While in London it's essential to experience a proper afternoon tea and, really, what better place to do it? Here we present our favourite ways to tea (that's right, it's a verb!). Grosvenor House Hotel, with or without champagne (we prefer with champagne, naturally); in conjunction with a visit to St. Paul's Cathedral; on a Thames River cruise; or at the Ritz.
English tea, thought to be "discovered" by Duchess Anna circa 1840, was quickly adopted by the upper classes and eventually become a popular tradition for all Brits. By the way, the best way to enjoy a proper English tea is to arrive hungry & thirsty and savour each tiny bite and sip of tea!
What we like about this is the combination of old-school English glamour with afternoon tea at London's 5-star Grosvenor House Hotel.
Your only decision is to decide if tea is to be served with or without champagne. For the latter, choose the Traditional Afternoon Tea with dainty sandwiches, scones with clotted cream, and preserves — all served in the Grosvenor House's Library.
Or, if you're like us, you'll opt for Anna's Champagne Afternoon Tea with buttermilk scones, cream puffs, and a glass of champagne, served in Grosvenor House's Park Room, which overlooks Hyde Park.
It was a really lovely afternoon. Just an oasis. No rush, wonderful service. We had expected to be trapped in a group situation and we were thrilled that it was private. Book this on an afternoon when you just want to sit, relax and have a good chat."
– 5-Star Review
See the best of the city from a vintage double-decker bus, then glide past the landmarks on a Thames river cruise.
On board a river boat you float under London Bridge, and pass by Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and the London Eye.
Then, at the Queen's London residence, Buckingham Palace, view the famous guards dressed in their red tunics and bearskin hats. After all the travel and excitement, it's just about time to head to a posh restaurant for a sumptuous afternoon tea with British scones, clotted cream, finger sandwiches, and a celebratory glass of champagne!
"Our tour guide was so wonderful he might have ruined tour guides for me forever. It was fantasic. He took us though all the sites and was a fountain of information. He also made sure everyone was able to get back to their hotel. This was a wonderful tour and the highlight of our trip!""
– 5-Star Review
What we like about this activity is the combination of cruise boat + tea.
Board your afternoon cruise boat at Tower Pier and take your seat at a reserved window-side table. As you glide past the best of London, savour your afternoon tea beautifully presented on English cake stands with a tempting selection.
If you'd really like to celebrate your day in London, order a glass of champagne. (Guess what option we'd choose!)
We loved our experience. It was our favourite and most informative tour, without standing in line, looking for something to drink, or trying to understand what a guide was saying. The master of ceremonies was extremely humorous while still clearly giving us a great overview of a great city. We would recommend this tour to everyone who goes to London. 10 out of 10! Or 5 stars!"
– 5-Star Review
Explore England's most famous cathedral, a masterpiece of architecture by Sir Christopher Wren, then take a proper afternoon tea at the restaurant inside the cathedral.
During tea enjoy the classics — British tea, dainty sandwiches, and freshly baked scones with preserves and clotted cream. It's a perfect ending to a visit of one of London's most appealing attractions.
It was wonderful to arrive, skip the lines and walk right in. The Cathederal is a self-guided tour, which is great. Afternoon tea at the restaurant was a treat!! A really smashing day!!"
– 5-Star Review
These days, traditional afternoon tea includes dainty sandwiches filled with simple, elegant fillings; miniature pastries; cakes; scones; and cups of sweet, hot tea served from traditional tea pots. Here's our list of some of the best places to take tea in London.
It's such a part of British life that all of the famous London hotels have on offer a selection of afternoon teas. Here are our faves —
Afternoon tea at the Ritz takes place in the opulent Palm Court, with its dramatic gleaming mirrors, romantic birdcage chandeliers, a striking stone fountain, and, at the centre of the room, a soaring floral display.
Indulge in a selection of fine, finger-cut sandwiches, freshly baked scones and sweet English pastries alongside a choice of 16 loose leaf teas and Ritz Champagne.
Afternoon tea has been served at the Dorchester's Promenade Room since it opened in 1931. Choose from high tea, with Scottish salmon and black pudding; afternoon tea; champagne tea with a glass of Laurent-Perrier Champagne; Christmas tea, starting November 20; or tea on the balcony overlooking the lobby.
This classic London heritage hotel has been serving afternoon tea for 150 years! On the menu are handcrafted tea cakes, all-butter fruit scones, Marco Polo jelly, Devonshire clotted cream, traditional open- and closed finger sandwiches, and 24 teas from around the globe. Tea is served in the magnificent Foyer, inspired by the 1930s Art Deco style.
This historic Art Deco hotel opened in 1907. Choose traditional afternoon tea with strawberry cheesecake, chocolate eclairs and Victoria sponge cake. Or, take a cream tea with sultana scones, Cornish clotted cream, and strawberry jam. Or, tea with a twist — Indian Tea with naan tikki, samosa,and paneer rolls. Of course cones are always served. Prosecco and champagne are also available.
Opened in 1889, the world-famous Savoy Hotel is on the banks of the Thames and a five-minute walk from the British Museum and The Royal Opera House. You can choose Gordon Ramsay's Savoy Grill, or you can take afternoon tea or high tea in the Thames Foyer.
On the menu — Wiltshire ham with apple chutney on coriander bread, chocolate financiers, Savoy almond macaroons, lavender eclairs, Victoria sponge cake, and Moet & Chandon rosé champagne.
It's Anna, the Duchess of Bedford to thank for the invention of British afternoon tea.
The year was 1840 and the duchess complained about "that sinking feeling" one gets at around 4 pm. (At that time Britain survived on two meals a day — breakfast and a late dinner).
So, Anna had a tray of tea, bread & butter delivered to her boudoir. She enjoyed it so much she invited friends to join her. Et voila! A British tradition was invented and tea became a fashionable social event.
• High tea is a main meal served at about 5 pm. Traditional high tea includes savoury pies, cold cuts, bread & butter and simple cakes for dessert.
• "Low tea" and "high tea" refer to the height of the tables they are served at. High tea, being a more substantial meal, is served at the dinner table.
• A "cream tea" means that clotted cream, scones & jam are included.
• Popular fillings for afternoon tea sandwiches are sliced cucumber, smoked salmon & cream cheese, and eggs with cress and mayonnaise.
• The multi-tiered tray that is used to display the dainty sandwiches & pastries in Afternoon Tea is called an English Basket Tray.