You’re in England with the kids and what better way to satisfy your cravings than a traditional meal at one of London’s finest high teas? Changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. Big Ben. London Eye. Been there, done that, now it’s time for a late lunch. The only problem is that there are just so many tea parlors to choose from.
Whether you’re 5 or 50, looking for some star-studded treatment or something fun for the kids, here are FTF and the Tea Guild's quick picks for the best of England’s High Teas, starting in London and moving into the British countryside.
Fun, Family Finery & High Tea in London at Athenaeum Hotel, Ritz-Carlton and Claridge's
If you’re looking for a classy High Tea in London, this hotel is a must. One of FTF's top hotels in London and winner of the Tea Guild's 2012 and 2010 "Top London Afternoon Tea" award, the Athenaeum Hotel, in the heart of Mayfair, London, gained a close to perfect score from inspectors. Lauded by judges for its knowledgeable, efficient and affable staff, exquisite menu, and sophisticated atmosphere, the Athenaeum’s attention to detail in service, taste and décor hasn’t escaped notice. With a superb variety of teas, cakes, sandwiches and scones, the Garden Room, where tea is served, has a staff that will guide inexperienced visitors in choosing the right blend of perfectly brewed tea. Judges found the hotel to be "a very enjoyable and relaxing tea experience in splendid surroundings."
Try Athenaeum's award-winning Evergreen Tea or, for a few more pounds sterling, have the popular Regent's Park Honey Tea with a glass of Honey Fizz.
“It is easy to understand why this leading establishment attracts so many, both the young and the old, to take Afternoon Tea,” said Irene Gorman head of the Tea Guild. You must book Afternoon Tea at least 24-hours ahead of time, but it's always best to book well in advance.
A truly traditional and elegant experience and a bit of a splurge, tea at the Ritz is served in the ornate Palm Court dining venue. Complete with gilded cups and silver tea service, Afternoon Tea includes a selection of 17 types of loose tea, a large array of dainty tea sandwiches, scones with preserves and clotted cream, pastries, and the famous Ritz Chocolate Cake.
For chocolate lovers, the Ritz also offers a Chocolate Afternoon Tea, a perfect way to indulge that mid-day sweet tooth. A decadent twist on tradition, the Chocolate Afternoon Tea offers guests the choice of chocolate sandwiches, delicate chocolate pastries, and hot chocolate, tea, or champagne to drink. When booking the Chocolate Afternoon Tea, it is important to note that all menu selections must be ordered at least 48 hours in advance.
For a more adult getaway, be sure to try the Celebratory Tea at the Ritz — traditional Afternoon Tea served with a glass of champagne. For a bit of birthday fun, try the Birthday Tea. Served with the complete Afternoon Tea menu, champagne (when appropriate), and a slice of birthday cake, the Birthday Tea is the ideal way to throw a party for that special girl, because, let’s be honest, what every princess dreams of is a tea party.
So ladies, grab that dress that’s too nice for a pub; and gents, put on that tie that your wife said was a good idea. Guests looking to enjoy tea at the Ritz should note everyone dining at any of the Ritz’s restaurants is asked to come in formal dress code. Booking at the Ritz Carlton in advance is also essential (for weekend teas especially). In general, it is always a good idea to make reservations up to 12 weeks in advance.
For a pick of London’s best in afternoon tea, look no further than Claridge’s, one of Mayfair’s finest five-star hotels. Here, Afternoon Tea is served in a comfortable setting highlighted with some of London’s finest examples of Art Deco.
Winner of the 2011 Tea Guild’s award for "Top London Afternoon Tea," Claridge’s offers guests their choice of 30 teas from around the world, finger sandwiches, pastries, and scones. The knowledgeable staff are more than happy to assist guests in choosing a tea. Champagne Afternoon Teas are also offered, providing a nice break for mom and dad.
Prices aren’t bad for a five-star hotel, and you are always sure to get five-star service. At Claridge’s, presentation and tradition are just as important as the quality of the tea. All three aspects, according to The Tea Guild, make for an excellent experience.
“All of the staff at Claridge’s are passionate about creating a memorable guest experience,” said Thomas Kochs, Claridge’s General Manager, “And when it comes to serving the perfect afternoon tea, we strive to get every detail just right. Claridge’s afternoon tea is a time-honored indulgence, practiced by generations of tea lovers.”
For other London hotels serving great Afternoon Tea, be sure to check out our guide to London Family-Friendly Hotels.
A Day Trip Through Dales & Moors: Tea in Yorkshire
For a more cozy but equally traditional experience, try Bettys Tea Room in Northallerton, Yorkshire. A well-known British tea franchise, Bettys, with six locations in Yorkshire, has been around for quite some time and has won the Tea Guild’s top award four times.
Bettys Northallerton was praised for its exceptionally friendly and “quiet” service as well as its extensive selection of teas and delicacies — including a popular thick scone dubbed the "Fat Rascal." The 72 workers at Betty’s include not just servers, but bakers and confectioners who make fresh bread and cakes daily. Bettys’ Palm Room gets its name from a 3-meter-tall Chusan Palm, an incredible accent to an elegant room with a domed glass roof and large window mirrors
More affordable than the higher-end tea rooms in London, Afternoon Tea can run anywhere from a little under £20 for a basic menu to a little over £30 with Champagne. Your tea service comes with a choice of one of many specialty teas and sandwiches as well as local, sumptuous Yorkshire clotted cream and fresh cakes.
About a four-hour drive from London, Northallerton is a quaint stop on the Old Roman Road between London and Scotland. It’s a traditional Yorkshire market town that makes a great base for exploring the dales and moors of Herriot Country. The Market is held every Wednesday and Saturday on Georgian High Street, where Bettys Tea Room is located.
Northallerton has treks for outdoor-inclined families to hike, and a fun scavenger hunt adventure can be had at the Forbidden Corner—a labyrinth riddled with strange sculptures and odd buildings. The Mount Grace Priory makes for a picturesque photo-op as a monastic ruin quintessentially overgrown with wildlife.
A Tea Party & Short Break in the Shropshire Countryside
Winner of the Tea Guild's 2011 "Top Tea Place" award, Rocke Cottage Tea Room is located a three-hour drive outside London. Shropshire offers all the charms of a countryside community and hidden in this country beauty is one of the best tea rooms in all of the UK.
Afternoon Tea selections at the Rocke Cottage Tea Room are extensive, offering guests their choice of traditional English, Indian, Ceylon, China, green, black, and specialty teas. Coffee is also available for the less adventurous, as well as an array of hot and cold beverages to accompany soup, scones, and sandwiches served for lunch.
If the idea of having tea in a 17th-century, timber-framed building, complete with a garden which guests are invited to explore, hasn’t already caught your attention, the prices charged at the Rocke Cottage Tea Room are sure to seal the deal. Priced a fraction of the cost of some of the high-end tea rooms in London, the meals served at the Rocke Cottage Tea Room are well worth the trip.
Filled with rich history, Shropshire, England is a convenient home base for families looking to see some of England’s finest castles and historic houses. Outdoor activities, such as walking, biking, and fishing are also a must as part of any Shropshire family vacation.
Families looking for an authentic experience in Shropshire should be sure to check out the accommodations at Lavender Cottage. Recommended by the Rocke Cottage Tea Room, the Lavender Cottage offers families the chance to stay in a converted barn with two bedrooms, a living room, and a kitchen. The prices are very affordable, and stays can range from anywhere from a two-night short break to a week away in the peaceful English countryside.
Images courtesy of The Tea Guild, the Ritz-Carlton, and Claridge's.
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.