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10 Best Themed Afternoon Teas in London’s Most Luxurious Hotels

Afternoon tea setting

A visit to England is never complete until you have visited one of the top 10 best themed Afternoon Teas in London. Once only taken by Royalty and the wealthy, this decadent pastime is now available to anyone and everyone.

I have personally enjoyed numerous themed afternoon tea experiences in London and therefore feel confident to advise on this subject.

But for those unacquainted with this English tradition, you may wonder what all the fuss is about, surely drinking tea and eating cake is the same anywhere in the world. Well, it is safe to say that it is in a complete league of its own, and I would like to explain it in more detail.

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Pinterest Graphic showing Afternoon tea items

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How did Afternoon Tea originate?

It was introduced in England by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in the year 1840. The Duchess would become hungry around four o’clock in the afternoon. Her evening meal would not be served until eight o’clock, leaving a long period between lunch and dinner. Anna decided she should have something small to eat at this time, and the phrase “Afternoon Tea” was invented.

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What to expect at Afternoon Tea

Setting the theme for your afternoon tea will rely on aesthetics, how the china and edibles look, and taste. Crockery will comprise teapots, cups and saucers, side plates, and usually, a 3 -tier cake stand to display the food.

A menu will list tea options in addition to the selection of sandwiches and cakes you will enjoy. You will make your choice of tea ranging from black, white, and fruit varieties from around the world.

If you have opted for a champagne afternoon tea, you will be asked when you would like this to arrive. My personal preference is at the start of the sitting (the name given to your time slot allocation). Of course, if you don’t like tea, then coffee or even hot chocolate can be served, but it is not the norm.

Sandwiches created from artisan bread with delicious fillings, traditional scones with jam and cream, and a selection of mouthwatering pastries will have you salivating before you have taken your first bite.

Your server will talk you through all your afternoon tea components and ask if you have any questions. The top question asked is how to correctly serve the jam and cream on a scone, the round, baked bread item which is always served at the best afternoon teas in London.

Afternoon Tea Cake Stand

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Cornish or Devonshire: Which is the Best Afternoon Tea?

This is a long-standing debate for the British and one that has never really been answered. In the South of England, there are two coastal areas, Cornwall and Devon. Each area has a different way of spreading the strawberry jam and clotted cream. Cornwall first spreads the jam on the scones and then heaps a dollop of cream on top. Devon does it in reverse, cream first, then a dollop of jam on top.

To this day, no one can agree, which is the correct way to serve scones. Ridiculous, yes! British tradition, yes!  Just for the record, I prefer the Cornish way, jam first with a blob of cream on top as I find it too messy to get the jam to sit on top of the cream if I try to do it the Devonshire way. I wonder how you will serve yours?

Your server will return several times to re-fill teapots and re-stock sandwiches and cakes. At the end of your experience, you may be allowed to take home any food you haven’t consumed. This varies in each establishment, so don’t be disappointed if they say no. You will have to try and indulge in everything while you are there. Be warned, though, that this challenge is a hard one as everything, although petite in size, is very rich in flavour, and you may end up with a massive sugar rush. On that, I am speaking from experience!

two jam and cream scones

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Afternoon Tea Options

Themed afternoon teas have become very popular and often coincide with exhibitions or theatre shows in London. Dietary requirements allow coeliacs to enjoy gluten-free options and vegan’s and vegetarians to feast on plant-based delights. There are even boozy afternoon teas where alcohol has replaced the loose-leaf Darjeeling.

Afternoon tea in London can be a luxurious affair with the clinking of champagne glasses in illustrious hotel settings. Grande dames of the afternoon tea scene such as the Ritz, the Dorchester and Claridges is no-longer the immediate choice of the afternoon tea connoisseur. Establishments such as Sketch, Corinthia, and Kensington House are competing and often outdoing their traditional counterparts.

A dress code is often required for high-end luxury hotels, so it is worth checking before you arrive. Pricing varies between establishments, but you are paying for an experience rather than just tea and cakes. Sittings are usually for 2 hours, although some establishments I have visited have let us stay as long as we have wanted. Reservations are essential. Afternoon tea is suitable for all ages and is a great way to celebrate with friends, families or on your own to enjoy a centuries-old tradition.

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My Top 10 Favourite Afternoon Tea Spots in London

The Kensington

This is my favourite!

Theme: London Landmarks Afternoon Tea

Pricing: £42 per person or £54.50 with a glass of Champagne (2020 pricing)

Address: 109-113 Queen’s Gate, London SW7 5LP

Availability and Rates for Accommodation at The Kensington

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Claridges

Theme: British Classic Afternoon Tea

Pricing: £70 per person or from £80 with a glass of Champagne (2020 pricing)

Address: Brook Street, Mayfair, London, W1K 4HR

Availability and Rates for Accommodation at Claridges

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The Drawing Room at Browns Hotel

Theme: A Quintessentially English Afternoon Tea. A favourite of Queen Victoria.

