If there’s one thing I love to do when traveling, it’s eat. You might know this by now if you’ve read about my love affair with donuts in D.C. or my experience making macarons in Paris. But if you’re new here, let it suffice for me to say, I love to eat. And one of the top things to eat (drink) in London is tea. Afternoon tea is more than just some soggy leaf water, though. It’s an experience, complete with savory sandwiches or meat pies, sweet treats, and scones.
Scones…oh, I could write poems about scones. English scones are so much better than the dry crumbly things we eat in the United States. You smear them with cream and jam and they are heavenly. Seriously, if you go to London and don’t have one, I’ll be so disappointed in you.
Anyway, afternoon tea is an institution, and here are 3 places to indulge in a fancy pants meal between lunch and dinner, and one place to buy tea to mail home:
This is truly the epitome of fancy-pants tea. This 5-star hotel in Mayfair has been serving afternoon tea for 150 years. They serve you tea in delightful green and white china (which no, you cannot purchase, it is exclusive to them!).
Make reservations in advance, you’ll need them, and definitely wear the best dress you packed so that you fit in. The scones will make you cringe at the thought that you ever ate that dirt we call scones in the United States. Put both the cream and jam on them, because it’s how they’re best.
It’s pricey, but delicious, and your waiter or waitress will happily bring you as many second helpings of sandwiches and sweets as you’d like, and will even send you home with some.
Fortnum and Mason is a department store that has a whole host of adorable tins of cookies, teas, chocolates and more that make great gifts for your family and friends and souvenirs of your time in London. AND you can also have a lovely afternoon tea here. Win! Skip the cake and eat the scones. Duh, what are you, crazy?
The tea was delicious and it was fun to shop around for a while after we finished our meal, picking out themed tins of biscuits and teas, as well as tea pots and strainers. Most of the souvenirs we stuffed in our suitcases were from Fortnum and Mason.
We elected to tour the national theatre the day before we saw a show there, and it was a nice enough tour. If you’re into theatre, it would especially be great because you get to see behind the scenes and backstage, and then you can go see a show later and feel like you know all of the secrets.
But the post-tour afternoon tea was the real treat. Everything was theatre-themed, and named after different shows. For instance, they had a cake that was called “A Marble Mouthful,” since Eliza Doolittle had to speak around a mouth of marbles in My Fair Lady, and a meat pie called “Mrs. Lovett’s Pie” from Sweeny Todd. As a theatre nerd, I was in heaven!
They also had champagne with the tea, which many places seemed to offer. It was a pretty savory meal, and we ended up having a very small dinner as a result, so prepare yourself for that.
Where to buy tea to send home…Postcard Teas
Postcard Teas is, in my opinion, the absolute best place to get tea to send back home. Of course, that’s because I love sending postcards. Here, the tea is put into a box, and you write your note on the little box and it looks like a postcard.
The workers were very sweet to us and prepared a few kinds of tea, which made for a nice break in an afternoon of shopping while we sat and sipped and picked our favorites. Then, we bought the teas we liked, wrote our notes, and give them back to the shop workers to post for us.
Not only do you get to send a postcard and a little gift of tea, but you don’t have to fit gifts in your suitcase! Stellar idea and everyone I sent a tea postcard to loved it!
Let me know your favorite places to enjoy afternoon tea in the comments!