel the night before her wedding and the Queen herself, who has been known to indulge in their afternoon tea service. It comes as little surprise then that The Goring was awarded the Royal Warrant in 2013, the first time the British monarch has granted a hotel with this honour. Served at the lounge where the fire crackles in winter, or on the terrace overlooking the private garden during summer, partaking in afternoon tea is an idyllic affair, with guests welcome to stay for as long as they like. The owner, Jeremy Goring, maintains an impeccable standard by tasting the teas personally every week, a testament to its 2014 ‘Best Tea in London’ award by the UK Tea Guild.
An Afternoon Tea Steeped in Heritage
The Langham, 1c Portland Place Regent Street London W1B 1JA
Step back 150 years into the glory of the Victorian era at the Palm Court of The Langham, said to be the birthplace of the afternoon tea tradition among the cream of London. The timeless ritual continues today with a selection of over 30 tea blends, including exclusive Langham blends such as the Silk Road Blend and the English Flower Blend, served in bespoke ‘Langham Rose’ Wedgwood teaware. With five seatings throughout the day, it is highly recommended to book up to a month in advance.
Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea
Sanderson London, 50 Berners Street, London W1T 3NG
Tumble down the rabbit hole for a whimsical spot the menus tucked inside vintage books, and unravel the riddles wrapped within the linen napkins. Pour your tea from teapots adorned with kings and queens and sweeten your tea with sugar from a music box. The wonderland continues with culinary treats such as ‘strawberries and cream’ homemade marshmallow mushrooms; a ‘Tick Tock’ traditional Victoria sponge clock, and ‘Jelly Wonderland’, where the most delicious fruit jellies made in Victorian jelly moulds are presented on a lavish cake trolley