If you have only time and money for one “true London” experience in your busy itinerary, leave an empty slot for the most traditional experience in the UK: an afternoon tea.
Not much has changed since 1840s, when the 7th Duchess of Bedford, Anna, introduced the afternoon tea to the world. Following the trend of the time, dinner in her household was served unusually late, at 8 p.m., so she needed a way to quell the pangs of hunger at around 5.
Today, afternoon tea is a favorite tradition that everyone in England loves. Served in a three-tiered dish, the afternoon tea consists of little bite-size sandwiches, various cakes, and, finally, scones with clotted cream and preserves. Of course, it’s all accompanied with an assortment of teas. Every luxurious restaurant, hotel or cafe takes pride in their afternoon tea, and some even offer seasonal editions (such as Valentine’s Day, Christmas or Halloween), too.
The greatest part of an afternoon tea is that it’s the perfect opportunity to get together with friends or relatives, no matter the occasion. It’s something so iconic in English culture that you just cannot miss out on an opportunity to go to an afternoon tea while in London, especially considering the endless list of options that will cater to every taste and budget out there. We all know that traveling gets very expensive very quickly, so we’re here to offer you a round-up of the best afternoon teas in London for every budget!
1. One Aldwych – Charlie and the Chocolate factory afternoon tea (£47 per person)
Celebrate the most British tradition in a glamorous and elegant setting in the heart of London’s theater district, dive into your childhood memories, and live the fairytale all over again. Inspired by the beloved Roald Dahl classic “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” this afternoon tea’s every detail will bring you back to the good times when the trees were taller.
Indulge in the surprising salmon and beetroot macaron and cheddar scones with bacon toffee jam, and wash it all down with a lemon sherbet tea, swimming pool fizz or pistol punch cocktails—here, the surprises just never stop! This one-of-a-kind VIP experience starts upon your arrival and lasts till the last second—you’ll feel spoiled all along, and it’s such a great feeling! This afternoon tea is perfect for special occasions, dates or just a self-care Sunday. Gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options are available, too, making it an amazing choice for just about anyone willing to pay £47 per person!
2. The Rubens afternoon tea (£35 per person)
If you’re looking for a lovely way to end a day full of sightseeing, we’ve got the best afternoon tea for you. What better place to enjoy this English tradition than the Palace Lounge overlooking the Royal Mews of Buckingham Palace?
The Rubens at the Palace is beautiful and opulent, but not to the extent of being over-the-top. The atmosphere is very quiet and cozy, and staff is extremely friendly and all have a genuine interest in their customers.
Recently commended in the 2019 Afternoon Tea Awards, this afternoon tea will not disappoint. The talented pastry chef creates true dessert masterpieces, such as the gin and tonic macaron, earl grey and chocolate orange crown jewels, and lemon and elderflower cubes. This afternoon tea is both traditional and innovative—you will surely recognize true English flavors, but at the same time be pleasantly stunned with the twists of cooking techniques and presentation along the way.
3. The Delaunay Champagne Afternoon Tea (£29.75 per person)
As soon as you enter the Delaunay, you feel as if you were in an art deco vintage hotel, with dark wood paneling everywhere and dimmed lights. Even though there’s a certain German influence in the cuisine and style, they keep their afternoon teas 100-percent English, with warm, freshly baked scones, an array of light cakes and patisserie and traditional sandwiches (egg, smoked salmon, ham) all replenished at your wish, of course. An amazing menu of first-class teas is always a bonus, too. With the service on point, and polite staff willing to accommodate any dietary restrictions you have, there is little left to desire.
This is the ultimate spot to come with your friends before a theater performance starts, because of its location. Just across the road from the Aldwych Theatre, this afternoon tea will not only leave you happy and satisfied, but also help you avoid embarrassing stomach grumbles during the play!
4. Tea & Tattle (£19 per person)
Tea & Tattle is not for those who are looking for frills and fanciness. It’s essentially very simple—starting with their philosophy and ending with their sweet interior design. However, it’s absolutely perfect for an afternoon tea!
Located just minutes away from Oxford Street and across from the British Museum, this little cafe is an excellent hideaway from the crowds of tourists, with a nonpareil charm and character. You don’t need to get dressed up for this spot, making it just so much more convenient and a better a choice! Add in a very attractive price for one, and you’ve got us sold.
In Tea and Tattle, you’ll be able to indulge in a bone-china pot of fresh-leaf tea , scones with clotted cream and jam, finger sandwiches and tasty cakes—all the classics. However, what really makes this afternoon tea stand out is its incomparable intimate and secluded ambience. Come here with your bestie and chat her ears off with all the juiciest gossip!
5. The Fan Museum (£8 + £4 entry ticket per person)
We saved the best for the last, and you are in for a big surprise—you certainly wouldn’t expect to find the best-value afternoon tea in London in this location.
Tucked away in Greenwich, the Fan Museum is neither well-known nor one you’d instantly think to visit when you hear about it. Housing a collection of fans from hundreds of years ago over two floors, the space is so limited that they can’t exhibit all the fans at once, so each month they swap them out for new ones. With the entry ticket at just £4, you will be lost between precious lace and ivory works in no time.
However, we’re here to lobby that you come to try their afternoon tea. Served in a small orangery, this afternoon tea is a true hidden gem. The hand-painted orangery itself is a work of art that feels like being in a fairy tale. Because of the very low price, there are no sandwiches in this afternoon tea, but the cakes and scones—it’s all about the sweets here—are light, airy and delicious. Dive into this sprightly adventure surrounded by beautiful pastel paintings, delicious aromas and dainty century-old fans—all for just £12!
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Maria is a Master of Food Science, an avid traveler and a passionate foodie. Some of her favorite things include cats, Sauvignon Blanc and skiing. Living in London made her a real connoisseur of Earl Grey tea, scones with clotted cream & preserves, and Paddington Bear routes. Her most beloved part of London is Covent Garden, especially Neal’s Yard.