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Top 10 London hotel afternoon teas.

by Rajul on May 17, 2012

We present our ultimate Top 10 Afternoon Tea List based on finalists picked by the UK Tea Guild, our own research and lots of personal visits – lucky us!

Note: the article below was published in 2012.  We’ve since posted an up-to-date rundown of the top 10 best-value London hotel afternoon teas in 2013 with lovely photos.

Last year we presented our top 5 best-value London hotel afternoon teas which still receives huge traffic every day and is our most read blog post.

This year, to mark the recent release of The UK Tea Guild’s Top London Afternoon Tea Award and Awards of Excellence 2012, we’re upping the ante with our choice of the ultimate Top 10 London Hotel Afternoon Teas based on value for money and overall experience.  For the purposes of this post we’ve focused only on hotels that made the Tea Guild’s shortlist.

We think the analysis below is unique because of the meticulous research behind it – the full pricing and research data is shown at the bottom of this post.  And we’ve not restricted ourselves to desk research – we’ve also visited a lot of the hotels listed and taken many of our own pics as you can see on our Pinterest board of best London afternoon teas.

We not only carefully researched guest reviews and awards, but personally visited many London hotels as shown on our “Best London Afternoon Teas” Pinterest board

While this new updated selection overrides last year’s top 5 afternoon teas, we still paid close attention to the UK Tea Guild Awards from prior years to assess the consistency of each hotel’s performance.  We also fully updated the invaluable price research from last year, to allow our readers the opportunity to compare prices in one table (scroll to bottom).

Our top 10 is based on each tea’s product, service and atmosphere in relation to price.  We looked at all 22 venues chosen by the Tea Guild with the advantage that we know many intimately (our geekiness about afternoon tea has even extended to carrying out an interview with a pastry chef!).  That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll agree with our favourites though we hope to have provided a framework to help you choose.

The UK Tea Guild’s secret inspectors visit tea venues anonymously and inspect the variety, flavour and knowledge of teas, along with the quality of the food, service, décor, ambience and presentation

Recognising that everyone has different tastes, we have presented a “menu” of the best options based on specific occasions or tastes from which our readers can pick the one right for them rather than an order in terms of subjective merit.  So without further ado, here is our selection of…

Top 10 London afternoon Teas in 2012

1. For Overall Value – The Athenaeum

The outright winner of this year’s London Afternoon Tea Awards, The Athenaeum offers superb value in terms of overall price and quality, with afternoon tea for just £28.50 (or £35 for a champagne afternoon tea).  Its receipt of the award is even more impressive in light of the fact that The Athenaeum beat off competition from the big-name “historic” hotels – perhaps indicative of the skill of the hotel’s pastry chef and the unique ‘Living Wall’ setting which contains more than 200 types of plant.

Check rates at the Athenaeum Hotel

The Athenaeum won the Top London Afternoon Tea 2012 from the Tea Guild after receiving an Award of Excellence in 2011

2. For Romance – The Milestone

London is a city for romance, and The Milestone’s Conservatory setting is arguably the city’s most romantic little corner to enjoy the delectable delights of afternoon tea.  Tea here is intimate to an unmatched degree and accompanied by some of the finest service in London.  Be sure to consider The Milestone’s ‘Afternoon Seduction’ champagne afternoon tea – an attractive deal for lovers priced at £70 for two.

Check rates at the Milestone Hotel

We tasted the heavenly afternoon tea at The Milestone while testing the hotel’s free WiFi

3. For a Sense of Occasion – Claridge’s

If you want art deco surroundings and an unbeatable selection of teas, head over to Claridge’s – last year’s winner of the Top London Afternoon Tea award.  The hotel’s Foyer has the most glamorous atmosphere in London, and the sense of occasion is greatly enhanced by the musical accompaniment of a live pianist, sometimes joined by a variety of stringed instruments.  Also a fascinating venue if you like people watching.

