As a Brit, I believe afternoon tea to be a very important part of our culture. Beginning in the year 1840, introduced by the 7th Duchess of Bedford, Anna, it has become a popular tradition both throughout England and around the world (albeit with a few tweaks over the years).
Afternoon tea is not to be confused with high tea. The latter was introduced during the industrialisation years of Great Britain for the working classes, who had to wait until late in the evening to eat a more hearty meal, involving more than just tea and cakes.
Some of you may find that distinction surprising: afternoon tea for the middle and upper classes, whilst working classes partook in high tea. And certainly, I’ve heard it named high tea outside of England multiple times over, but I suspect this is down to the histories of the different teas being forgotten over the years, or indeed merging into one ready for modern times.
Either way, in my view, nothing beats sipping away at different flavours of tea (from a quirky teapot, teacup and saucer), nibbling on quaint finger sandwiches, salivating over delicious cakes and munching on creamy, jammy scones.
But what exactly is the ultimate afternoon tea?
Which teas should you drink? What combination of sandwiches should you try? Which cakes should you devour? Plain or raisin scones? Strawberry, apricot or raspberry jam?
The ways in which an afternoon tea can differ (both throughout the world and according to personal taste) makes deciding what is the ultimate afternoon tea really quite difficult.
So, along with 23 other travel writers, we aim to show you the different types of afternoon tea you can try throughout the world and what our recommendations are once you’re there. Towards the bottom of this article, you’ll also find out how to make the ultimate afternoon tea at home too.
Ready to get salivating (Brit-style)? Here we go…
The Folly Tea Rooms, Holt, England
This afternoon tea at The Folly Tea Rooms in Holt is absolutely amazing! The tea rooms themselves are really nicely decorated and they have a cute little conservatory and a courtyard that’s lovely to sit in when the weather’s nice!
The Folly Tea Rooms have an extensive tea menu which includes the more traditional black teas, herbal teas and white and oolong teas. I could spend aaages choosing from their tea menu alone! Plus the tea comes in vintage tea cups which just adds to the whole experience.
Their traditional afternoon tea includes a selection of sandwiches such as cucumber, turkey coronation style and Cromer crab on the top layer, scones and super tasty cakes. When I went we had a combination of cherry bakewell, chocolate cake, Victoria sponge and more! All that and only £13.95!
They also have other options such as an afternoon tea with pink champagne and a Gentleman’s version which comes with sausage rolls and quiches.
The afternoon tea is extremely satisfying. I can eat a lot but even I was beaten by the treats on their afternoon tea stand so I had to box some up to take home! Opt for a good cup of english breakfast and get the traditional afternoon tea – I promise you won’t be disappointed!
By Hannah – That Adventurer
Grand View Resort Beitou, Taipei City, Taiwan
My favorite little afternoon tea place in the world might surprise some, it’s in Taiwan. Taiwan is a country filled with passionate foodies who are in love with all things cute. There are afternoon tea places located all over the city in Taipei, Taiwan. On my most recent trip to Taipei, I visited the nearby city of Beitou Hot Springs for the first time. Beitou is just a short 25 minute car or taxi ride from Taipei and is famous for its natural hot springs.
I stayed at Grand View Resort Beitou, which was amazing because it came with a spa tub that filled up with water from the natural hot springs. Even better than that, they had the most adorable little afternoon tea lunch set! If you love afternoon teas, I recommend their in-house restaurant. I especially loved the tomato stuffed with mushrooms and the strawberry shortcake!
By Kaila – NylonPink
Palm Court, The Balmoral, Edinburgh, Scotland
While most will recognise The Balmoral’s iconic clock tower looming over Edinburgh’s skyline, I’m always surprised to hear that hardly anyone wanders inside. It’s there you’ll find, in my opinion, the greatest afternoon tea ever served.
The Balmoral’s Palm Court – with a soaring two story ceiling above champagne carts, jewel-toned velvet pillows, and hand painted De Gournay wallpapering featuring the city’s architectural icons – is the epitome of luxury.
The menu changes on a seasonal basis, but the staff will go out of their way to accommodate special occasions or dietary restrictions – they once ordered new ingredients to create an entire gluten free menu just for my friend’s visit!
