伦敦下午茶的10佳去处|London's ten best afternoon teas

The ritual of afternoon tea owes its origins to Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford. As a young women in the early 1800s she lived during a time when it was common to eat only two main meals a day, with breakfast scheduled early in the morning and dinner occuring late in the evening. Weakened and irritated by hunger pangs each day, she decided to schedule time to take tea and snack each afternoon. This private ceremony was firstly done furtively in her bedroom, but over time well-heeled acquaintances joined her and the practice was perpetuated. Nowadays tea rooms and hotels in London and throughout the country offer permutations of this centuries-old tradition. Plenty are pretty much indistinguishable but quite a few offer something unique. Below are some of the capital's best afternoon teas for those who want to experience something special.

Best for traditional afternoon tea: Claridge's afternoon tea
Reviewed by John O' Ceallaigh
Afternoon tea at Claridge’s hotel is always busy but the atmosphere of genteel refinement is unsullied by the crowds and continual clink of cups on china. That’s partially due to the service, which is attentive and agreeably affable rather than fusty, and the sense of occasion. Guests book up to three months in advance, so often time their visit to celebrate something special. The experience is worth the wait. With patient guidance we managed to select from the 40 teas on offer – summery, pink-hued elderflower tea for her, smoky Lapsang Souchong tea from China for me – and then sat back as platters of dainty finger sandwiches and crumbly French pastries were presented for inspection. Traditional and uncomplicated, the choices were fuss-free but flawless. We left completely satisfied, and fully appreciative of why the Tea Guild named it 2011’s ‘Top London Afternoon Tea’.
Top treat: freshly baked raisin and apple scones, served warm with spiced Marco Polo jam and silky dollops of clotted cream, scooped into a tumbler like ice-cream.
Address: Claridge’s, Brook St, Mayfair, London W1K 4HR
Days and times: tea is served daily at 3pm, 3.30pm & 5pm or 5.30pm
Cost: £38; champagne afternoon tea £49-£62

Best for healthy indulgence: Brown's Hotel's Tea-Tox
Reviewed by Hugh Wright
Tea-tox at Brown's Hotel. Image: Adrian Houston Limited
Healthy versions of indulgences have always struck me as being a bit po-faced, but I loved every bite of Brown’s Hotel’s sugar-free, low-fat, low-carb afternoon ‘Tea-Tox’.Spelt and rye breads, and lettuce and chicory leaves provided the bases for imaginative open sandwiches (my favourite being smoked mackerel and quail's egg), delicious fruit skewers with a honeyed yoghurt dip stood in for scones and delightful patisseries using xylitol instead of sugar and low-fat creme fraiche in place of cream were indistinguishable from their full-calorie equivalents. Served (by wonderful staff) in the elegant environs of the English Tea Room, the Tea-Tox can even be enjoyed without tea - various fruit and herb infusions are available alongside ten black and seven herbal blends. I, however, drew the line at this and ordered a pot of Tregothnan’s Cornish Blend - milk, but no sugar, of course.
Top treat: a sugarless chocolate cup with yoghurt and berries was far more decadent than I would ever have thought possible.
Address: Brown’s Hotel, Albemarle Street, London W1S 4BP
Days and times: Mon-Fri 3pm-6pm; Sat-Sun 1pm-6pm
Cost: £39.50; champagne afternoon tea £49.50

Best for fashionistas: The Berkeley's Prêt-à-Portea
Reviewed by Belinda White
The Berkeley hotel has craftily targeted its afternoon tea at London’s diehard tea-takers: the fashion pack, who rarely conduct meetings over any other mealtime. Its Prêt-à-Portea offers everything you’d expect from a traditional afternoon tea but with a twist: each of the sugary fancies is styled after a key fashion look of the season. There was a white Burberry trench coat chocolate biscuit, a Stella McCartney polka dot sponge cake and even a miniature Valentino orange and ginger cake handbag. Charmingly, the waiter talked us through the ‘collection’ using framed catwalk pictures of the exact outfits that inspired each creation. Gimmicky? Yes, but beautifully rendered and a break from the norm. If I had one criticism, it was that The Berkeley seems to be stuck in autumn/winter 2011 when any real fashionista knows that the spring/summer 2012 collections have been available since January. It might only be tea, but still, there’s nothing worse than being so last season.
Top treat: the brightly coloured Lanvin cassis bavarois with crème de more jelly topped with folded meringue.
Address: Brown’s Hotel, Albemarle Street, London W1S 4BP
Days and times: daily 1pm-6pm
Cost: £37.50; champagne tea £47.50 - £54.50.