Check rates at Claridge’s Hotel

Claridge’s won the Top London Afternoon Tea Award in 2011, offering a choice of thirty outstanding teas from all over the world

4. For Innovation – The Royal Horseguards Hotel

Afternoon tea may be a tradition steeped in history and certain ways of doing things, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for a little experimentation and creativity.  Throughout the year, it seems that the pastry chefs at The Royal Horseguards Hotel are always looking to push the boundaries.  This is particularly evident in their seasonal teas, designed to tie in with special events such as Wimbledon and Bonfire Night.  Add fantastic views of the Thames to the mix and a secret outdoor terrace for an afternoon tea destination that will truly excite the senses.

Check rates at Royal Horseguards Hotel

LHI blogger Jules recently tried out the Signature afternoon tea at the Royal Horseguards and snapped up these delightful little treats

5. For Fun – The Chesterfield Mayfair

Afternoon tea is supposed to be a treat and at The Chesterfield Mayfair it’s made even more special by the caring, friendly service.  Those in the know will be aware that it has won an Award for Excellence from the Tea Guild for five years running.  The fun is enhanced by the light, airy surroundings and the creative menu, which includes The Chocolate Lover’s Tea – hot chocolate or milkshake served with various chocolate pastries and treats.  This is one of London’s hidden gems nestled away in a quiet Mayfair street.

Check rates at the Chesterfield Mayfair Hotel

The Poetea at The Chesterfield Mayfair was intriguingly different – we recently experienced it with Laura of About London and were serenaded with enchanting poetry!

6. For Indulgence – The Langham

If you want to fully immerse yourself in tradition, the Langham is the place to do it.  Set within the historic venue of Palm Court, which the hotel claims to be the birthplace of the afternoon tea tradition, this is an experience to saviour where time seems to stop. Certainly one for those looking for a touch of glamour, live piano music adds to the grandeur of the occasion and the bijoux luxury afternoon tea is in a league of its own, as we had a chance to experience in our review of afternoon tea at The Langham.  Just off Oxford Street, it is extremely popular – good luck getting a booking!

Check rates at the Langham Hotel

The winner of the Tea Guild’s Best London Afternoon Tea Award in 2010 and reviewed on our blog, guests at The Langham can enjoy the hotel’s “Uber Tea Selection”

7. For Treating Someone – The Ritz

A favourite aunt’s birthday, your parents’ wedding anniversary, a child’s graduation – these are all occasions which are ideal for a trip to the Ritz for afternoon tea.  It goes without saying it’s a little stuffy (men need to wear jackets) and more than a little posh, but tea at the Ritz is certainly one to add to the list of things to do before you die.  Be warned though – the hotel recommends booking at least 12 weeks in advance.

Check rates at The Ritz Hotel

Afternoon tea at the Ritz – a “classic” which almost always makes the Tea Guild shortlist

8. For The Family – The Montague on the Gardens

Offering great value and a wonderful setting, the Montague on the Gardens is perfectly-positioned to round off a visit to the nearby British Museum.  Staff are friendly and the ambience relaxed and informal (particularly when compared to The Ritz!), and they even serve a ‘Little Prince and Princess Tea’ which includes jam and peanut butter sandwiches for a recession-busting £11.50.  Ideal during the summer to spill over onto the same hotel’s “secret garden” as we did to enjoy a lovely glass of Pimm’s!

Check rates at the Montague on the Gardens

Ideal for the entire family, the Montague on the Gardens offers a charming setting for afternoon tea and treats that will make your mouth water

9. For Champagne Lifestyle – The Lanesborough

The fact the Lanesborough has been in the Tea Guild’s shortlist every year since 2005 speaks volumes about the quality and consistency of the hotel’s afternoon tea experience.  Indeed, this ultra-deluxe hotel near Hyde Park won the Top London Tea award in both 2005 and 2008.  Both the setting and the service are superb, and the Lanesborough’s expert tea sommelier will help you choose your perfect tea.  Those with intolerances needn’t miss out on the opulence of the experience, since the hotel also offers delicious gluten-free and dairy-free afternoon teas served with equal flair.

Another classic venue, The Lanesborough has twice won the Top London Tea Award with its effortless ultra-luxury service and signature discretion

10. For Royal Obsessives – The Goring

If you’re keen on all things royal and looking for special ways to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, afternoon tea at the Goring is a must.  Not only was it once the Queen Mother’s favourite hotel, it’s also where the Duchess of Cambridge stayed the night before her wedding to Prince William.  Gazing out over the regal setting of the Goring Gardens, this is the perfect place to indulge your delusions of grandeur and any royal aspirations!

