Sip Tea and Eat Cake with Mum in London
Gonna take your mama out all night!
Well, at least out for some of the best afternoon tea in London.
Finding a way to thank the woman that gave you life – and endless bowls of chicken soup – can seem impossible… Especially when Mother’s Day rolls around. But fear not, sons and daughters! We’ve come up with the perfect solution to treat your favourite lady.
There is simply nothing more glam than an afternoon tea in the city. And London does the well-loved ritual very well indeed.
With our guide in your hands, we invite you to link arms with your creator and live it up in a swanky venue with a beautiful, towering tray of miniature sandwiches, scones, sweet treats, petit fours and champagne flutes. Whether you’re looking for a traditional spot with triangular cucumber sarnies and piping hot tea or an Instagrammable dining destination where the teapot comes spiked with gin, there’s an afternoon tea destination for every kind of mum.
But before you stir the tea and butter your scones, time for a quick history lesson.
How did it all begin?
Tea has been around for millennia, yet it wasn’t until the mid 19th century that the famous British pastime of afternoon tea came to be. And who do we have to thank? None other than Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford who discovered a cure for that infamous 4pm slump. To bridge the long gap between lunch and dinner, Anna would request a tray of tea, bread and butter as well as cake be brought to her room. She soon began sending exclusive invites to her friends and from then on, afternoon tea went viral.
What’s the difference between afternoon tea and high tea?
Contrary to what you might have believed, afternoon tea and high tea are historically very different concepts.
As discussed, Afternoon Tea is a 4pm affair consisting of light dishes with little cutlery required. This form of tea sippin’ is sometimes referred to as low tea. Why? Because it often takes place in the comfort of a living room setting, where participants lounge in armchairs around the low coffee table – with the addition of a roaring fire in winter.
On the other hand, the origin of high tea is not as glamorous as it sounds. High tea began as a meal reserved for the working class. This part of society didn’t have the luxury of enjoying a tea break, so at the end of a long day of labour a much more substantial meal was required. Hot dishes rule the high tea menu and contain hearty ingredients like meats, fish and eggs. The term ‘high’ is also a reference to the meal being served at the table. Who knew, huh?
What’s on the menu?
Afternoon tea has come a long way since Anna’s bread and butter days. In regards to the hot cuppa itself, teapots are traditionally filled with an invigorating black tea or something of the herbal variety.
When it comes to the dainty items sitting pretty on a tiered serving stand, you’re always in for a treat. Finger sandwiches are filled with anything from simple cucumber to ham and mustard, warm scones come with dollops of clotted cream and jams and cakes and pastries really top things off. We’re not sure if Anna and her mates ever popped a bottle of bubbles, but luckily it’s an increasingly available option in today’s tea scene.
To raise your pinkie or not…
Luckily, one no longer needs to don long gowns, white gloves and elaborate hats to take part in the social activity. However, there are still certain rules to adhere to when it comes to proper attire and etiquette. Plus, it’s always a bit of fun to play up the part. Here are our top 3 tips:
1. Pull up your socksSomewhere in the middle of gowns and athleisure wear is the appropriate afternoon tea attire. You’re not daft, so you’ll figure it out.
2. Use your fingersScones and finger sandwiches should be eaten with your hands, although when it comes to finer cakes and patisseries a small dessert spoon is your best bet.
3. Pinkies downSigh. This was probably our most disappointing discovery. The experts have strongly voted against raised pinkies in the tea room. Not only does it make you a snob, but it turns out that popping your pinky underneath the cup is an excellent balancing tactic.
Right, with those curiosities out of the way, it’s time to focus on the most important question of all: Which afternoon tea will it be?
The Best Afternoon Tea in London…
Corinthia Hotel, London
If you can’t afford to send your mum away to a swanky hotel for the weekend, the next best thing is obviously Afternoon Tea at The Corinthia Hotel! Elegant, refined and delightful in every way, you and your mum will love the ambient chandelier-lit rooms and array of gourmet sweet treats at this upmarket hotel at Whitehall Place in Westminster.
The Corinthia Hotel has various set menus to choose from within the special Mother’s Day offering. We’re obviously in favour of the Rose Champagne Afternoon Tea option.
