Chinti's Guide To Afternoon Tea
Afternoon tea is that quintessentially British tradition that has become to be associated with England the world over, and its rituals and details served as one of the inspirations behind our Pre-Fall '17 collection. Initially, afternoon tea was meal for the working man, taken standing up or sitting on tall stools, thus 'high'. Tea with cakes, scones, even cheese on toast would have been served. But tea consumption increased and the tradition was elevated dramatically during the early nineteenth century when Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, is said to have complained of "having that sinking feeling" (or good old hunger pangs) during the late afternoon.
She remedied them with a tray of tea, bread and butter, and cake. Once she began sharing her new habit with friends, it soon progressed into a full-blown social event among the English aristocracy. Gradually, this afternoon meal became known as an important event on the social calendars for all ladies.
While it's no longer the case that, like the song says, "when the clock strikes four, everything stops for tea", one can always partake in this decadent tradition in some of London's best hotels and tea rooms. Let's look at a few, starting with home:
A bucket-list big tick, it's hard to compete with the classic luxury hotel in the heart of Mayfair for an afternoon tea. The hotel has been serving tea for 150 years, and has perfected the art with everything from pear and walnut pastries, to a pianist/cellist duo playing in the background.
Served daily 2:45pm, 3pm, 3:15pm, 3:30pm, 4.45pm, 5pm, 5:15pm & 5:30pm
Brook Street, Mayfair, London W1K 4HR
THE CONNAUGHT HOTEL
With cinematic views of Mayfair, The Connaught is another stellar option for tea in London. The setting is supremely elegant, and the sandwiches, which include roast beef and horseradish, smoked salmon, and the classic coronation chicken, are second to none.
Daily sittings at 2pm and 2.30pm.
Carlos Pl, Mayfair, London W1K 2AL
THE DORCHESTER HOTEL
An oasis of calm in London, tea at The Dorchester Hotel in Park Lane is taken in The Promenade, complete with lush plants, floral displays and throne-like chairs. The bite-sized scones made to a 50-year-old recipe.
Bookings from 1pm, 1.30pm, 3.15pm, 4.45pm, 5.30pm and 6pm (from Monday to Thursday) or at 1pm, 2pm, 3.15pm, 4.30pm and 5.30pm (from Friday to Sunday).
53 Park Lane, Mayfair, London W1K 1QA
Fancy a modern take on afternoon tea? Wonderfully eccentric French restaurant and Mayfair institution Sketch has reinvented the tradition with opera cakes, tarts and eclairs, and a spin on sandwiches - such as mozzarella and pesto instead of cheddar. (Note: the pink room below is also London's most-Instagrammed restaurant.)
All day until 6pm.
9 Conduit St, Mayfair, London W1S 2XG
Tea at Seymour's Parlour at Zetter Townhouse Marylebone is a more fun approach than heading to one of the hotels. There is also more of a focus on cocktails, with a nice selection of tea-infused drinks. And with their salted caramel and apple choux bun, the treats don't disappoint either.
28-30 Seymour St, Marylebone, London W1H 7JB
If you have a flair for entertaining, why not host your own? All you'll need is a classic tiered cake stand, and a good amount of tea pots, tea cups, cutlery and cake slices for serving. Do use a tablecloth - and doilies of course. There aren't any hard rules when it comes to the food, but a layer of sandwiches (don't forget to cut off the crusts), a layer of cakes and a layer of scones or teacakes never fails.
We'd pass on enforcing any dress code rules, but would strongly suggest our new Pre-Fall '17 graphic doily cashmere.