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Best place for afternoon tea (in London)?

It's me again (we're nearing our trip and I have so many questions! :))...

A cousin mentioned The Dorchester and friends recommended The Ritz (but when I saw the dress code I said, 'forget it! I'm bringing vacation clothes only!').

this is going to be a 'tea for dummies' experience since I love the taste of tea but never knew the proper way to do it (cream goes first? Sugar second? Sugar first? Is there a proper way to hold the cup? Aahhh i'm scared but I want to experience it) so I want to go for the experience but not get stared at if I do something wrong ;) not that I think there is a right or wrong way to drink tea...

Anyway, recommendations/advice would be greatly appreciated!

Posted by
2783 posts

Hi Tina, you put the milk in first, then the tea, then the sugar. There are several good places to have afternoon tea, Harrods has a good one. I really enjoy The Orangery at Kensington Palace it is about 50 yards from the Palace it was built in 1704 and it beautiful inside and everything I have had there was great. Brown Hotel, Fortnum & Mason are a couple other places you could have tea.

Posted by
15506 posts

Traditionally, most people put the milk in first (never cream--too strong). However, a good friend of the family, in his 70's and a lifelong resident of London, thinks it's silly to put the milk in before the tea.

"After all," he says, "how do you know how much milk to put in before you know the strength of the tea?"

The proper way to make tea is in a pot. One teaspoon of tea per cup plus one teaspoon "for the pot." Let it steep for a minute or so (depending on the strength of the tea) and pour. (All of that will be done for you by the restaurant.) The tea will be served in a tea pot (no bags). You will probably be given a small tea strainer. You pour the tea through the strainer and into the cup. The strainer should catch most of the tea leaves.

Hold the cup with your pinkie in the air, sip the tea, nibble on the tiny sandwiches, and discuss how you summered with Lord so and so near Sandringham.

Don't worry if you doing it correctly...there are volunteer monitors who will come and scold you if you do it wrong. (They might mumble something about "Barbarians from the colonies.")

Just kidding. Ignore the last paragraph.

I say all of this this as I'm enjoying a cup of PG Tips.

Posted by
360 posts

I loved the Orangery & had tea there most days during my last visit to London (many yrs ago). Harrods is also nice. You might check your library for a small book by Susan Cohen titled "Where to take Tea" a guide to Britain's best tearooms. It begins with The Story of Tea & then lists good tearooms, gives info about them & lists locations & hours. The book also rates them on how formal they are. One she lists is the Court Restaurant in the British Museum. These 3 places are listed midrange in formality by her.

Posted by
104 posts

I am another vote for the Orangery - I was there twice this summer, and it was great! The building is beautiful, and so are the grounds that surround it, so make sure you take a walk around while you are there. The Afternoon Tea was about 12 GBP I think, and you get tea, cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches, a scone with jam and clotted cream, and a piece of Orangery cake. This is the least expensive of their afternoon tea services - they have more expensive ones with more food if you like.

Have fun!

Posted by
2023 posts

We have enjoyed tea at the Lanesborough (expensive at around $140 USD ), Harrod's, F&M, and the Orangery. I would not recommend the Orangery if you want to enjoy a proper afternoon tea. Yes, the interior is a pretty setting but it is very noisy. There is no music, no tiered tray presented with the sandwiches and pastries--served just on a plate like lunch. Service not attentive at all and food was not very good. The worst, however, was the woman sitting at the adjacent table proceeded to change her baby's diaper on the table--needless to say we were appalled!

Posted by
1014 posts

We had afternoon tea at Harvey Nichols. We enjoyed it. We also had lunch a different day at the sushi bar there. With the moving table, it was quite interesting.

Posted by
486 posts

Bring instant powdered tea. Ask the waiter for free hot water. Open your package of Twinkies and enjoy the tea with powdered cream and generic artificial sweetener.

As you do so, comment on how the Brits ruined our hot housing market.

You will get a nice invitation from the queen - to leave the country as soon as possible. They gave us a nice sendoff, throwing fruit, tomatoes and other nice things to show their comradeship.

Posted by
993 posts

The Dorchester is very nice. My favourite place to have a posh afternoon tea is Browns Hotel and after that The Savoy. All three are expensive about 30GP and all will have dress codes of a sort. The Ritz allows ladies to wear slacks but no one wears jeans. The Ritz also makes my daughters favourite scones. You will want to hold your cup by the handle. Do not "cup" your cup. I think the pinkie thing comes from cups having very small handles with not enough room for all your fingers. Keep yours curled. Watch others. Tea, milk then sugar. If you prefer lemon, omit the milk. Some places will ask you what kind of tea you prefer. If you don't have a favourite, ie Assam, Darjeeling etc, just ask for the house blend and you can't go wrong. Along with white sugar cubes you might see demerara (rhymes with Sahara) sugar cubes on your table. These are light brown, raw sugar and are usually used in coffee. Be sure to take you spoon out of your cup before drinking. It sounds silly but it's been known to happen, and if you leave your spoon in the cup you will never have money...old Latvian saying and refers to coffee drinkers as well. Lets talk scones for a minute. Jam then cream. The other way round and the jam tends to slide off. One more thing. Where ever you decide to go be sure to visit the Ladies Room. They can be pretty posh as well. For a not so posh afternoon tea I cast another vote for the Orangery at KP.

Posted by
144 posts

I love the teas whereever they are at. I must be a redneck with class, but there is something strangely romantic about having tea with a loved one. We have been to Harrods several times, and there is a place just a couple of blocks from there in a fine hotel that gave us tea in our own room and it was fairly inexpensive compared to Harrods. It was great. I don't think anyone cares how you drink your tea - they like to see you enjoy yourself.

Posted by
2349 posts

We visited the Bramah Tea & Coffee Museum, in Southwark. It's a collection of...tea and coffee stuff collected by Mr. Bramah. Charming and eccentric. We had tea there as well. They are very particular about the tea varieties and how they are brewed. Not at all posh, but very English. Rainy day outside. The room was cold, but next to the electric fire it was very toasty. I felt like Miss Marple.

On our visit we learned that Mr. Bramah had recently died and they didn't know if the museum would continue. I see on the website that it is closed for refurbishment until early 2009. If you like little, odd museums, this was a fun one.

Posted by
51 posts

wow! Overload!

Taking note of how to make a nearly perfect cup of tea ;)

Look forward to the experience!

Thanks all for your recommendations and advice! Much appreciated!

Posted by
286 posts

St Martin- in-the-Fields Crypt Cafe does a nice cheap afternoon tea. It a good value for for two cakes and scone complete with jam and clotted cream plus tea for just £5.25.

I've done tea in all sorts of places. I like the fancy experiences just as much as the down to earth 'farmer made his own cream' ones.

The Orangery setting is nice and totally not intimidating.

Posted by
8799 posts

This is from the 2007 Issue of Frommer's Budget Travel magazine.
http://tinyurl.com/6z5cpd

Hope this gives you and idea of the prices (you need to take into account today's rate) as well as what to expect.

Enjoy.

Posted by
100 posts

Hi Tina,
We also went to the Cafe in the Crypt as others have mentioned and it was very nice and affordable. Yummy tea and cake and scones. Have fun!

Posted by
2023 posts

As others have mentioned, the Crypt at St Martins is very affordable. Lunch as well as tea is a bargain for London. We were there in November and the entire lower area is expanded and a large new gift shop is next to the dining area. Lots of affordable gifts to be found.

Posted by
643 posts

Fortnum and Mason, entrance is at the rear of the building (as opposed to the main entrance off the main drag from Picadilly).