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Best Afternoon Tea in London

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What Makes the Perfect Afternoon Tea? Afternoon tea is an indulgence that everyone enjoys. Where can you get the best afternoon tea in London, and what makes it so special? With Mother’s Day coming up and Easter not long after that, it’s a great time to consider this great British tradition.

Everyone deserves a little treat from time to time, and nothing spells indulgence quite as much as a traditional afternoon tea. It is not the sort of thing that we have time for every day, so when going for afternoon tea, it should use the best quality ingredients, be served from fine china and be enjoyed in a traditional English countryside setting. It’s also a great excuse to put on your vintage dress and take a step back in time.

edible flower on hot beef sandwich

For Londoners, the first two aspects might be relatively easy to find. After all, there are plenty of high end hotels and luxury restaurants in the capital, and many provide afternoon tea. But a countryside setting? That is more of a challenge in the city. Yet just a mile from the tube station at Cockfosters, you can enjoy an afternoon tea in Hertfordshire that feels a world away from the hustle and bustle of the capital.

About afternoon tea

According to apocryphal history, the concept of afternoon tea was invented by Anna Russell, the 7th Duchess of Bedford. As a young lady of the titled classes, she lived in a time when it was common practice to eat nothing between breakfast and dinner, which was typically served at around 8PM. During a visit to Belvoir Castle in 1840, she became conscious of “a sinking feeling” in the stomach. In other words, she was absolutely starving, so she requested some tea and sandwiches in her room.

Soon, she was inviting friends to join her for this ritual, and the concept of afternoon tea was born. The Duchess was for many years a lady in waiting to Queen Victoria, and she introduced the concept to her majesty who, it is fair to assume, was amused by the idea. Before long, everyone who was anyone was enjoying afternoon tea, and variations on the theme began to develop up and down the country.

What makes the perfect afternoon tea?

Typically, an afternoon tea will consist of a choice of teas, along with a range of both savoury and sweet finger food. There are no hard and fast rules, and it is very much down to personal taste.

Popular sandwiches include cucumber, smoked salmon, egg and tuna. Other savoury delicacies such as mini quiches and vol au vents might also be served. A choice of cakes will typically be available, such as scones, tarts and eclairs.

afternoon tea cakes

What about a cream tea?

A cream tea is a variation on the afternoon tea theme, but without the savouries. It will usually comprise a pot of tea, scones, jam and clotted cream. What is less certain is the order in which they should be applied. A Devonshire cream tea involves jam then cream, while the Cornish variation is the other way around.

Champagne afternoon tea

For the ultimate in decadent luxury, why not take the whole afternoon off and enjoy a glass or two of bubbly with your afternoon tea? These days prosecco is the drink of choice. After all, everyone deserves a treat from time to time, and you might as well do it in style. Enjoy!

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