Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, London Bridge...Those might be a few ideas that come to mind in regard to London, but for me, it’s tea and crumpets. There are so many things synonymous with British culture, but the afternoon cuppa has to be one of my favorites, which is why I’m going to share some of my top picks for high tea in Ol’ Blighty.
1. If you’re looking for the quintessential fancy London tea experience, you may want to check out The Wolseley in Piccadilly. The full afternoon tea consists of everything you would expect to find, including a variety of finger sandwiches, pastries, scones, and a wide selection of tea. You can also up the fancy pants factor and splurge for the Champagne Tea, which includes everything previously mentioned, plus, you guessed it, a glass of champers. The Wolseley decor has been described as "grand art deco glamour", and while I’m not exactly sure what that means, I can vouch that it’s pretty nice.
2. Perhaps you’re looking for something a little more traditional? Then the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon at Fortnum & Mason is where you’ll want to go. The "pale green Edwardian-style" salon will provide that classic atmosphere to make your experience characteristic of what you’ve always imagined. You’ll find the same delicious fare here as at the Wolseley.
3. Maybe you’re looking for something a little more unique? How about tea on a double decker bus! While not the typical afternoon tea experience, it definitely offers a different vantage point (literally). BB Bakery offers an afternoon tea and bus tour combo that gives you the best of both worlds. Stare out the window and spot Big Ben or the London Eye as you’re munching on mini quiche and macarons, while listening to the entertaining commentary provided by the knowledgeable bus guide, complete with a french accent (wait, are we still in London?). All the usual suspects are there, too (the tiny finger sandwiches, fluffy scones and assortment of tea), as well as gluten free and vegetarian friendly options. This excursion is slightly more expensive than your traditional afternoon tea, but hey, you’re getting a guided tour of all the London sights, so it makes sense.
4. Perhaps you’re traveling further up north through the charming Cotswolds, and you want to experience an afternoon tea that’s cozy and quaint. You’re in luck, because you’ll find plenty of cute little tea rooms as you meander through the winding cobblestone streets of the various villages. For the best possible experience, I highly recommend taking the Secret Cottage Tour. Not only will you get to see out-of-the-way villages you can’t reach by public transport, you’ll also get to experience some of the best hospitality and food in the owner’s very own secret cottage! In addition to the breakfast and lunch spreads provided, the afternoon tea and treats were some of the tastiest i’ve had anywhere, and experienced in front of a cozy fire to boot!
5. Let’s say you’re further north yet, and you find yourself across the border in the magical city of Edinburgh. You’ll certainly want to enjoy a cuppa after exploring the grounds of the castle in the chilly Scottish air. Surprisingly, the castle cafe has an excellent assortment of scones, clotted cream, and other tasty cakes to enjoy as you defrost your nose and get some feeling back into your fingers. If you’re further down the Royal Mile towards Holyrood Palace, you’d be well advised to pop inside Mimi’s Tea Room and Bakery for your afternoon nibbles. It’ll be hard to decide amongst all the tasty treats on display, should you go the traditional route and get the scone? Or perhaps branch out with one of her more creative concoctions? Either way, I promise you can’t go wrong.
No matter what part of the United Kingdom you’re in, a stop for afternoon tea is a must. It’s such a lovely tradition, and I found myself getting used to it even after just a couple of weeks. It is an experience not to be missed!