But above all, I love the Palm Court because it offers unparalleled service in an atmosphere of pure elegance without ever being stuffy or uptight. You’ll sink deep into the plush, velvet sofas while being serenaded by the soft, echoing notes of a harpist tucked along the balcony and find yourself truly kicking back to relax.
For me, that’s £30 of indulgence well spent.
By Rosalie – Rosalie Goes
QVB Tea Room, Sydney, Australia
The QVB Tea Room in Sydney is renowned for their old world elegance, excellent service and delicious food.
Located in what was once the original Grand Ballroom of the landmark Queen Victoria Building, tea at The Tea Room is served on authentic British silverware and classic Royal Albert china.
Order the traditional afternoon tea, which includes finger sandwiches, fluffy scones with homemade berry jam and cream, and delectable sweets on a three-tiered platter. Tea is served in large pots with additional hot water offered for refills, and extra sandwiches are also available if you’re able to fit in more!
By Christine – Adventure, Baby!
English Tea House, Sandakan, Borneo
If you’re looking for an afternoon tea somewhere a little different, why not try Borneo!
This Malaysian island used to be a British colony and retains much of its colonial heritage, especially in the small town of Sandakan. Perched on a hill overlooking the ocean, here you’ll find the English Tea House. It’s a beautifully restored traditional tea house, with wooden panelling and comfy sofas inside, whilst outside you can sit on the verandah and admire the gardens.
There are several afternoon tea options to choose from on the menu. We opted for a set that included the traditional finger sandwiches, a selection of cakes and of course, homemade scones with jam and clotted cream. You can also enjoy fresh juices and tea that’s locally produced in the rainforests of Borneo. Whilst the sandwich fillings were a little odd – lettuce and salad cream anyone? – the scones were delicious, and also enormous, which is always a bonus.
Best of all, our afternoon tea cost just £10! Less than half of what it would have cost us back in sunny England.
By Sarah – Not Another Travel Blog
The Pump Rooms, Bath, England
The Pump Rooms are in the heart of Bath’s town centre, right next to the Roman Baths. Set within a Georgian building, having an afternoon tea at the Pump Rooms is like stepping back in time. Piano music softly plays and the atmosphere is elegant and classy.
However, despite the historic atmosphere, the menu takes into account any dietary requirements, offering vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. Some of the delectable sandwiches include egg mayo, smoked salmon or cucumber.
And then there’s the cakes: amazing options include typically British scones with cream and jam and the more modern chocolate mud cake. One thing’s for sure, you’ll be leaving the Pump Rooms feeling full and content!
As they neighbour the Roman Baths and are only a stone’s throw from the new Bath Spa, why not spend the morning in Bath exploring its Roman history, followed by afternoon tea at the Pump Rooms and an evening relaxing in the spa, which is at its very best during sunset?
By Claire – Claire’s Footsteps
Biku Restaurant, Seminyak, Bali, Indonesia
A holiday to Seminyak, Bali wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Biku Restaurant. Set in a gorgeous rustic jolgo, you are transported away from the busy streets of Seminyak to another world where you can enjoy a huge selection of delicious teas sourced from around the world.
The range of afternoon teas will keep everyone in the family happy. From the Traditional English High Tea with a selection of sandwiches, scones, mini quiches and sweet treats, to an Asian High Tea full of spring rolls, samosa and other yummy nibbles, Biku has something for everyone. The kids aren’t forgotten making it a fantastic family day out and they will especially love their own afternoon tea including cupcakes, which are sure to be a huge hit!
Perhaps the most appealing part of indulging in afternoon tea at Biku is the price. At around $15 per adult and $5 per child, the afternoon tea is accessible to all budgets. Be sure to book as Biku is extremely popular among visitors to Bali.
By Kate – Rolling Along With Kids
The Allis, The SOHO House, Chicago, USA
My favorite afternoon tea in Chicago has to be at The Allis inside The SOHO House.
The Allis is a beautiful cafe and restaurant located in the SOHO House in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood. Afternoon Tea is offered in the afternoons from 2:30-5:00pm. If you have a group, it is wise to make your reservation early. About half of the tables are first come first serve so to ensure you have a dedicated table, you should make a reservation online.