Pricing: £55 per person or from £65 with a glass of Champagne (2020 pricing)

Address: Albemarle Street, London, W1S 4BP

Availability and Rates for Accommodation at Browns Hotel

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Sketch

Theme: Over Styled and Fun. Great for a non-traditional afternoon tea.

Pricing: £59 per person or from £73 with a glass of Champagne (2020 pricing)

Address: 9 Conduit Street, London, W1S 2XG

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The Connaught

Theme: Winter Afternoon Tea

Pricing: £58 per person or from £68 with a glass of Champagne (2020 pricing)

Address: Carlos Place, Mayfair, London, W1K 2AL

Availability and Rates for Accommodation at The Connaught

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Corinthia Hotel

Theme: Decadent Afternoon Tea taken beneath a chandelier of 1001 baccarat crystals.

Pricing: £55 per person or from £65 with a glass of Champagne (2020 pricing)

Address: Whitehall Place, London SW1A 2BD, United Kingdom

Availability and Rates for Accommodation at Corinthia London

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Sanderson Hotel

Theme: Alice in Wonderland Afternoon Tea. Complete Vegan menu available.

Pricing: £48 per person or from £58 with a glass of Champagne (2020 pricing)

Address: 50 Berners St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 3NG

Availability and Rates for Accommodation at Sanderson

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The Dorchester

Theme: Traditional Afternoon Tea highlighting the 2020 Dorchester Rose Tea

Pricing: £65 per person or from £75 with a glass of Champagne (2020 pricing)

Address: 53 Park Lane, Mayfair, London W1K 1QA

Availability and Rates for Accommodation at The Dorchester

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The Berkeley

Theme: Pret-a-Porter Afternoon Tea

Pricing: £60 per person or from £70 with a glass of Champagne (2020 pricing)

Address: Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7RL

Availability and Rates for Accommodation at The Berkeley

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The Ritz

Theme: The most iconic hotel to enjoy one of London’s best Afternoon Teas

Pricing: £60 per person or from £70 with a glass of Champagne (2020 pricing)

Address: 150 Piccadilly, St. James’s, London W1J 9BR

Availability and Rates for Accommodation at The Ritz

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Pinterest Graphic showing cakes and tea

Alternative suggestions for a Quirky Afternoon Tea in London

 

Read Next: The Best London Walk – Tower Bridge to Westminster

About Author

Angela Price

Angie is a full-time travel writer with over 30 years of travel experience. She has always had a passion for travel, and after a 3-month world trip with her 18-year-old son, she created her popular travel blog to share her adventures with a wider audience. When Angie is at home in the UK, she enjoys exploring the English countryside, visiting castles and gardens and planning her next big adventure. Her motto is "Live Life Wandering not Wondering".

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Faith Coates
7 months ago

I had a gorgeous afternoon tea at the Globe Theatre in London, the theme was a Midsummer Night’s Dream. I can’t wait to get back and try more places.

WhereAngieWanders
Reply to  Faith Coates
7 months ago

There are so many to choose from in London so I hope my list of the best ones will help you decide.

Alison
7 months ago

Well this had me drooling. And brought back memories of Afternoon Tea at Harrods in 1980! I think back then it was one of the few places in London doing it. Anyway at the time it was the most famous place to go. I’m with you on the scones – jam goes on first and then you can really pile the cream high; that’s how we always had them as kids in Oz anyway. From this collection I think I’d choose Browns because they are the only one with a traditional floral tea service.
Lovely post Angie.

WhereAngieWanders
Reply to  Alison
7 months ago

Glad you enjoyed this one Alison – I’m glad you are on Team Cornwall with me!

Bree
7 months ago

Oh this makes me hungry. My sister traveled to Melbourne in February and we had a high tea for my birthday – including wine and gluten free.

WhereAngieWanders
Reply to  Bree
7 months ago

A glass of bubbles always makes it even more special!

Jan
7 months ago

Lovely post! I enjoy the concepts of both afternoon tea and high tea. Nothing like having English tea with scones, sandwiches and cakes. I prefer jam first then clotted cream! 🙂

WhereAngieWanders
Reply to  Jan
7 months ago

Glad you are on Team Cornwall with me! It just doesnt seem right putting cream on first!

Adéle
7 months ago

Lovely photos and totally made me hungry! I’m team Cornwall btw !

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