London’s 12 Top Afternoon Teas


After weeks in Italy, where coffee was everywhere morning, noon, and night, I’m back to drinking tea after a detox week in the Dolomites. I love the aroma of coffee, as it reminds me of my mom. But tea is my go-to for a hot, cozy beverage. The weather was chilly and damp in Venice, with only occasional sun, but as Shelley wrote, “Venice, its temples and palaces did seem like fabrics of enchantment piled to heaven.” Enchantment, indeed! And every morning, I enjoyed cups of berry-infused tea.

In honor of the upcoming new season of Bridgerton, I present a curated catalog of tea service opportunities in London. These options offer a panoply of options for every pastry taste, both sweet and savory!

First, a bit of context: “High tea” and “afternoon tea” are both traditional British tea ceremonies, but they differ in their origins, timing, and the type of food typically served.

Afternoon tea originated in the early 19th century. Anna, the Duchess of Bedford, introduced the practice of having a light meal with tea in the afternoon between lunch and dinner to ward off hunger, and the ritual quickly became popular. (The Duchess of Bedford, and this “new” trend, is actually depicted in Julian Fellow’s Belgravia.)

Afternoon tea is typically served between 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm. Consisting of a selection of finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, and various pastries and cakes, the food is elegant and dainty, often served on tiered trays. Afternoon tea is considered a social occasion where friends or family gather to enjoy tea and light refreshments in a leisurely manner.

In contrast, high tea originated in the working-class communities of Britain during the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century. Unlike afternoon tea, high tea was a more substantial meal served later in the day. High tea is typically served between 5:00 pm and 7:00 pm, closer to dinnertime. The food served with high tea is of heartier fare, including dishes like meat pies, quiches, savory tarts, sausage rolls, and other savory items, along with bread and butter. High tea got its name because it was traditionally served at a high table, such as a dining table, rather than afternoon tea’s lower, more relaxed setting. High tea was initially a practical meal for workers to have after a long day of labor, providing sustenance and satisfying hunger.

Now that we have that straight, here are the best places to experience a traditional afternoon tea in London!

1 || The Palm Court at the Ritz

Indulge in the epitome of elegance at The Ritz, where afternoon tea is a time-honored tradition. In the opulent Palm Court, adorned with sparkling chandeliers and gilded details, guests are treated to a lavish experience. Delight in a selection of delicate finger sandwiches, warm scones with clotted cream and preserves, and an assortment of exquisite pastries, all served on silver stands. Live piano music enhances the sophisticated ambiance, adding to the sense of grandeur. Impeccable service ensures that every need is met with grace and attention to detail, making for a memorable and luxurious tea affair.

2 || Fortnum & Mason

Step into a world of timeless charm and sophistication at Fortnum & Mason’s Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon. As one of London’s oldest and most prestigious department stores, Fortnum & Mason offers an afternoon tea experience steeped in tradition and refinement. Guests can choose from an extensive selection of rare and exclusive teas sourced from around the world, served alongside a delectable array of sandwiches, scones, and pastries. The elegant surroundings, attentive service, and exquisite culinary offerings make Fortnum & Mason a must-visit destination for tea enthusiasts and connoisseurs of luxury.

3 || The Berkeley

Prepare for a uniquely stylish and contemporary afternoon tea experience at The Berkeley, where tradition meets innovation in the heart of Knightsbridge. Renowned for its themed and fashion-forward menus, such as the iconic Prêt-à-Portea, The Berkeley offers a culinary journey that delights both the palate and the eye. Indulge in a selection of savory sandwiches, freshly baked scones, and intricately designed pastries inspired by the latest runway trends. The pastry chef is an Instagram star, and for good reason. His reels depicting his process are riveting. The vibrant and playful presentation and impeccable service create an unforgettable tea experience that appeals to fashionistas and foodies alike. Whether enjoying tea in the Collins Room’s sophisticated surroundings or the Blue Bar’s cozy comfort, guests are treated to an unforgettable blend of creativity, style, and indulgence.

4 || The Georgian Restaurant at Harrods

Experience the epitome of luxury at Harrods, where afternoon tea is elevated to new heights of opulence and refinement. Nestled within the iconic department store, the Georgian Restaurant offers a sumptuous setting for indulging in this time-honored tradition. Guests can expect an exquisite selection of sandwiches, freshly baked scones, and delectable pastries, all meticulously prepared using the finest ingredients. The extensive tea menu features rare and exclusive blends curated to complement the culinary offerings and satisfy even the most discerning palate. Impeccable service and attention to detail ensure a truly memorable tea experience, whether enjoying a leisurely afternoon with friends or celebrating a special occasion in style. From the elegant surroundings to the impeccable presentation, Harrods promises an afternoon tea that is as luxurious as it is indulgent.

5 || The Foyer & Reading Room at Claridge’s

Step into the timeless elegance of Claridge’s and embark on a journey of culinary delight with their legendary afternoon tea service. Located in the heart of Mayfair, this iconic hotel exudes Art Deco glamour and sophistication, providing the perfect backdrop for a truly memorable tea experience. In the center of the room, a striking Chihuly sculpture hangs like a chandelier. The walls shimmer with original Art Deco mirrors. Indulge in a selection of exquisite sandwiches, warm scones with clotted cream and preserves, and an assortment of delicate pastries and cakes, all expertly crafted by the hotel’s talented pastry team. The tea menu offers a curated selection of fine blends, ensuring the perfect accompaniment to the delectable treats on offer. With impeccable service and attention to detail, Claridge’s afternoon tea celebrates luxury and refinement, inviting guests to savor every moment in the lap of luxury.