I recommend going all out for tea so when at The Allis, I order the Sparkling Afternoon Tea. Yes, it is $43 but I’m a big fan of splurging on food and drink when I travel. It is worth it for a little afternoon indulgence. But if that’s not your thing, don’t worry, you can order a la carte as well. If you’re down with the price then get ready for a truly opulent afternoon tea.
This particular tea service comes with a variety of finger sandwiches, scones, a selection of fancy cakes, tea of your choice, and a glass of sparkling rose. If you’re traveling with little ones or people that don’t drink, there is an option without the Prosecco for $34.
My tea of choice is the Italian Green Almondine, which is a Chinese green tea blended with fresh pressed Italian almond oil & Seville orange. It’s a lighter tea and the orange gives it a beautifully bright flavor.
By Emily – Em’s On The Road
Lovejoy’s Tea Room, San Francisco, USA
If you are in San Francisco, and are yearning for some afternoon tea, then look no further than Lovejoy’s Tea Room in the quiet neighborhood of Noe Valley at 1351 Church Street, San Francisco.
The interior decor is very old school British (a bit too much of doilies and lace I think) but the tea menu is an absolute killer one. There are four categories of tea spreads, starting from an individualized one, to a Queen’s tea selection (the costliest at $21); and if you want to share either of them, you have to add an extra $2.50 per person.
There are also side orders that can be added as extras on to the main tea selection. I highly recommend the “High Tea” which is just the right amount of tea and food to be shared between two people and comes with tea, sandwiches, a scone with clotted cream and jam, a small sweet treat, a salad and side of cabbage slaw. And you can add a side order of crumpets with lemon curd to make your selection even yummier!
Lovejoy’s has a vast selection of teas and many vegetarian options for sandwiches. This place is super popular, therefore, prior reservations are recommended.
By Paroma – Year of the Monkey
Lovejoy’s Tea Room is clearly a popular choice as Carole from Weekend Adventures Update also writes:
Lovejoy’s Tea Room in San Francisco is very traditional. It’s not super fancy, but it is very satisfying and as cozy as anything you’d find in England.
Their tea service includes everything from a simple Cream Tea with two scones, to an expansive High Tea, which adds on two tea sandwiches and a tea biscuit. There is also the Queen’s Tea that adds on a crumpet with lemon curd and petit four. And finally, there is also a children’s Wee Tea – with a cream cheese and jelly sandwich, a scone, fresh fruit, and a petit four, plus an option to substitute in hot chocolate for tea.
My favorite tea is the delicious black vanilla with lavender and the fragrant decaf Lady Grey with apricot. Most people dress up, and women wear sweet hats.
Opus One, Radisson Blu Edwardian Manchester Hotel, Manchester, England
If you visit Manchester, a trip is not complete without a proper afternoon tea. For a decadent experience, visit the Radisson Blu Edwardian Manchester Hotel, which is housed in one of Manchester’s key historic buildings, the historic Free Trade Hall.
As well as serving a traditional afternoon tea, Opus One at the Radisson Blu offers a gluten free and a vegan option. They also offer a Gentleman’s Afternoon tea, with mini Yorkshire puddings, warm pork pie with mini fish & chips, rustic sandwiches and scones. Along with your tea, you can also add a glass of champagne or a pint of beer.
By Alexa – 52 Perfect Days
The Colonnades, Signet Library, Edinburgh, Scotland
The Colonnades at the Signet Library in Edinburgh is one of the most impressive and posh afternoon teas in Edinburgh. For £30 per person, you will be served the finest tea, pastries and savoury sandwiches from silver pots and plates.
The place itself is really impressive too – it’s a small private library, and it looks really beautiful. The combination of great service, nice atmosphere and delicious food and tea makes this afternoon tea ceremony really one of the best you can visit in Scotland.
Don’t forget to book your table at least 1 or even 2 weeks in advance during the busy summer times.
