The Quintessentially English Tradition of Tea and Cakes
There is an incredible amount of places to have afternoon tea in London, which makes deciding which tea house or the room you should visit for that time-honored tradition a daunting task. Fortunately, we've assembled a guide to the best tea places in London, organized by type of tea, budget, and whether or not you're looking for a spot to take your children.
First introduced in 1840 by the seventh Duchess of Bedford, Anna, the tradition of afternoon tea has been a staple of British culture ever since. Originally created because the Duchess grew hungry between noon lunch and 8 o'clock dinner, the tradition gained new popularity 20 years later when high society individuals began dressing to the nines to eat and drink in the mid-afternoon.
Check out some of these locations if you want to get a taste of British culture, but you may also want to consider taking a Tea Masterclass or visit the Top 10 London Tea Suppliers to learn more about this English treat. And if you would like to do it all again at home here's where to learn how to make your own afternoon tea.
Top London Afternoon Tea Places
While there are many places to grab a spot of tea in the city, a few stand out as the best afternoon tea places in London for their charming ambiance, excellent cakes and scones, and high-quality customer service.
The Landmark London is a 5-star hotel with a unique Winter Garden atrium that serves Traditional, Chocolate, and Gluten-free Afternoon Teas daily as well as offering seasonal specials during particular times of the year.
Another famous spot, Claridge's, has been serving their award-winning Afternoon Tea for the better part of 150 years. Claridge's also serves holiday "Festive Afternoon Tea" from mid-November through New Years Day, so if you're touring London for the holidays, be sure to stop by for a special treat.
Finally, check out the place that started the grand tradition of getting fancy for afternoon tea, The Palm Court at The Langham London. First opened in 1865, this recently refurbished establishment is where Victorian society first gathered to enjoy the indulgence of a midday snack.
Cheap Afternoon Tea in London
While many of the best-rated tea shops in the city are a bit pricey, there are a variety of fantastic places to get cheap afternoon tea in London. These budget-friendly establishments offer the service at a lower cost, but that doesn't necessarily mean a lower standard of service or taste.
One of the best places for a cheap cup of tea, fresh jam, and homemade scones is at the Orangery in the Fan Museum in Greenwich, a muralled room in the museum overlooking a Japanese-style garden. Ranked the "Best Value Afternoon Tea" by the Daily Telegraph in 2015, visitors to the Orangery can explore the history and culture of fan-making before or after their highly-rated tea and scones.
For another indulgent experience, consider visiting The Wallace Restaurant, a part of the Wallace Collection which houses a number of famous art pieces by the likes of Rembrandt, Van Dyck, and Valazquez. This decadent setting is surprisingly inexpensive, so feel free to indulge yourself before or after visiting the rest of the Collection.
Gluten-Free Afternoon Tea in London
There was a time when a gluten-free cake was something you never saw on sale and would never expect to find at afternoon tea but, thankfully, times have changed and there are now many gluten-free afternoon teas in London.
It's not just those with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity choosing this option as many people are reducing their gluten intake for other health reasons, too. Fortunately for them, most establishments in London serve a gluten-free option for Afternoon Tea now, so you can visit any of the above-mentioned tea rooms and chances are you'll find something without gluten!
Afternoon Tea in London With Kids
Whether you're on a family vacation celebrating your child's birthday or you'd just like to stop in for an afternoon treat with your children, London offers a wide array of places to have afternoon tea with kids.
Some places may sound like a great idea for children, such as the Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea at The Sanderson but as they charge the same rate for children, it's not really cost effective. Most venues charge a much lower rate for children, though, so explore menus before you decide which tea room to visit to check if they offer discounts for kids.