Why travel all the way to England for afternoon tea? If you have a love of traditional British culture, then you really can’t replicate the pomp and circumstance of afternoon tea in the UK.
In London alone there are hundreds of places serving afternoon tea, from small family run cake shops to the high-end hotels like the Ritz. The sheer number and variety of tea shops in London is staggering, but with a little bit of research you’ll find that there’s an afternoon tea for every budget and occasion. Whether it’s a quick pick me up while shopping or a two hour formal tea, there’s an afternoon tea for you.
Why is afternoon tea so popular in the UK? Nostalgia plays a big part of the popularity of afternoon tea, with shows like Downton Abbey which often depict characters enjoying a leisurely tea. There’s also the novelty of afternoon tea. Where else can you go to have tea at a place like the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon, frequented by the Queen herself?
London’s varied afternoon tea scene provides a unique opportunity to transport you out of the mundanities of everyday life into fantasy world of richness and opulence. Many of the high end hotels in London even feature special themed teas which aim to transport guests to another time and place, such as the Sanderson Hotel, which serves a “Mad Hatter’s Tea,” meant to send guests “down the rabbit hole.”
How to Choose an Afternoon Tea in London:
With so many wonderful options to choose from, it can be very difficult to decide where to book your afternoon tea. There are certain criteria which can be helpful in narrowing down your search.
The top 7 things to look for when choosing an afternoon tea in London:
The first thing to look for is the quality of the food. Many of the high-end hotels have menus posted online which note where their ingredients are sourced from, a good sign that the hotel is serving a high quality afternoon tea. I look for places that source their ingredients locally in the UK. Quality is important when dishing out a lot of money for afternoon tea.
Look for tea rooms that focus on a high quality of service. The smaller and more intimate the tearoom is, the more the staff are able to focus on the guests. It’s important not to feel lost in a sea of people while having afternoon tea. However, most of the high-end tearooms in London have enough staff to accommodate larger rooms of people.
Look for places that display a high level of creativity in their dessert and savory offerings. Many high end hotels serve elaborate desserts that change with the seasons, such as the violet flower macarons served at Brown’s Hotel during spring or mince tarts served at Christmas themed teas throughout the city during the winter months.
Look for places that serve a wide variety of savory options with their tea, not just the typical finger sandwiches. A more substantial meal for afternoon tea means you’re getting your money’s worth.
Also, check out the hotel’s tea menu on their website ahead of time to see whether they offer an extensive tea list. Many hotels offer a list of teas that go beyond the basics like chamomile and English breakfast, such as teas infused with herbs and spices and flowers.
I look for places that have a special or unique ambiance. Whether it’s a place that focuses on British tradition, such as the cozy wood paneled walls of the Drawing Room at Brown’s Hotel, or the elegant grandeur of Celeste at the Lanesborough, London has every kind of place you can think of for afternoon tea.
Location may also play a part in where you book your afternoon tea. For example, if you’re visiting Buckingham Palace, it might make sense to have afternoon tea at a place nearby, such as the Goring Hotel, or Fortnum and Mason if you’re shopping in Piccadilly.
High-end hotels serve the most elaborate afternoon teas with the highest quality of service. The more expensive the room rates are, the more the hotel is expected to serve a high quality afternoon tea. The mid-range hotels serve afternoon tea at corresponding prices.
The smaller cake and tea shops provide many excellent affordable afternoon tea options, as do many of the museums and other public venues around London, such as the Swan at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater or the Great Court Restaurant at the British Museum. Whatever your price range is, London has an afternoon tea for you.
Is it worth the cost?
Yes, for the sheer joy of the experience alone. There are so many wonderful places for afternoon tea in London, it would take a lifetime to explore them all. I can’t imagine a better way to explore the city than to visit its many tearooms, each one with a story to tell and a fabulous experience to offer.
I’m sure that you will find an afternoon tea that is right for your budget and occasion from the list I’ve compiled below. I’ve organized the list according to personal preferences based on my research and experience. I’ve also noted any teas that feature a unique or fun theme. Six of the places I’ve already visited. I’ve listed the other recommended afternoon teas destinations below.
