Ever since the Duchess of Bedford started insisting on tea and a snack in the afternoon at some point in 1865, afternoon tea has become a venerable British tradition, just like discussing the weather, drinking to excess and queueing. While these days its more of a rare ritual than an everyday indulgence (unlike the French l’heure du goûter), we still love stuffing our faces with jam-laden scones, tea and champagne whenever the chance arises.
In fact, we’re so keen on afternoon tea that every August we dedicate a whole week to celebrating the best of it – the suitably named Afternoon Tea Week. This year it falls in the second week of August, from the 10th to the 16th, and every hotel and tea-offering restaurant in London is pimping up their menu in anticipation.
Established names such as The Ritz and The Langham still lead the way with epic traditional teas, but sometimes the standard sandwich-and-scone offerings can get a bit boring. As a result, we’ve searched high and low to hunt out London’s most unusual afternoon teas for you to try out for Afternoon Tea Week 2015.
Take your tea with lashings of booze this August at Opium bar in Chinatown, where lifestyle brand Oblique have organised a special Afternoon Tea Week offering of potent cocktails infused with a wide selection of Chinese Teas from London Tea Club including Lapsang Souchong and the terrifyingly-named Iron Goddess of Mercy. Plus, if you get peckish afterwards, all you need to do is head to the restaurant in the room next door for platters of some of London’s best Dim Sum. Sorted.
Where: 15-16 Gerrard Street, London W1D 6JE
As long as your not prone to travel sickness, you can kill two very British birds with one stone by enjoying afternoon tea on a vintage London Routemaster bus. Transformed into a miniature restaurant with tables and chairs, the bus cruises through London taking in the most famous sights such as Big Ben, Trafalger Square and the Royal Albert Hall while you feast on delicious offerings from BB Bakery in Covent Garden, as well as champagne and Tea Pigs tea. Beats sitting on the dirty C2 to Oxford Circus with a McDonalds any day.
Where: Departs from 8 Northumberland Avenue, off Trafalgar Square WC2N 5BY
Owned by Mourad Mazouz, the restaurant visionary behind Momo and Black Dice (one of our favourite London bars), Sketch is an epic assault on the senses with lashings of colour, innovative interior design and no less than three restaurants, an art gallery and a shop inside one Georgian townhouse. As you’d expect their afternoon tea is nothing short of magic, with pastries, macaroons and sandwiches such as caviar and quail egg served in a pink-hued room adorned with David Shrigley drawings.
Where: 9 Conduit Street, London W1S 2XG
Turns out there is such a thing as an Detox Afternoon Tea, so if you’re a Quorn sausage-eating vegetarian who can’t fully give up on the tastier things in life, or even just a shell of your former self following a week-long jaunt to Ibiza, the luxury Browns Hotel in Mayfair have a Tea Tox menu just for you. Think poached salmon on rye bread, tabbouleh, raspberry soya cake and fruit skewers, accompanied by a selection of detoxing teas. They’ve even got a low-calorie champagne if you’re really pushing the boat out.
Where: 33 Albemarle St, Mayfair, Greater London W1S 4BP
Bored of British scones? Take your afternoon tea to the Far East at popular Indian restaurant Cinnamon Soho, who have put together the best Indian tea this side of Mumbai with Tandoori chicken sandwiches, Bhangra lamb sliders, Bangla Scotch eggs, ginger and garam masala cake and fine teas from Jing Tea, as well as an essential Cinnamon Bellini.
Where: 5 Kingly St, London W1B 5PF
Last but certainly not least, if you want to go completely off-piste with your tea choices this Afternoon Tea Week, take a trip to Bubble Tea emporium Bubbleology in Soho. This science-lab style cafe are serving up fruit and milk versions of this Taiwanese tea-based drink full of chewy tapioca balls along with tasty French macarons all week from 3-5pm.
Where: 49 Rupert St, London W1D 7PF