Anna Maria Russell is hungry. She’s the Duchess of a Victorian estate, and she’s tired of craving sustenance during the extremely long period between breakfast and dinner. Around 1840, she has the bright idea to request a tray of cakes, breads, and tea around four in the afternoon. She begins inviting fellow socialites to join her in the meal, and so the tradition of afternoon tea is born. Once an upper-class social event, afternoon tea is now enjoyed in tea houses, ballrooms, and hotels all over England, without having to be a member of royalty (though this would undoubtedly add to the experience). Though there are many variations of English tea, for clarification purposes this article will refer to some of the best places to enjoy a traditional afternoon tea in England, which is typically served with dainty sandwiches, scones, and pastries.
Look at those shiny kettles! Bettys has been around since 1919 and currently operates in six different cities throughout Yorkshire. Swiss baker Frederick Belmont opened the first branch in Harrogate. No one knows what Betty these tearooms are named after, but their trademark desserts and inviting atmosphere attract people the world over. Note the lack of apostrophe in the name.
Fortnum and Mason (London)
Fortnum and Mason is a department store that offers a wide selection of tea, coffees, hampers, and homeware. The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon, located on the store’s fourth floor, was inaugurated by HM the Queen herself in 2012. You can enjoy a complimentary tea-tasting before you order, in charmingly elegant surroundings that offer panoramic views of Piccadilly Road. Take home a batch of the store’s famous brew after the meal.
Sally Lunn’s (Bath)
Although this place isn’t specifically known for its afternoon tea, stopping here will give you a chance to try the Sally Lunn bun, a teacake comparable to brioche. This eating house serves an all-day menu, which includes afternoon tea, and free admittance to the bakery museum when you order a meal. The historic building in which Sally Lunn’s resides dates back to the medieval ages. You can easily reach the town of Bath from London by train.
The Bridge Tea Rooms (Bradford-Upon-Avon)
Stop here for an afternoon tea in the Victorian spirit, served by authentically costumed staff. This eating establishment has more than thirty teas available to try and offers homemade sandwiches, tarts, and English breakfasts. The Bridge has earned multiple awards for providing guests an unsurpassed tearoom experience, with friendly service, delicious meals, and antique touches that evoke the best of hospitality in the Victorian era.
Lord’s Cricket Ground (London)
This experience is a little pricier but well worth it for the atmosphere. Known as the Home of Cricket, the Lord’s Cricket Ground features a world-renown cricket museum in addition to being an active sports pavilion. A guided tour of both is included in the price of afternoon tea, which takes place in the Long Room, an elegant dining hall that overlooks the cricket pitch. Guests can dine on sandwiches, scones, and cakes, accompanied by string musicians and surrounded by portraits of famous cricket players. Formal dress code applies.
Wherever you choose to enjoy your spot of tea, leave your pinky down when sipping from your cup, as doing otherwise would go against proper tea etiquette. For some interesting information on the origins and etiquette of afternoon tea, click here and here.
About the author:
Dana Silverman credits her passion for travel to Girl Scouts, which provided her with amazing opportunities to attend summer camps throughout the United States during her childhood. She’s lived in Australia and New Zealand, and she’s planning a trip to Japan around her appreciation for the country’s cuisine and temples.