By Liza – Tripsget
The Palm Courtyard, The Plaza, New York City, USA
I placed myself on the thick olive velvet cushioned chairs and gazed up at the impressive stained glass dome of The Palm Courtyard – it was high tea at The Plaza, a New York City institution.
After its renovations and re-opening in 2008, it is more extravagant and opulent than ever. Although the space is quite compact, they have used glass and mirrors effectively, even on the table tops, to hint at grandeur. All silverware is branded, the plates and cups are of the finest china and the cutlery and small bowls are of a heavy silver. The setting alone is one fit for a King or Queen. Then comes the food.
From cocktails to tea, from deviled organic eggs to warm freshly baked scones, the fare is excessive and absolutely delicious. I had the Eloise option and it did not disappoint. It may be pricey, but it is totally worth the splurge for a once off treat to satisfy your sweet tooth.
By Callan – Singapore n Beyond
Tiffin Room, The Raffles Hotel, Singapore
There’s something elegant and classy about spending an afternoon lounging and chatting, sipping tea from pretty china and eating finger sandwiches. Even if I don’t actually like tea that much.
The Raffles Hotel is an institution and afternoon tea at the Tiffin Room within the Hotel is one of those experiences one must have while in Singapore. Not just for tourists but also for residents.
Not only will you receive the usual afternoon tea affair, such as eclairs and scones, but there are also options for dim sum, which I would definitely recommend. The bill may be a bit steep, but it is nice to splurge once in a while, as you sip your tea feeling like royalty.
By Mar – Once in a Lifetime Journey
Neverland Tea Salon, Vancouver, Canada
Partial to consuming sugar like you’ve never grown up? Well, the Peter Pans amongst us are catered for at Vancouver’s Neverland Tea Salon. This Kitsilano cake house offers over fifty teas including Apple Crumble and Pixie Dust, which are presented in vintage teapots and teacups.
Afternoon tea enthusiasts can also enjoy traditional sandwiches with a twist!
Savoury options include avocado with cashew butter (creamy!) sandwiches and tea smoked cheddar with relish! Lunch at Neverland is one of my top tips for a girls’ weekend in Vancouver.
By Gemma – Two Scots Abroad
Empress Lounge, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Washington DC, USA
If you’re looking for a luxury afternoon tea experience without the pretentiousness that sometimes comes with the location, then the Empress Lounge at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington DC’s southwest waterfront area is perfect.
The lounge is large and airy, bright and stylish, overlooking the beautiful gardens. If you’ve come with a group, you can find a set of couches and cozy up for your afternoon tea. Tea is served in the lounge between 2:30 and 4:30pm, Friday to Sunday. It often gets quite full, so a reservation is a must.
The afternoon tea presentation is outstanding. They serve excellent sandwiches that are made with the best ingredients and deliciously fluffy scones with the proper accompaniments. The desserts are out of this world. You can even add an optional champagne or cocktail to your tea to fancy it up even more.
By Laura – Savored Sips
The Orangery, Kensington Gardens, London, England
So, I fancy myself a pretty classy lady. When I took my first trip to Europe in 2013, with a brief stop in London, I knew I had to take part in a traditional British afternoon tea. Prior to our arrival to London, my best friend and I booked a reservation at The Orangery.
I didn’t know what to expect as I rode the Tube to our real-life tea party. Once we arrived, I was pleasantly surprised at the beauty and expanse of the gardens surrounding The Orangery. The Kensington Gardens, one of London’s eight Royal parks is a great place to visit, not only for afternoon tea but for the beautiful scenery and the gorgeous historic Royal palace on its grounds, Kensington Palace.
The Orangery at Kensington Gardens offers afternoon tea daily from noon to 6 PM. The cost of £28.50 includes a selection of loose leaf teas, tea sandwiches, scones, and pastries. Regardless of the price, I must say that the experience of sitting on a patio surrounded by an enchanting English garden, while delicately sipping tea and partaking in a delicious assortment of treats is priceless.
By Annika – Doctor Anni
W Hotel, Seminyak, Bali, Indonesia
Created by Australian patissier Adriano Zumbo, The Mad Hatter themed tea party served at the W Hotel is a feast for all the senses.
