KidTripster Teen: 5 Fabulous spots for families with kids to experience the British tradition of afternoon tea
It’s no surprise to hear that Brits love their tea. In fact, there’s such an affinity for the esteemed brew that they invented an entire meal devoted to it! For the uninitiated, know that there’s more to it than a cup of Earl Grey (or any other kind of tea). Afternoon tea, also known as “low tea,” is served mid-afternoon and on low tables. People often mistakenly call this occasion “high tea.” Traditionally, high tea is a working class meal served on high tables at the end of a workday.
And there’s different kinds of low tea. In its simplest form, “cream tea” is a meal of tea, scones, and clotted cream. Add fresh strawberries, and you’ve got yourself “strawberry tea.” Present a tower of sweet treats, and now you’re having a “light tea.” Or go all out with finger sandwiches and sweets, and you’re talking “full tea.”
KidTripster Tip: Many places will served fruit-flavored teas for kids, if you ask.
A full tea is one of my favorite indulgences, especially when I visit London where there are plenty of spots to enjoy this treasured tradition. While it's certainly possible to score a proper “cuppa” practically anywhere around town, the following is a list of my favorite tea rooms in the city. Your family is sure to have a jolly good time. Now, pinkies up!
KidTripster Tip: Afternoon tea rooms (and tea buses) in London are always busy, so be sure to book in advance.
Brook St., Mayfair
Claridge’s is often considered the gold standard for afternoon tea. While this spot pays respect to this very long-established midday custom by keeping the service traditional, it’s still a “stirring” affair. With 24 different varieties of tea, you’ll have no trouble finding a flavor to pair perfectly with the sumptuous scones and finger sandwiches. Everything is served on signature vintage green and white striped china. The whole event is executed to perfection, and it’s most certainly the place to go if you’re looking for an upscale experience. Cost: Youth about $50; Adult about $86, depending on the exchange rate. Champagne afternoon tea is available, as well.
KidTripster Tip: Claridge’s suggests a dress code of smart casual. While your Sunday best isn’t necessary, it’s recommended that you look presentable.
Photo courtesy: Claridge’s
2/The Royal Horseguards Hotel
2 Whitehall Ct., Westminster
In addition to being tops for one of my favorite places to stay in London, I think that Royal Horseguards Hotel is one of the best locations for afternoon tea. Not only is the service fantastic, but it also has a wonderful, cozy atmosphere that can’t be beat. The hall is elegant yet warm and charming, complete with super comfy seating and stunning views of the Thames and London Eye. You can enjoy all of this while devouring the most divine treats and sipping the signature house blend tea, Strawberries and Cream. I call it positively “tea”lightful! Cost: about $33, depending on the exchange rate. Champagne afternoon tea is available, as well.
Photo courtesy: The Royal Horseguards Hotel
3/Mad Hatters Afternoon Tea at The Sanderson
50 Berners St., Fitzrovia
Curiouser and curiouser, the Mad Hatters Afternoon Tea at The Sanderson is the most peculiar tea party that you’ll ever attend. Take a trip down the rabbit hole with an afternoon tea inspired by the beloved, classic Lewis Carroll novel. Here, the menus are found in antique books, and all the teas are named after well-known Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland characters. Throughout the afternoon, there are plenty of nods to the cherished children’s novel, but my favorite is the “Drink Me” potion that’s served along with tea. I didn’t shrink one bit, but I was certainly left wanting more, which the staff was happy to bring for me. The whole event is an experience too whimsical to miss. Cost: Youth (4-11) about $43; Adult about $59, depending on the exchange rate.
KidTripster Tip: Most afternoon teas are very accommodating to dietary restrictions including gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, and kosher. The establishment usually needs some advance notice though, so be sure to let the staff know when you arrive.
Photo courtesy: Morgans Hotel Group
4/Original Sweetshop Afternoon Tea at The Chesterfield Mayfair
35 Charles St., Mayfair
Inspired by Hardy’s Original Sweetshop, an old candy store in London, this sugary-themed afternoon tea at The Chesterfield Mayfair is just a little sweeter! Like most tea services, this one begins with a course of fantastic finger sandwiches followed by confectionery concoctions that are both eye-popping and delicious. And did we mention the milkshakes?! It’s the afternoon tea equivalent of feeling like a kid in a candy store! Cost: Youth (under 12) about $27; Adult about $50, depending on the exchange rate. Champagne also available.
Photo courtesy: The Chesterfield Mayfair
5/Afternoon Tea Bus Tour
8 Northumberland Ave. or Victoria Coach Station
What’s better than having afternoon tea in London? Having afternoon tea on a legendary London double decker bus, of course! The Afternoon Tea Bus Tour - offered by Brigit’s Bakery -chauffeurs you around town in this rad red ride as you sit for afternoon tea. While enjoying inspiring infusions and scrumptious snacks, guests gawk at some of the most famous attractions in the city like Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey. Consider it a two-for-one treat! The Tea Bus Tour takes sightseeing to a new level of awesome! The tour last about 1-1/2 hours. Cost: $56; children must be ages 5 and up. Gin cocktails and champagne available.
Tea not your thing? Read another one of our KidTripster Teen’s recommendations for the best (really good and affordable) chain restaurants in London.
Laine Messier is a world-traveling, homeschooled high schooler. Her life did a total 180 when her dad took a job in Abu Dhabi. Now she splits her time between the USA and UAE, finding fantastic things to do in both places and everywhere in between. Outside of being an avid adventurer, she also loves mystery novels, superheroes, and gluten-free pizza.