Best for a ceremonious experience: Teanamu Chaya Teahouse
Reviewed by Olivia Bergin
Within moments of stepping into Pei Wang’s relaxing Notting Hill Teanamu Chaya Teahouse, it is apparent that tea, and the meticulous ritual around creating the perfect brew, is top of the agenda. With no less than 18 teas to chose from – and that’s not counting the bespoke tisane infusions one can mix and match – it’s hard to know where to start, but the black lychee variety proved a delightful and tasty choice.
The self-boiling kettle on each table is essential when you consider the tiny size of the traditional tea pots and drinking cups, but the Chinese ethos is based around having just enough to drink in the present moment.
Pei’s extensive knowledge and fresh, preservative-free snacks (who could resist the healthy-sounding citrus, yuzu soft-set marshmallow dusted with green tea) make this an educational and altogether less gluttonous experience than the traditional English afternoon variety. Even better, those taken with their newly discovered brew can buy packets to take away to recreate the magic back home.
Top treat: The lo mai fan lotus leaf rice parcel - a sticky, tea-infused rice with braised mushrooms and sweet azuki, £3 was a revelation.
Address: Teanamu Chaya Teahouse, coach house, 14a St Luke’s Road, W11 1DP
Days and times: Saturdays and Sundays: 12pm - 6pm.
Cost: Tea or tisane, £3.50; snacks £2-£3; minimum charge per head, £10.

Best for Chinese-style tea: Grand Imperial's Oriental Afternoon Tea
Reviewed by Natalie Paris
Cucumber sandwiches are all very well but why limit afternoon tea to triangles of bread and butter? At the Grand Imperial restaurant at the Grosvenor Hotel, chefs are offering Chinese afternoon tea and specially created dim sum as a light afternoon treat best tackled with chopsticks. Our tiny sweet and savoury dumplings looked just as pretty on a three-tier cake stand as a traditional teatime snacks. We started with crispy noodle rolls of black cod and plump, steamed barbecue pork buns before trying shredded duck delicately layered onto prawn crackers. But the highlight was the unlimited refills of delectable Chinese tea, from floral varieties to a fermented option from Yunnan. Oolong Cha Wang had a heavenly white-blossom scent and a tea made from Osmanthus flowers was a hit with mother – it’s not only delicious but apparently good for the complexion too.
Top treat: the unusual rich chocolate dim sum creations, a deliciously different dessert.
Address: Grand Imperial, 101 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1W 0SJ
Days and times: daily midday-5pm
Cost: £20; £28 with a glass of sparkling rosé

Best for playful luxury: Sanderson Mad Hatter Tea
Reviewed by David Nicholls
Themed events usually fill me with panic and dread, but it was impossible not to be charmed by the idea of a Mad Hatter Tea. And what better place to have it than the Sanderson hotel, whose décor is every bit as surreal as Alice’s ‘tumble down the rabbit hole.’ And Sanderson’s website makes it clear: no fancy dress. Instead, it is the menu which takes its lead from Lewis Carol’s topsy turvy tale. Dainty sandwiches (ham, egg, cucumber and salmon) are made from a rainbow of breads baked with beet root, spinach and saffron. There is ‘Eat Me’ strawberry and cream mousse, ‘Drink Me’ elixirs made from layers of passion fruit, coconut panna cotta and ‘exotic foam’ sipped out of an apothecary bottle, and freshly baked scones served with clotted cream and jam. It was the perfect place to bring my Mum and 12-year-old niece, who enjoyed an afternoon tea that combined glamour with a bit of magic.
Top treat: the scones themselves were perfection. Light, fluffy and freshly baked - they were still warm when they arrived at the table. Served with lovely thick clotted cream and divine Alain Milliat strawberry jam.
Address: Sanderson, 50 Berners Street London, W1T 3NG
Days and times: Mon-Fri 2pm - 5.30pm, Sat-Sun 1pm - 5.30pm
Cost: £35 each

Best for literary mums: Chesterfield Hotel Mayfair, tea poet readings
Reviewed by Jolyon Attwooll
On the second Saturday of every month, afternoon tea in the Chesterfield Hotel Mayfair comes with a distinctly lyrical twist. Among the gleaming brass and looming portraits of the hotel's venerable conservatory dining room, Elizabeth Darcy Jones, the Chesterfield's "tea poet", is on hand to deliver an intimate rhyming tribute to anyone with an occasion to celebrate, from birthdays, to anniversaries to Mother's Day. It's an eccentric idea that in the wrong hands could be toe-curling, but Darcy Jones, who has composed poetry to cover a range of special events, is an engaging and welcome guest when she joins tables for recitals, and has taken care for her accessible compositions to appeal even to those suspicious of verse. She will also tailor rhymes to the beverage of your choice – her ode to green tea has a particular zing to it. And the scones, cupcakes and pastries (which received a Tea Guild Award for Excellence last year) are pretty good too.
Top treat: The delicious chocolate scones, spooned with clotted cream and home-made jam (only with the chocolate afternoon tea).
Address: The Chesterfield Mayfair, 35 Charles Street, Mayfair, London, W1J 5EB.
Days and times: Served daily from 1.30pm to 5.30pm. Elizabeth Darcy Jones will also appear this Mother's Day (Sunday March 18).
Cost: £27.50 (£30.94) Chocolate afternoon tea; £25.50 (£28.69) for the Chesterfield Traditional afternoon tea; Champagne tea from £33.50 (£37.69). Figures in brackets denote price including discretionary service charge.

