The afternoon tea experience is an English institution and hands-down almost every tourist partakes of it at least once during an initial visit to London. I am one of those who keeps on partaking! I moved here years back and I still adore the whole ritual of tea! You would think that after living here for so long, the sandwich, scone, cake combo would become boring. Anything but!!
Now artists, designers and iconic British companies are all getting involved, which means that you could have tea almost every day and not get bored. Here are a few of my favorites at the moment!
I just have to start with the Langham Hotel. For those of you who might not know, there would be no afternoon tea if not for the Langham! In the 1840’s, the Duchess of Bedford got a little peckish waiting for dinner and ordered up some cake and tea. She kept getting hungry at the same time everyday and afternoon tea was born. The Langham was the first hotel to officially serve it as a separate meal and 150 years later, you can also indulge in the same clotted cream on a scone. The Langham is known for their collaborative teas and this year they are working with Wedgwood, another British Institution, to create “The Langham Afternoon Tea with Wedgwood.” Not only is tea served on gorgeous Wedgwood china but special blends have been created as well. I am an English Breakfast girl but was swayed to try their “Langham Rose” and actually I loved it. With a piano bar tinkling away, you are sure Queen Victoria herself may walk in!
No. 11 Cadogan Gardens
Sometimes you want tea to be a cozy affair, a romantic tête-a-tête. No 11 Cadogan Gardens hotel is my favorite hideaway. Tucked into a tiny street in the heart of Chelsea, the hotel welcomed the Cypriot and me in with a roaring fire and a bottle of champagne on ice. The sofas and chairs invite you to take off your shoes and snuggle in, if you so desire. Usually it’s the sandwiches that I want more of and keep asking for seconds, but here I wanted to have as many of their chocolate cakes that were allowed! The afternoon slipped by and, before you knew it, we had slid down to Tartufo restaurant at the hotel for dinner!
Sketch is the cool kid on campus. Art installations, loos that look like alien pods and general fun is had no matter what part of the restaurant/art gallery you visit. Every two years a different artist completely transforms the Tea Room and I was lucky enough to experience cartoonist David Shrigley’s vision of Afternoon Tea, which is still on until next year. All pink and light, it misleads you into thinking you have entered into a powder puff of femininity and then, bam, you take a closer look at what is hanging on the walls. Shrigley’s simple-looking cartoons line the walls but they are anything but simple. You have to see them for yourself. The food is also a work of art…just the sandwiches alone were incredible. The whole thing is like a lesson in post-modern tea appreciation!
“Jing Tea chooses you,” said the waiter. We were drinking Jing Tea, how exciting! I knew it was considered the world’s most luxurious tea brand. The company handpicks each hotel and restaurant they want to serve their tea. I was so mistaken in thinking it was just normal English Breakfast tea pouring out of the pretty glass pots. Sometimes the tea is a bit under-appreciated but not here! That doesn’t mean they are slack in the other components that make up afternoon tea. I have never seen so many cakes. They have a whole glass cabinet filled and you choose as many as you want. Make sure you leave room in your tummy, which is not easy as cake always comes last!
Conrad St James
Conrad St. James is my “go to” when I want a simple, delicious and reassuring cuppa! Steps away from the Houses of Parliament, I always feel like a politico who has let the nation run itself so she can have a cup of tea or two. Although their themed teas change seasonally, I come for the Coronation Chicken sandwiches, a dish created especially for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation banquet. Add in Battenberg Cake and Bakewell Tarts, there is no way you could be anywhere else but Britain!