|Coworth park serves classical pastries with a twist (note the golf theme here), traditional finger sandwiches and exclusive hand-blended teas.|
Afternoon Tea in London is a cultural institution, and the top hotels in the city will make the midday break into a true event. We asked some top travel advisors and industry insiders what their favorite places were for tea. Here are their suggestions:
Shelly Lynch of Great Getaways picks The Goring:
“This was my first trip to London and it will not be my last...The Goring is nostalgic, beautiful and I know this hotel is special with the Royal family. I enjoyed the ambiance and watching the locals having afternoon tea too. That made it special. The tea was great—loved the presentation, and the food was amazing. Now I have had ‘scones’ here in the U.S., but that is not even close to a scone in London. [It’s a] fun way to spend an afternoon and really sit down with someone and talk in an unhurried mode. I still dream about this experience.”
|The Goring has earned the British Tea Guild Council’s 2013 Top London Afternoon Tea Award and the Award of Excellence.|
Earlier this year, The Goring received a Royal Warrant of appointment to The Queen for Hospitality Services (the only hotel in London with this distinction), and was the hotel of choice for the Middleton family before the Royal Wedding in 2011. The hotel also earned the British Tea Guild Council’s 2013 Top London Afternoon Tea Award and the Award of Excellence.
In warmer weather, visitors and guests alike can take tea in a variety of locations, including the popular gardens—among the largest of any hotel in the city, we hear. When it’s cooler outside, try tea by the fireplace.
The classically British menu includes traditional finger sandwiches, scones and a range of pastries. For something just a bit more decadent, opt for the Bollinger Tea, which includes a glass of the eponymous champagne and fresh strawberries.
Good news for families: Children are welcome for tea at The Goring as long as the staff has been alerted in advance.
To make reservations for tea, reach out to Lounge & Bar Manager Brian Kinsella ([email protected]; 011-44-20-7396-9000).
|The Savoy offers both afternoon tea and High Tea in the Thames Foyer with musical accompaniment by a pianist.|
Jonathan Epstein of Celebrated Experiences picks The Capital: “Hotels nail it because it is truly a part of the overall guest experience. The best ones are those that weave in modern fun with the traditional past...The Capital did a fun afternoon tea with cakes shaped like basketballs, olympic medals, weights, etc. Hotels are always doing fun things like that...this is what I meant by modern.”
Tea at The Capital includes a choice of teas, infusions or coffee; sandwiches; homemade scones served with clotted cream and the hotel’s own jams, preserves and compotes; and handmade pastries. Tea aficionados can pick from approximately 16 different teas at any given time, including rarities such as Organic Dragon Well tea, Jasmine Pearls and Bohea Lapsang.
The hotel creates different teas depending on the season, so for spring, they serve a floral-themed tea. The sandwiches for this tea are classics—think smoked salmon with cream cheese, roast beef with horse-radish, and egg salad—but can be served in three different ways: finger, triangle or on a fancy bun.
For special requests, contact Bar Manager Cesar da Silva (011-44-20-7589-5171).
Stacy Small of Elite Travel International picks Claridge’s:
“Claridge’s has one of the classiest, most traditional British teas in London. It’s often sold out far in advance, so be sure to request a table for your clients long before their visit.”
Tea at Claridge’s is served in the Foyer and Reading Room, and includes a selection of close to 40 teas.
During certain times of the year, special teas can be arranged. For example, during the recent Chelsea Flower Show, floral pastries, chamomile scones and milk bread with various confits and spreads were all available. To celebrate the holidays in December, turkey sandwiches and Christmas cakes are added to the menu.
Good to know: Claridge’s is officially booked up for tea until October of this year, but will begin taking reservations again in early September. Bookings can be made up to three months in advance. Try reaching out to Director of Food & Beverage Eugene Leonard ([email protected]) to get in.
Jaclyn Sienna India of Sienna Charles picks The Savoy:
Beyond serving tea, India says, The Savoy has a dedicated shop just for selling teas and helping guests pick out their favorite products. “You can purchase and smell all the teas beforehand...It gets them excited about putting it together. It’s all personal. Everyone has their favorite. I’m a sucker for anything green from Japan, and I can experiment with teas from China. They have such a wide range that I can always try something new. They curate so many teas that you may never have heard of.
“The chocolates are handmade in front of you...They do handmade jams and biscuits, but it’s really the tea and chocolate that are special. Great quality.”
The shop, Savoy Tea, is located in the Upper Thames Foyer and offers a range of packaged Savoy teas, and tea accessories (including the hotel’s own china tea service). Tea snacks such as jams, pastries and biscuits are also available.