Best for men: Sanctum/CSDR gentlemen's afternoon tea
Reviewed by Andrew Baker
Sanctum Soho is a rock star’s boutique hotel, and their Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea is a heart-stoppingly unwholesome line-up of red meat, carbs and saturated fats topped off with high-octane booze and premium nicotine. You sit on shiny snakeskin upholstery to imbibe English Breakfast tea in smart china. This washes down snacks sufficient for an army of rock titans: oysters, rabbit pasties, stonking steak sandwiches, burgers and miniature hotpots, followed by a comparatively subtle chocolate fudge cake and Jack Daniels ice cream. The culmination, if your schedule and liver permit, is a choice of three varieties of JD in silver tankards, with complimentary cigars to take up to the roof terrace. The food was terrific, the surroundings swanky and the service spot-on, but how many colossi can put this away in an afternoon and still give of their best in the evening? Not Justin Bieber, I’ll be bound.
Top treat: the poached oyster with Bloody Mary relish was an ideal jumping-off point: keep that down, and you'll sail through the rest of the menu.
Address: Sanctum Soho Hotel 20 Warwick Street, London W1B 5NF
Days and times: daily 2pm-6pm
Cost: £50

Best for enjoying a cheap day out: Fan museum
Reviewed by Anoosh Chakelian
Taking afternoon tea in the Orangery of a Georgian townhouse is almost as indulgently nostalgic as the eclectic collection of intricate fans, or “trifles” as history has often described them, on show at the Fan Museum. Perched in the heart of Greenwich, it is a short but sweet little trip through history, displaying an assorted handful of its 4000-fan collection. Ranging from a 13th century Chinese fan leaf to a bladeless Dyson, the exhibits tell the story of how fans are a reflection of cultural change - having even been used to disperse evil spirits at one stage – as well as frivolous cooling devices associated with incessantly fainting ladies in corsets. A jaunt through this unpretentious and playful gallery is followed by a generous afternoon tea, with home-made cakes and two scones complete with liberal amounts of cream and blackcurrant jam made by the museum’s owner, for a fan-tastic £6.
Top treat: a satisfyingly hefty hunk of chocolate brownie, moist and filled with white chocolate chunks, will banish the evil spirits even if the fans don't.
Address: Greenwich Fan Museum,12 Crooms Hill, Greenwich, London, SE10 8ER
Days and times: Tues 3pm-5pm; Sun 3pm-5pm
Cost: £6: two scones, jam and cream, two cakes, pot of tea

Best for homely atmosphere: The Tea Rooms
Reviewed by Claire Travers Smith
The Tea Rooms in Stoke Newington is a delightful venue for a homely afternoon tea. Bedecked with bunting, vintage china and knitted knick knacks, you’re instantly transported from the hustle and bustle of London life to somewhere else, a quaint village perhaps where the WI would provide the condiments. The staff is charming, the tea list is extensive and the vast array of cakes on offer is enough to tempt any dieter off the straight and narrow. For just £15, their afternoon tea is more than a bargain, and I challenge anyone to get more baked goods for their buck anywhere else in London. The finger sandwiches were more rustic than dainty, but no less tasty, and the miniature cakes and pastries were not only exquisitely presented but scrumptious to boot. The tour de force, however, was the light and fruity scones. I’m still thinking about them now, and how I wished I’d brought some home with me. Next time.
Top treat: Their fresh, homemade raspberry jam for the scones is quite possbly the finest jam in London, a fact affirmed by my fellow tea-tasting buddy, a self-proclaimed condiment connoisseur who was somewhat crestfallen when she discovered they'd run out of jars to take home.
Address: 153-155 Stoke Newington Church Street, London, N16 0UH
Days and times: Mon-Fri 11am-6pm; Sat-Sun 11am - 6.30pm
Cost: £15 or £17 including a glass of prosecco. A special Mother's Day tea costs £20