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The London Fiver – Five of the Most Interesting Alternatives for Afternoon Tea in London

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Afternoon tea, that light meal served between 4 and 6 PM, is a staple of British culture. In addition to enjoying a hot cuppa of the caffeinated beverage, you might enjoy some sandwiches, pastries, cakes, or even biscuits. Anna Maria Rusell, Duchess of Bedford, is credited with beginning the tradition, and, as such, there’s some austerity to afternoon tea. However, some places in London have gotten a bit tired of being prim and proper all the time and developed their own unique ways to present the meal.

1. Mad Hatter’s Tea – The Sanderson Hotel

Take a trip through the Looking Glass with this Lewis Carroll-themed afternoon tea in the Courtyard Garden of the Sanderson Hotel in the West End. The menus are hidden in books, the crockery resembles playing cards and clocks, and your choice of beverage comes with a “Drink Me” tag. The tea themselves can be quite interesting concoctions, with flavors ranging from apple pie to strawberries and cream. Make sure you book a few months in advance, however, as this upscale, unconventional tea is very much in demand by locals and tourists alike.

2. BB Bakery Afternoon Tea Bus Tour – Westminster

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Want to combine your afternoon tea with a sightseeing tour of London? Covent Garden’s BB Bakery takes their culinary delights on the road in a chicly-renovated Routemaster bus that will serve you tea and their selection of French delights as you ride past the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, the Royal Albert Hall, and more. Tours depart from Trafalgar Square at 12:30 and 3 PM as well as from Victoria Coach Station at 12, 2:30, and 5 PM. The cost for adults is £45 and for children, £35, and you can believe it’s going to be a more (full)filling tour.

3. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – One Aldwych

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Another opportunity to combine a love of tea with a love of literature, or in this case musicals, as One Aldwych celebrates the West End production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with its own Dahl-inspired afternoon tea. In addition to Wonka treats such as a gold-painted chocolate egg with a cheesecake filling and mystery-flavored candy floss, there are more traditional fare options such as smoked salmon and heritage tomato tart. If you want something a bit stronger, you can order champagne or a Cocktail Charlie, which is a potent mix of champagne and whiskey that comes smoking out of a clear teapot. The cost is £37.50 for a normal tea and £48 with the optional alcoholic beverages, but you’d better check the website as they can be fully booked for weeks ahead of the present.

4. Burger Afternoon Tea – Brgr.co

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If you want a more American spin on the British classic, go over to Brgr.co in Soho. Instead of scones, cucumber sandwiches, and pastries, your tea comes served with sliders (or mini-hamburgers for non-Americans) that include the traditional cheeseburger, fried chicken with coleslaw, and prawn and salmon, as well as mini-fries, lemon tart, raspberry and white chocolate cheesecake, and a mini brownie. Drinks can include traditional British tea, homemade iced tea, or a milkshake.

5. Gent’s Afternoon Tea – Sanctum Soho Hotel

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Of course, maybe you’re on this trip with the blokes and you wouldn’t do something so “girly” as a dainty English tea. Well, fear not, my brothers! No sticking out your pinky while gnoshing on itsy-bitsy cucumber sandwiches at the Sanctum. Instead, you get the option for meat such as steak, lamb, roast beef, and more while sipping on your tea and a tankard of Jack Daniels’ “Gentleman’s Jack”. They’ll also give you a cigar to enjoy on the roof terrace and all for £50. Of course, the ladies haven’t been left out, and the price is considerably lower for the more traditional “High Tea for High Heels” at £35.

John Rabon
Author: John Rabon

John is a regular writer for Anglotopia and its sister websites. He is currently engaged in finding a way to move books slightly to the left without the embarrassment of being walked in on by Eddie Izzard. For any comments, questions, or complaints, please contact the Lord Mayor of London, Boris Johnson's haircut.

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12 COMMENTS

  1. Forgive me for my ignorance here but if tea is served around 4 to about 6 is that their supper/dinner? Or do they also have dinner/supper later. For example in my area of the world we usually have breakfast (anytime before 10 usually) Lunch (Usually around noon to about 2) and then dinner (anywhere between 5 to 7). It has always been an odd curiosity of mine to know the British eating schedule. I always wondered what tea time was and why it was at that time etc.

    • The afternoon tea was introduced in, I think, the 18th century by The Duchess of Devonshie to bridge the gap between lunch and what was then a late dinner time of 8pm. She used to have it served to her lady afternoon callers and the custom grew from there. I gre up in Scotland in the 1950’s and I remember my Scottish granny serving High Tea at around 4pm, again to bridge the gap between lunch and dinner.

  2. I’m sorry but the Burger one is not aternoon tea and never will be. It doesn’t matter how you dress it up it’s still just a burger and chips. Afternoon tea is not just food served in between 4 and 6. If Americans don’t like the traditional high tea well that’s thier downfall, not ours.

  3. HA!! I know a few ladies who would thoroughly enjoy the Gent’s Afternoon Tea–myself included!! 😀

  4. I know you were focusing on a select few but I’d also like to give props to a bakery in Bloomsbury (original one on Theobald Rd, I believe – she has other shops in London) – Bea’s Cakes. My friend and I were visiting England back in 2009 and we stumbled across her bakery by accident and had a lovely tea there.

  5. Another option is the City Cruises’ River Thames Tea. Vacationing in London last May a friend and I took this lovely tour along the Thames from the London Bridge to Big Ben while having our 3-course afternoon tea. The food was good, the service impeccable, and the views – gorgeous.

  6. I have been in London recently and I both wanted to have tea on that bus and on a Thames cruise but unfurnately I couldn’t…. I ‘m sure it must be nice!!!!

    • When I was a child growing up in England we always had dinner at lunch time and my family still refer to the lunch time meal as dinner. Tea was early evening and then supper was a light hot snack such as cheese on toast along with hot chocolate or overtime before going to bed.

  7. As a Londoner I would say that most of the afternoon teas mentioned here would be regarded as a treat. Most people would have break for tea or coffee in the afternoon perhaps with a cake. Those of us who work in offices would have a tea or coffee at our desks. The evening meal would be when you get home from work – anytime really from 6pm onwards depending on preference. If you wanted you could then have Supper – a snack later on in the evening.

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