6 || The Rosebery at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park

Discover a haven of tranquility and refinement at The Rosebery, nestled within the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park. Named after Lord Rosebery, a former British Prime Minister and frequent guest of the hotel, this elegant tea lounge offers a sophisticated setting for afternoon tea. Yes, I’d never heard of him either. He served exactly one year – from 1894 to 1895, following Gladstone’s much more prominent term. Guests can choose from an extensive selection of rare and artisanal teas sourced from around the world and served with precision and care. Accompanying the tea is a tempting array of sweet and savory delights, including delicate sandwiches, freshly baked scones, and exquisite pastries. The serene ambiance, attentive service, and exquisite culinary offerings make The Rosebery a hidden gem in the heart of London, inviting guests to relax, unwind, and indulge in the timeless tradition of afternoon tea.

7 || The Drawing Room at the new London Raffles

Immerse yourself in The Drawing Room’s rich history and timeless elegance at London’s Raffles Hotel. Located in the heart of Mayfair, this iconic venue offers a refined setting for afternoon tea, where guests can enjoy a selection of classic treats and indulgent specialties in luxurious surroundings. From delicate finger sandwiches to freshly baked scones with clotted cream and preserves, each offering is expertly prepared and presented with impeccable attention to detail. The tea menu features a curated selection of fine blends, ensuring the perfect accompaniment to the culinary delights on offer. With its plush furnishings, historic charm, and attentive service, The Drawing Room promises an afternoon tea experience that is as memorable as it is indulgent.

8 || The Shard

Enjoy afternoon tea with a breathtaking view at The Shard, London’s iconic skyscraper. Whether you choose Ting or Aqua Shard, you’ll be treated to panoramic city skyline vistas while indulging in a culinary journey. The unique setting atop one of London’s tallest buildings creates an unforgettable atmosphere, perfect for special occasions or simply savoring the moment. The modern interpretation of afternoon tea features a creative selection of sandwiches, scones, and pastries, accompanied by a curated tea menu and optional Champagne pairing. With its combination of stunning views, stylish ambiance, and culinary excellence, afternoon tea at The Shard offers a truly extraordinary experience that captures the essence of London’s vibrant energy and cosmopolitan allure.

9 || Sketch

Step into a world of whimsy and wonder at Sketch, where afternoon tea is served in the enchanting Gallery space. The iconic pink velvet sofas, eclectic artwork, and playful décor create a unique and memorable setting for indulging in this beloved British tradition. Sketch’s afternoon tea menu is as creative as its surroundings, featuring inventive twists on classic dishes alongside traditional favorites. From delicate finger sandwiches to whimsically shaped pastries and scones, each offering is a work of art in itself. Guests can also enjoy a selection of rare teas and Champagne to complement the experience. With its blend of creativity, sophistication, and theatricality, afternoon tea at Sketch is a truly extraordinary and Instagram-worthy affair that promises to delight all the senses.

10 || The Savoy

Experience timeless elegance and impeccable service at The Savoy’s Thames Foyer, where afternoon tea is served amidst the hotel’s stunning surroundings. The grandeur of the historic building, coupled with the soothing melodies of live piano music, creates an atmosphere of refined luxury and sophistication. The afternoon tea menu at The Savoy features a delightful selection of sandwiches, scones, and pastries crafted with the finest ingredients and presented with exquisite attention to detail. Guests can choose from various tea blends or opt for Champagne to enhance the experience further. With its rich heritage, world-class hospitality, and iconic setting overlooking the River Thames, afternoon tea at The Savoy is a truly unforgettable experience that captures the essence of London’s glamour and tradition.

11 || The Wolseley

Immerse yourself in the grandeur of The Wolseley, a renowned European-style café located in a historic building on Piccadilly. Afternoon tea at The Wolseley is a quintessentially British affair, offering a traditional menu of sandwiches, scones, and pastries served with elegance and flair. The sophisticated yet bustling atmosphere of the café creates a vibrant backdrop for indulging in this cherished ritual. What sets The Wolseley apart is its commitment to excellence in both food and service, ensuring that every aspect of the tea experience is nothing short of exceptional. From the freshly baked scones to the meticulously crafted sandwiches and pastries, each item is prepared with care and attention to detail. Whether enjoying tea with friends, family, or colleagues, The Wolseley offers a timeless and refined setting for savoring life’s simple pleasures.

12 || The Dorchester

Enter a world of luxury and refinement at The Dorchester, one of London’s most prestigious hotels, where afternoon tea is served in the elegant surroundings of the Promenade. The hotel’s rich heritage and timeless elegance create a sense of occasion, making it the perfect setting for celebrating special moments or simply indulging in a leisurely afternoon treat. The afternoon tea menu at The Dorchester features a sumptuous selection of sandwiches, scones, and pastries crafted with the finest seasonal ingredients and presented with exquisite attention to detail. Guests can choose from a wide variety of tea blends or opt for Champagne to add a touch of sparkle to the experience. With its impeccable service, exquisite cuisine, and opulent setting, afternoon tea at The Dorchester is an unforgettable experience that epitomizes British hospitality.

If you find yourself intrigued by the nuances of British tea culture or tempted by the sumptuous offerings of these esteemed establishments, I’m here to help. Whether you’re interested in delving deeper into the history and tradition of afternoon tea or ready to make reservations for your own indulgent experience, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Your journey into the world of elegant teas and delectable treats awaits.


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