A unique twist on afternoon tea, it includes delights like tomato and raspberry ganache macarons, lamingtons on a stick, foie gras samosa with tamarind chutney and ‘eat me’ raspberry cake served in a birdcage. My absolute favourites were the chocolate-chilli-lip praline and stunning egg shell with poached tropical fruits and glazed champagne sabayon. Also included in the afternoon tea is a delicious raspberry sweet ginger or earl grey mandarin sour cocktail.
Set in a stunning location under tropical palm trees looking out over the beautiful Balinese ocean, this is definitely one for the bucket list!
By Kylie – Our Overseas Adventures
Hotel Windsor, Melbourne, Australia
There’s a number of great places in Melbourne to enjoy afternoon tea – the most popular and most expensive would be Hotel Windsor. I was lucky enough to visit the Hotel Windsor with my girls aged 12 and 10 for their very first afternoon tea very recently.
The Hotel Windsor is located on Spring St right across from the Victorian Parliament House. The hotel was built in 1883 and is a beautiful Victorian era hotel. The original part of the building is still in its original state and is very grand and elegant.
The afternoon tea is held in the One Eleven dining room. Currently running is a themed afternoon tea: Christmas in July, which the girls loved. The afternoon tea commences with champagne, followed by tea from the tea menu (I had Irish breakfast). Next, the 3 tier tea stand arrived with the standard cucumber sandwiches, scones with jam and cream and warm pastries. We then were able to help ourselves to the dessert bar, including eggnog, oreo cheesecake, vanilla slice, creme brûlée, chocolate fondue for dipping fruit and plenty more. I think it’s the best in Melbourne and has to be experienced if you’re a lover of afternoon tea.
By Sally – Our 3 Kids V The World
The Lodge on Loch Lomond, Loch Lomond, Scotland
Loch Lomond is one of the most picturesque places to visit in Scotland and is just 40 minutes from Glasgow by car. It’s a great place to spend a day but the weather isn’t always the best – sometimes it’s better to enjoy it from indoors!
I love The Lodge on Loch Lomond for their fantastic Loch views and I’ve recently tried their amazing afternoon tea. As a Scot, the haggis bon bons and caramel shortbread stole the show for me. But, you’ll still find all the usual suspects like finger sandwiches and scones too. Their smoked salmon finger sandwich was a clear favourite at our table!
There’s a huge range of teas to choose from, as well as coffee. I always go for the traditional English breakfast tea but will never say no to a glass of Prosecco when it’s on offer!
By Nicole – Wee Gypsy Girl
One Aldwych, London, England
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a themed Afternoon Tea at One Aldwych in London’s West End. When I think of Afternoon Tea, I picture sitting with my mother eating cucumber sandwiches, silver service, china and pinkies up. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is not a traditional tea service; it is relaxed, fun and whimsical.
I recommend ordering chocolate tea AND the signature Charlie Cocktail. Presentation is everything and this cocktail’s presentation does not disappoint! Afternoon Tea includes a tasty selection of savory and sweet representatives of this classic book. Each item has been carefully created and is scrumdiddlyumptious. The service is wonderful and seconds are encouraged. Don’t be shy, ask for a second milkshake and golden egg!
Be sure to make a reservation online, as this does sell out. Tea service is two hours, providing plenty of time for girls talk!
By Sherianne – Out Of Office
Reid’s Palace, Funchal, Madeira
Reid’s Palace in Funchal, Madeira serves one of my favourite afternoon teas of all time – and being British and a lover of cakes, I’ve had a lot of afternoon teas! It’s quite expensive at €34.50, but really worth it for the experience – not to mention the quality and quantity of food.
Reid’s Palace is a large pink hotel on the coast – incredibly elegant inside, with Pinterest-worthy décor. Afternoon tea is served on a terrace overlooking the sea. Everything is so elegant, from the service, to the china, to the décor.
It’s the standard English afternoon tea of sandwiches, mini cakes and a scone, but all done so beautifully. Crustless finger sandwiches are followed by perfect macarons, creamy profiteroles and very light sponges. Then the scone with plenty of jam and clotted cream – the highlight of any afternoon tea for me. Reid’s did not disappoint. The offer and challenge of a second scone is there too, if you can manage it!
