Friday, 15 November 2013

For years an English country staple, the refined Afternoon Tea is back in fashion favour. Up and down the country tea rooms are jam packed with those seeking a little genteel indulgence and tea rooms and hotels are having to move with the times to stay ahead in this lucrative market.

Champagne afternoon teas are a popular choice for those looking for a little extra luxury, but many establishments, particularly in London, are branching out further into more exotic territory.
Chinese and Japanese afternoon tea is enjoying growing popularity in the capital, offering a wide variety of teas with elegant dim sum or light, healthy treats in place of sandwiches and pastries.

It is to Anna, 7th Duchess of Bedford to whom we owe thanks for this ritual. In an era when it was commonplace to have just two meals a day, an early breakfast and dinner served later in the evening, she was tired by hunger pangs and decided to set aside time each afternoon to take tea and light refreshments, privately. Over time she was joined by friends and acquaintances and the practice was perpetuated.

Whether you are looking for traditional cream teas, or something a little different, you are bound to be spoiled for choice with the options out there. Here we compile a list of the finest afternoon tea establishments across the country.

Claridges, in the heart of London's Mayfair, would be the first place to come to mind for many people. Taking afternoon tea in the Foyer or Reading Room of this stunning art deco hotel is a highlight of any trip to the capital. An elegant, refined atmosphere is created with live music, excellent service and a quintessentially English menu, including a selection of finger sandwiches, pastries and scones, all made from the finest ingredients and sourced from British suppliers. Consecutively given the Award of Excellence by the Tea Guild, afternoon tea is served daily at 3pm, 3.30pm, 5pm and 5.30pm.

Claridges Afternoon Tea

Teanamu Chaya Teahouse, Notting Hill. A haven of tranquility, this oriental inspired tea room offers delicate, handmade patisserie and chinese dim sum accompanied by elegant Chinese and Japanese teas in an atmosphere of serenity. With a focus on health and relaxation, guests can learn how the tea rituals of Chinese and Japanese culture expand mindfulness and offer wisdom and relaxation.

The Bar Lounge at Grand Imperial's Oriental Afternoon Tea (at The Grosvenor Hotel) offers a lovely relaxing space in which to enjoy an Asian inspired afternoon tea, recently voted in the top 10 of London's best afternoon teas by The Telegraph. Enjoy a variety of beautifully presented mouth watering Cantonese delicacies.

Cantonese Style Afternoon Tea at the Grand Imperial

The Goring Hotel in Belgravia received the Tea Guild's prestigious award for the capital of Top London Afternoon Tea 2013. This luxury hotel has been serving quintessentially English afternoon tea since the day it opened in 1910 and, which 103 years of experience, has mastered the perfect menu.

The Goring Hotel
In Edinburgh, The Balmoral Hotel serves afternoon tea in the Palm Court. An atmosphere of refinement is created with live harp music and guests have the option of a champagne afternoon tea. The menu begins with the chef's amuse bouche, followed by a selection of sandwiches, scones and desserts, before finishing with treats from the trolley.

Bovey Castle, located in Dartmoor National Park. We couldn't do a piece about afternoon tea without including one example from Devon. Built in 1890, Bovey Castle was named by Red Magazine as one of the top six places in the UK for afternoon tea. Guests can enjoy warm scones, finger sandwiches, homemade cakes and a selection of teas in the dining room or on the terrace overlooking the gardens.
Bettys (no apostrophe) have six tearooms across Yorkshire and offer a staggering selection of teas to cater for every taste. Try the Imperial Room in Harrogate, with it's crystal chandeliers and live piano music, or the Belmont Room in York, a wood panelled, art deco interior with live piano music.

Bovey Castle, Dartmoor.

For old English charm and hospitality, visit The Bridge Tea Room in Bradford on Avon. A 'Hansel and Gretel' style exterior leads to a cosy and traditional dining room which is filled with homely trinkets, wooden beams and fine bone china. They offer a range of afternoon teas, including 'masters and mistresses' teas for children.

Old world charm at The Bridge Tea Rooms
The Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath is one of only two Grade 1 listed hoteks in the UK. Beautifully decorated in period style and featuring a beautiful collection of antiques and fine paintings, it is the perfect venue to spoil yourself with the delicious teas on offer. Afternoon tea is served in the stunning secret gardens, or inside the cosy lounge complete with roaring fire. For tea with a difference, the hotel can arrange a cruise along the scenic Kennet and Avon Waterway in a 1923 Thames River launch, with a luxury afternoon tea for two aboard the Lady Sophina.  

Afternoon Tea at The Royal Crescent Hotel, Bath. 

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