Our picks:☕Bespoke aromatic tea blend🥪Salt beef, horseradish cream and watercress on Mediterranean bread🍰Vanilla and rum canalés
Taking your tea and cake at Farmacy is a truly healing experience. Located on Westbourne Grove in Notting Hill, this wholesome eatery serves a plant-based high tea free from dairy, refined sugars and other such additives. Not just known for its vegan treats, Farmacy is London’s first restaurant to infuse CBD, a natural and medicinal stress relief and mood enhancing ingredient, into their menu.
Our picks:☕Spirit of Hemp loose leaf tea🥪Smoked tofu and truffle sandwich🍰Lucuma chocolate and pecans CBD truffles
Address:74-76 Westbourne Grove, London
Scoff & Banter Tea Rooms, Oxford Street
Treat your number one gal pal to an Afternoon Tea at Scott & Banter, featuring Moët & Chandon Brut Imperial NV Champagne. This popular family of tea rooms gives you all the freedom to pick and choose your favourite bites to appear on the tray. And let us tell you, there are plenty of inventive options to choose between. There’s even a whole gluten-free menu and the free-flowing Prosecco option is a very tempting offer indeed.
Our picks:☕Start with a classic English Breakfast before moving onto bubbles🥪Rare venison gin and tonic sandwich🍰Raspberry and Prosecco jelly
Afternoon Tea at The Park Room
Lavish, elegant and an experience to remember are the ways we would describe Afternoon Tea at The Park Room. Situated in Mayfair on the prestigious Park Lane, Afternoon Tea here is a five-star experience that includes Champagne, high-quality tea, sandwiches, scones and delicious cakes, naturally. Ticking yet another box, they even offer an exclusive vegan menu. Afternoon Tea at Park Room is kind of a big deal. We think you and your mum will love it – so treat yourselves.
Our picks:☕Elderflower and lemon tisane🥪Honey roast Yorkshire ham and Coleman’s English mustard🍰Chocolate torte
Address:86-90 Park Ln, Mayfair, London
Fortnum's Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon
Established in 1707, afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason’s Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon has been a tradition for centuries. The most enthusiastic (and obsessed) of London’s tea drinkers can be regularly found at this Piccadilly destination, where over 50 varieties of tea leaves are available for brewing. The afternoon tea eats are also spectacular, with a dedicated vegetarian offering included as well as a menu designed to introduce children into the wonderful world of tea.
Our picks:☕Royal Blend (Fortnum’s signature tea created in 1902 for Edward VII)🥪Smoked salmon sandwich with tartare dressing🍰Still-warm scones with homemade strawberry preserve and lemon curd
XU Teahouse and Restaurant
For those wanting to stray from traditional British ways for a day, XU Teahouse and Restaurant provides the perfect opportunity. See how the other half brew and discover XU’s elegant Afternoon Tea Ceremony Set. Choose from a huge range of traditional teas and nibble on a delicate selection of savoury and sweet Taiwanese-inspired creations. The special ritual is only available only on weekends from 12pm until 5pm – and only growing in popularity, so booking is essential.
Our picks:☕Glass of seasonal cold brew tea🥪Sweet potato taro dumpling🍰Deep fried cinnamon mochi
Address:30 Rupert St, West End, London
High Palms High Tea at The Landmark London
Arguably as iconic as The Shard and London Eye, there’s nothing more enchanting than an afternoon spent sipping tea in The Landmark London’s Victorian Winter Garden atrium. Delight in a traditional afternoon tea under high palm trees, with sunlight streaming through the high ceilings and the twinkle of a piano playing in the background. As well as a hot pot of tea, a glass of Champagne is a must.
Our picks:☕Winter Garden Blend tea🥪Coronation chicken on walnut bread🍰Vanilla mousse, salted caramel and white chocolate brownie
sketch in Mayfair
Stepping into Sketch’s plush pink haven in London’s Mayfair is like falling into a Wes Anderson film set. Home to five elaborately designed spaces, afternoon tea at Sketch takes place in The Gallery where a neverending display of quirky David Shrigley illustrations adorn the blushing walls. With an eccentric exhibition of art and classic selection of finger sandwiches, scones and patisseries, you and your lovely ma will have plenty to talk about. An exclusive Mother’s Day Afternoon Tea is also offered on Saturday 21st and Sunday 22nd March, with bubbles galore to add to the pot.
Our picks:☕Pot of Royal Flush tea🥪Egg Gougère sandwich🍰Traditional Victorian sponge served from the trolley
Address:9 Conduit St, Mayfair, London