Nothing quite speaks of elegance and refinement than enjoying afternoon tea in one of London's many fine tea shops or cafés. There are so many delightful afternoon tea venues in London, that finding somewhere to enjoy cucumber sandwiches and a handsomely poured cuppa is almost too easy. Whether it's scones and Lady Grey you fancy, or somewhere to enjoy traditional Chinese tea culture, we've got the venues to match.
If you want to celebrate someone's sweet 16th birthday over afternoon tea, or just want to catch up for a good natter with some old friends, Zipcube's search function makes it as simple as can be to search through a variety of different tea venues. Just pick a time and location, decide on your preferences and – after making an enquiry – our party venues team will take care of the rest.
Afternoon Tea Venues: Tips and Ideas
- Any guests from overseas may well be keen to enjoy the traditional English custom of afternoon tea. If they've heard of Claridge's famous tea offering, but would prefer something more affordable, they'll find that London is jam-packed with boutique, luxurious tea houses.
- Afternoon tea is traditionally served – as you can probably guess – in the afternoon. The hours between lunch and dinner (roughly 1pm to 5pm) are when you'll find venues to be most busy with customers enjoying a large freshly brewed pot.
- The thought of a tea shop might conjure up the image of pensioners idling away the day, but a tea venue can be a great place to have a casual business meeting or to entertain clients. More relaxed than a coffee shop, the calm atmosphere can help everyone to feel less stressed and more engaged.
- A tea party is also a lovely way to celebrate your birthday if you're not too keen on cocktail bars and the like, or have young children to look after.
- If you are hosting a tea party, you should feel free to get creative and give it a theme. You might like to plan a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party inspired by 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland', or you could make things a little more adult by serving 'Gunfire' – a cocktail made of tea and rum, popular amongst squaddies in the British Army. Use your imagination and be creative!
- It's best to avoid having a large lunch if you're sitting down for the plentiful serving of cakes, pastries, biscuits and finger sandwiches which are traditionally served alongside large pots of Earl Grey and English Breakfast Tea.
- Not sure which type of tea you'll most enjoy? We've provided a rough guide below, but this list of different types of tea also provides a good introduction to the different aromas and flavours on offer.
What Type of Tea Should I Serve at a Tea Party?
It's a question that many of us might ask when confronted with a tea menu or simply browsing the shelves of a supermarket. After all, there are well over a thousand different types of tea in the world. We've listed them by the main strands below, to help you compare:
- Black Tea. Not to be confused with 'having it black' (i.e. without any milk), black tea is made by allowing tea leaves to wither and darken on the stem. This results in a strong bitter flavour with a higher caffeine content than other teas. Popular varieties include Assam, Darjeeling and Lapsang souchong.
- Green Tea. Named for its lovely lime colour, this tea is made by picking the leaves from the plant whilst still budding and green. Generally served without milk and steeped in water well below boiling point (to avoid the release of tannins which can make it overly bitter), this is a particularly refreshing tea. Popular varieties include the Japanese Sencha and the Chinese Chun Mee.
- Oolong Tea. In preparing oolong teas, the leaves are dried, bruised and withered even more intensely than with black teas. This results in an especially fragrant and fruity flavour, and popular varieties include Dancong and Pouchong tea.
- White Tea. Less commonly drunk in the UK, it is often prepared by picking the leaves from the plant whilst immature and thus without a green hue. Once brewed, the tea itself is a yellowish or pale brown colour and it has quite a light flavour.
What Food Should I Serve at a Tea Party?
The only thing which is as important as the selection and steeping of the tea itself is the food served during a tea party. Here is a guide to a few of the classic snacks:
- Tea sandwiches. Typically served without crusts and cut into thin rectangular portions, these are designed to be light, delicate snacks which can be eaten in only a few bites. Popular fillings include cucumber, watercress, creamed cheese and salmon.
- Pastries. Anything small and bitesize is acceptable here. Petit fours and madeleines sit at the more refined and fancy end of the spectrum, but you could also serve miniature tarts and biscuits.
- Scones. A delicate scone, served with clotted cream and fresh jam is another very traditional food to enjoy during afternoon tea.
Still not sure how to serve afternoon tea? Take a look at this handy guide for some more advice and inspiration. If you're not sure whether an afternoon tea venue is the right fit for your plans, you can also take a look at our cafe venues and private dining rooms.
The History of English Afternoon Tea
England's history is intricately linked to the trading of tea as well as the enjoyment of the uniquely refreshing brewed beverage. It was first introduced to London's coffeehouses in the seventeenth century, after arriving from China, courtesy of English merchants. Although its popularity did not start to increase until the eighteenth century.
The very first tea house or tea shop was established by Thomas Twining in 1706 and the tradition of afternoon tea itself is believed to have originated with Anna Russell, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, in the mid 1800s. Unable to stave off her hunger during the hours between lunch and dinner, enjoying a light meal mid-way through the afternoon was a convenient way to snack and also a good excuse to socialise with her peers.
Tea has been so important to the history of British trade, that a dispute about its supply and exchange led to the Anglo-Chinese War. Whilst over in North America, resentment concerning the taxation of tea in the late eighteenth century instigated the Boston Tea Party: one of the initial catalysts for the American Revolution.