Growing up with a grandmother of British descent, afternoon tea was a very important tradition. The British take their tea very seriously, and developed the ritual of stopping to have a spot of tea and a treat in the late afternoon to tide them over until dinner. Most people just get their tea fix in the comfort of their own home, and go out for afternoon tea on holidays or special occasions. There are plenty establishments all over the UK that specialize in this British tradition. I’ve always wanted to have an afternoon tea in Britain’s capitol to get the authentic experience.
I actually completed this bucket list item when I went to England with my parents and my grandmother in high school. We went to a hotel near Earl’s Court that had a reasonably priced afternoon tea, but grandma was not very impressed. The tea was not hot enough for her and the music was too loud. To be honest, that’s about all I can remember from my first afternoon tea in London.
I went back to London with my parents in the Fall of 2017, and had my second go at a proper British tea. There is a wide range of afternoon tea experiences throughout London. There are simple cafes that will serve you a cup of tea and a pastry, and there are fancy hotels that will serve you a three-course meal for afternoon tea. The most iconic afternoon tea establishment is The Ritz, which can be quite pricey at around $100 per person. We went with a restaurant down the street, called The Wolseley. The place was quite elaborate, with chandelier and gold encrusted furnishings. The Wolseley offered an afternoon tea for about $65 that included tea, finger sandwiches, scones, and pastries. Each person gets their own individual pot of tea, and their food is served on a three-tiered tray. If you end up going with this option, I would recommend eating a light lunch, or even skipping lunch entirely.
We went with an even cheaper option by choosing the cream tea, which is just the tea and scones. This option was about $30 per person, and was still extremely filling. They gave us three scones each, and I struggled to finish them all. They also bring out little pots of jam and Cornish clotted cream for each person. I’ve grown up with Cornish clotted cream, with my grandmother’s family originating from Cornwall. My best explanation of it would be a mix between butter and whipped cream. Of course, we had the classic debate of which goes on the scone first – the jam or the clotted cream.
I think this experience is quintessentially British, and something that’s a must-do for any tourists visiting the UK. What are your favourite places for afternoon tea in London? Let me know if you end up trying The Wolseley!