By Caroline – Pack The Suitcases
And now for my addition of what I think is the ultimate afternoon tea…
Cox and Baloney’s Tea Room, Bristol, England
Cox and Baloney’s Tea Room in Bristol fits the bill of a traditional afternoon tea perfectly. Inside, they’ve decorated their tea room with a shabby chic vibe, including flowery wallpaper, ornate mirrors and mismatched quirky chairs.
Their teas are classic loose leaf teas and they have at least 15 different varieties available, if not more. Plus, they’ve given their teas lots of quirky and fun names such as:
- “Granny’s Garden” which contains different kinds of berries including elderberries and blackberries.
- “Mr Darcy” which is (as expected), a classic English Breakfast black tea.
- “Catherine of Braganza” which is a fruity peach and apricot white tea.
Anyway, back to the afternoon tea itself. There are several options to choose from, ranging from budget options to a fabulous luxury style with Prosecco included. Personally, I’d always opt for some bubbly with my afternoon tea for an extra special treat.
You can expect to receive traditional finger sandwiches, homemade cakes and scones with fresh cream and homemade jam. And… they even let us try 3 different kinds of tea whilst we were there! Afterwards, if you love their teas, you can purchase some to take home with you.
One last thing to love about Cox and Baloney’s: they source all of their food locally, helping to boost the Bristol economy! What’s not to love about that?
Or… are you just in the mood for tea without the cakes? Natasha & Cameron from The World Pursuit have a great suggestion:
Lady Bonin’s Tea Bar, Cape Town, South Africa
Throughout all of my travels I have found one of my favorite places for tea right on Long Street in Cape Town! Lady Bonin’s Tea Bar is a small, hidden away tea bar that you can easily miss if not paying attention.
They have a huge selection of specialist leaves and brews to choose from, with many of the ingredients coming from around Africa. My favorite is their Matcha Green tea latte, which they are famous for. There is also a cozy back patio to enjoy your warm beverage on as well!
I am a huge fan of afternoon tea, as you might have guessed from me putting together this article!
Now, donning a pretty day dress and high heels and heading off to a first-class serving place is a must when it comes to a Sunday afternoon, or any day of the week for that matter. But what about when you’d rather stay at home, or need a budget option?
Afternoon tea at home of course! It’s super easy to make a fabulous afternoon tea at home – here’s how!
What you’ll need:
- Finger sandwiches (make sure you have a range of fillings)
- Selection of tasty cakes, bakes and bites
- Scones, clotted cream and fruity jams
- Variety of teas (with teapot, cups and saucers)
- Milk jug, sugar pot, sweetener tablets and spoons
- Tiered serving plates or cake stand
- Knifes and forks
What you’ll need to do:
- Using your range of fillings, make a number of finger sandwiches (cut into small triangles).
- Plate up your best selection of tasty cakes and bites. (Cupcakes, brownie bites, traybake slices and flapjacks all make great and easy options).
- Cut some scones in half, and allow your guests to add cream and jam how they prefer.
- Brew your teas in a teapot according to packet instructions, and serve with a milk jug and sugar pot (or sweetener tablets) to allow your guests to make their perfect cuppa.
- Display all the food on a tiered serving plate or cake stand, and serve the tea on a tea tray.
What are some other things you can try?
- Whip your own clotted cream. Buy some thick double cream, and whisk using an electric mixer on a high speed setting for about 5-6 minutes. This can be a cheaper alternative to buying ready-whisked cream.
- Bake your own cakes. Get handy in the kitchen and bake your own cakes, traybakes and bites to serve with your tea. This is not only a great budget option, but also allows you to see exactly what is going inside your treats.
- Opt for loose-leaf teas. Loose-leaf teas are stronger than those found in teabags, and there are some great luxury options available. Some great stores to buy from are: Whittards of Chelsea, Fortnum & Mason and Cox & Baloney’s Tea Room.
I hope you’ve loved this collaboration as much as I have! Which is your favourite? Were you surprised about how different afternoon teas from around the world are? Where have YOU been that served the ultimate afternoon tea? Let us know in the comments…
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