The Top 40 Recommended Afternoon Teas in London
- The Dorchester—The Promenade—One of the most gorgeous and sophisticated afternoon tea experiences in London (check out my review here)
- Brown’s Hotel—The Drawing Room—The traditional British afternoon tea experience you’ve been looking for (check out my review here)
- Fortnum and Mason—The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon—Afternoon tea fit for a queen at one of London’s oldest luxury department stores (check out my review here)
- The Goring—The Dining Room—A classy afternoon tea served in a family run hotel near Buckingham Palace (check out my review here)
- The Lanesborough—Celeste—An elegant afternoon tea served in a spectacularly beautiful room (check out my review here)
- Harrods—The Harrods Tea Rooms on the Fourth Floor—Afternoon tea served in one of London’s oldest department stores (check out my review here)
- Claridge’s—The Foyer & Reading Room—One of London’s most celebrated and award-winning teas, served in a beautiful art deco setting
- The Savoy—The Thames Foyer—The Traditional Afternoon Tea or The Traditional High Tea—Also an award-winning afternoon tea served in yet another grand art deco style room
- The Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park—The Rosebery Lounge—A sophisticated Asian inspired tea served on whimsical hanging trays in a colorfully decorated lounge
- The Langham—The Palm Court—The SeasonaliTea or the High Tea—A gorgeous tea served on Wedgewood fine bone china in an art deco setting
- The Corinthia Hotel—The Crystal Moon Lounge—A classic afternoon tea served under a spectacular crystal chandelier with a dessert cart to remember
- Cadogan’s by Adam Handling—A creative and inventive afternoon tea for foodies designed by an award-winning British chef
- Sketch—The Gallery—Modern elegance and whimsy in a “pretty in pink” room
- The Sanderson—The Mad Hatter’s Tea—A delightful rendering of Lewis Carroll’s famous story, one of London’s most whimsical afternoon teas
- The Berkeley—The Collins Room—The Pret-a-portea—A sophisticated fashion themed tea served in the gorgeous surrounds of the Collins Room
- Hotel Café Royal—The Oscar Wilde Lounge—The Queen of Afternoon Teas—A dazzling lounge with an art deco design frequented by the likes of David Bowie, the Beatles and its famous namesake and playwright, Oscar Wilde
- The Rosewood—The Mirror Room—The Art Tea—A modern art inspired tea with intricate dessert interpretations of the works of famous artists (Picasso and Van Gogh) in a classy setting near the British Museum
- Aqua Shard—The Mary Poppins Afternoon Tea—The perfect tea for families or adults who enjoy spectacular views & whimsical themed teas
- TING at Shangri-La Hotel at the Shard—The POP Art Tea—A sophisticated take on mid-century pop art with an unbeatable view
- The JW Marriott Grosvenor House London—The Park Room—Anna’s Afternoon Tea—A classic afternoon tea with excellent service in a beautiful room facing Hyde Park
- Four Seasons Ten Trinity Square—The Rotunda—The Runway Afternoon Tea—An inventive tea inspired by the photography exhibition “Karl Lagerfeld: the Chanel Shows”
- The Ritz—The Palm Court—One of the most classic afternoon tea experiences in London
- The Milestone—The Park Lounge—Traditional British tea served in a cozy and intimate setting
- The Connaught—Jean Georges at the Connaught—A creative and elegant afternoon tea menu served in a striking art deco room
- The Landmark London—The Winter Garden—The High Palms High Tea—an exquisite traditional tea served in a dramatic tree-lined eight-story atrium
- Rubens at the Palace—The Rubens Royal Afternoon Tea—A royal tea fit for the queen located right at the walls of Buckingham Palace
- The Sheraton Grand London Park Lane—The Palm Court—The Nineteen Twentea—A 1920’s inspired tea served in a gorgeous art deco room
- The Intercontinental London Park Lane—The Wellington Lounge—The Royal Tea—A classic afternoon tea with impeccable attention to detail
- The Stafford London, St. James—The Bird Game Room—A Journey through St James’s Afternoon Tea—A creative afternoon tea inspired by famous destinations in the St. James neighborhood
- 100 Queens Gate Hotel—The Botanica—Afternoon Tea Scentsation—A floral perfume inspired afternoon tea
- The London Marriott Park Lane—Lanes of London Restaurant—The Botanical Afternoon Tea—A floral inspired afternoon tea
- The Franklin London Hotel—The Franklin Restaurant—The Wonderful Things Afternoon Tea—A whimsical and creative afternoon tea inspired by the Tim Walker art exhibition at the nearby V & A Museum
- Kona at Taj 51 Buckingham Gate—The Queen of Hearts Afternoon Tea—An Alice in Wonderland inspired tea & The Jasmine Afternoon Tea—An Indian inspired tea
- The Intercontinental London—The 02—The Meridian Lounge—The “Le Voyage” Afternoon Tea—A travel themed tea inspired by Jules Verne’s novel “Around the World in 80 Days” with a spectacular view of the Thames River
- Le Meridien—The Terrace on Piccadilly—The Peter Rabbit Afternoon Tea—An adorable family friendly afternoon tea inspired by Beatrix Potter’s famous children’s story
- One Aldwych—The Charlie & The Chocolate Factory Afternoon Tea—A family friendly tea full of whimsical sweets inspired by Roald Dahl’s famous children’s story
- The Conrad London St. James—Emmeline’s Lounge—The Broadway Afternoon Tea—An elegant afternoon tea inspired by Broadway’s greatest hits
- The Town House Kensington Hotel—The London Landmarks Afternoon Tea—Inspired by famous London landmarks such as the London Eye, Big Ben and the red London telephone box
- The Chesterfield Mayfair—The Original Sweetshop Afternoon Tea—Inspired by nostalgic candy shops of the early 20th century
- The St. James Hotel & Club—The “1840” Afternoon Tea—Inspired by the birth year of the afternoon tea tradition
Check out the reviews for Afternoon Teas in London I’ve already visited:
- The Dorchester—The Promenade
- Brown’s Hotel—The Drawing Room
- Fortnum and Mason—The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon
- The Goring—The Dining Room
- The Lanesborough—Celeste
- Harrods—The Harrods Tea Rooms on the Fourth Floor