Visitors can opt for a traditional afternoon tea or traditional High Tea (served later in the day, and with heartier food) in the Thames Foyer with classic snacks like Lavender éclair or finger sandwiches like Wiltshire ham with honey mustard. The tea list includes all the classics as well as special Savoy blends and Organic & Fairtrade Dragon Well tea.
There’s also The Beaufort Bar, which offers an “Art Decadent Tea” on Sunday afternoons. The service includes a glass of Moutard Rosé Champagne and savory snacks like a foie gras ballotine with pistachio shortbread and rum cherries, and Devon red beef tartare and soft quail eggs.
Good to know: The Savoy received the Tea Guild’s Award of Excellence both in 2011 and 2012. Even better to know: Tea time at The Savoy is limited to an hour and forty-five minutes.
Luxury travel advisors should reach out to Director of Sales Clive Doble ([email protected]; 011-44-20-7420-2684) or Casey Wagner ([email protected]; 646-346-4605), sales manager, The Americas, with any special requests.
Just about everyone we talked to recommended The Dorchester. Diane Zweiman Weidenbaum, a luxury travel consultant with Elite Travel International, explained why:
“I haven’t been to The Dorchester for several years, but I feel that when you go there, it’s a bit like stepping back in time. The formal service and presentation with the traditional sandwiches and scones make me feel like I am in an bygone era.”
When they arrive for tea in The Promenade or the The Spatisserie, guests have an impressive range of options. They can choose from the champagne afternoon tea, traditional afternoon tea, classic single-estate teas, The Dorchester’s own blended teas, black teas, and delicate and scented teas. Traditionalists will love the Vintage Afternoon Tea on the hotel balcony, which includes all the classics—open finger sandwiches; warm scones with homemade jam, lemon curd and Cornish clotted cream; and a selection of English traditional cakes. Teas for this option are served in a vintage Minton china set, and a glass of Laurent-Perrier NV Champagne (vintage 2004) is included.
In the summer, The Dorchester offers a unique twist: Ice Cream Teas include home-made ice creams in four natural flavors in miniature cones. Guests can also get a La Passion de Fressa cocktail or a cold glass of sparkling wine. In the winter, guests can opt for Christmas-themed teas that include mince pies (a British holiday staple).
For special requests, reach out to General Manager Roland Fasel through his assistant Janice Foakes ([email protected]; 011-44-20-7629-8888).
If The Dorchester itself is not available, consider heading out of town to Coworth Park, the Dorchester Collection’s country house hotel less than an hour from the city, which offers a Meadow Tea in The Drawing Room. We hear the pastries and exclusive new hand-blended teas are inspired by flowers that grow on the estate and the view of Coworth Park’s wildflower meadow from The Drawing Room windows. Good to know: On Thursday afternoons—or upon request—Coworth Park’s head of gardens Terri Crow will host a series of informal garden walks that go over the history of the hotel’s outdoor spaces. Contact General Manager Zoe Jenkins ([email protected] ion.com; 011-44-1344-876-600) to arrange something special.
Some other notable names came up during our search:
|The Dorchester recalls a bygone era with its traditional fare and formal service in The Promenade.|
Brown’s Hotel, a Rocco Forte property, has the aptly named English Tea Room, with what may well be the first-ever “Prestige Seasonal Tea Library,” which has been curated by tea company Lalani and Company and changes regularly. Beyond the Tea Library, there are 17 options from Jing Teas for guests to try.
For those who need recommendations, the English Tea Room has two Tea Sommeliers on staff. For special requests, contact Tea Room Manager Leyla Mussaud ([email protected]).
And then there’s The Ritz, where the Palm Court is regularly booked up for tea weeks, if not months, in advance. Like Brown’s, The Ritz has 17 different teas, including the intriguingly named “Russian Caravan,” a blend of China, Formosa and Darjeeling teas that is meant to evoke the ancient tea trade between Russia and China. Champagne teas or birthday teas are also available for extra-special occasions. Around the holidays, the popular Christmas Tea includes a glass of champagne and singers in front of the Palm Court. Children, who can’t enjoy the champagne, get teddy bears to take home instead.
For tea reservations and special requests, contact Reservations and Group Manager Dorothea Schoenroth ([email protected]; 011-44-20-7493-8181, ext. 40505).
Note: While it is always nice to dress up for tea, some places insist upon appropriate dress. The Ritz, for example, does not allow blue jeans or sneakers in the Palm Court, and men must always have a jacket and tie. We say it just adds to the atmosphere.