It is widely believed that afternoon tea was started by the Duchess of Bedford in the first part of the 1800s. Back then people used to have only two meals a day and since the kerosene lamps were introduced in wealthier homes, dinner time was pushed as late as 8 or 9PM. Weakened and irritated by hunger each day, she decided to have tea and snacks each afternoon, often in the company of friends. Afternoon tea became fashion, and nowadays afternoon tea throughout the UK and above all in London is considered an institution.
Afternoon tea can be anything from a simple cream tea – a light meal consisting of scones, cream (preferably Cornish), strawberry jam and tea – to a very elaborate meal that would most surely fill you up and in my case, could easily replace lunch altogether.
We had cream teas throughout the UK, on the Royal Yacht Britannia in Edinburgh, at the Trout Farm in Bibury (allegedly the pretties village in the whole England) and in other less noticeable places. Cream tea is great, but it’s nothing fancy.
However, a full tea is a completely different story. Our first full tea was in Llangollen, in the beautiful setting of the Cottage Tea Rooms. It consisted of sandiwches, scones and Welsh homemade pastries – something you are not likely to easily find in London!
Though when it comes to afternoon tea, London seems to have the whole range of them. From casual to ceremonious and from classic to the most innovative ideas, themed afternoon teas are very much in fashion.
You can have a chocolate afternoon tea at Hilton Park Lane, afternoon tea inspired by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at One Aldwych Hotel, a Japan-inspired alternative at Ichi Sushi and Sashimi Bar, or a gentlemen’s afternoon tea at Reform Social & Grill. Not to mention you can enjoy an aftrnoon tea while cruising on the Thamese or in a private pod on the London Eye. Add a glass (or a bottle) of champagne, and you’ll have a champagne afternoon tea!
For the best scones, head to the Reform Social & Grill and for the best cupcakes, go to Hilton Park Lane. If you want something very posh, tie included and no jeans accepted, splurge at The Ritz. But if a casual atmosphere is more your thing, Bea’s of Bloomsbury nearby St Paul’s Cathedral is a local’s favorite.
Either way, when it comes to afternoon tea, in London you’ll be spoiled with options. Make sure you don’t miss this awesome culinary and social experience.