Check rates at the Goring Hotel

Tea at The Goring is served on the terrace overlooking the Goring family’s private garden

Although the above rounds off our top 10, we recognise that our choice is subjective.  There are several other excellent afternoon teas in London which we’ve personally sampled featured on our Pinterest board.

And to help you reach your own conclusions and find the afternoon tea best suited to your own needs and budget, the table below provides up-to-date prices (as of April 2012) together with further details of all the teas that received the Tea Guild’s Award of Excellence in 2012.

Happy tea drinking!

Enjoy! And please feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comments section
Hotel Price (per person- correct as of 19/04/2012) Distinguishing features
The Athenaeum £28.50/ £35 for champagne afternoon tea 2012 winner of the Tea Guild Top London Afternoon Tea Award.
Brown’s Hotel £39.50 / £49.50 for champagne afternoon tea/ rose champagne afternoon tea £52.50 Won the Top London Afternoon Tea Award in 2009. Tea is accompanied by a baby grand piano.
Claridge’s £38.00/ £49.00 champagne afternoon tea/ £62.00 rose champagne afternoon tea Almost 40 global teas to choose from. Last year’s winner of Top London Afternoon Tea, for the second time.
Four Seasons Hotel Park Lane £32.00/  £45.00 for champagne afternoon tea As well as a traditional English Afternoon Tea, guests can take tea Italian style with the hotel’s La Dolce Vita, including a range of Italian inspired savoury treats and sweetmeats.
Grosvenor House Park Room & Library £36.50 for Diamond Jubilee afternoon tea (£46.50 with glass of champagne)/£34.50 for ‘Anna’s Tea (£45.50 with glass of champagne)/ £12.50 for  ‘Grover’s Tea Time’ (for kids) A wide selection of afternoon tea choices, within a stately home.
Sofitel London St James £24.50/ £29.50 with champagne cocktail Served in the hotel’s elegant Rose Lounge, with Parisian pastries.
The Capital Hotel £25.00/ £37.50 with a glass of Jaquart champagne All sandwiches, pastries, scones and jams are made in-house by the hotel’s pastry chef.
The Chesterfield Mayfair £28.50/ £36.50 for champagne afternoon tea Also serves a special ‘Chocolate Lover’s’ tea, including luxury hot chocolate or chocolate milkshake.
The Connaught £35.00/ £45-55.00 for champagne afternoon tea Guests can take the hotel’s ‘Chic and Shock’ afternoon tea overlooking Tadao Ando’s latest water feature.
The Dorchester £39.00/ £49.00 for champagne afternoon tea Is serving a range of special afternoon teas this year, including Father’s Day Afternoon Tea, Wimledon Afternoon tea and Diamond Jubilee afternoon tea.
The Goring £37.50/ £47.50 for champagne afternoon tea Served on the hotel’s Terrace overlooking pristine gardens in summer, or in the lounge.
The InterContinental Park Lane £25.00/ £35.00 with a glass of champagne Served in the well-appointed Wellington Lounge with views of Wellington Arch.
The Lanesborough £38.00/ £48.00 for Belgravia Tea (with champagne and strawberries and cream)/ £85.00 for Prestige champagne tea (1998 Krug) Also offers a gluten and dairy free afternoon tea (advance notice required).
The Langham £38.00/ 50.00 with a glass of champagne/ £49.00 for Bijoux luxury afternoon tea (£62.00 with champagne) Served in the hotel’s Palm Court, which the hotel says is the birthplace of the afternoon tea tradition.
The Milestone £31.50/ £39.50 for champagne afternoon tea Also serves a special ‘Afternoon Seduction’ champagne afternoon tea at £70 for two people.
Hyatt Regency London The Churchill £28.00/ £35.00 with a glass of champagne Also serves a ‘Sex and the City Par-tea’, themed after the popular sitcom with New York flavours such as pastrami, mini-burgers and US-style hot dogs, and a ‘Flirtini’ champagne cocktail.
The Montague on The Gardens £27.50/ £37.50 with a glass of champagne Has a Little Prince and Princess Tea for Kids at £11.50, which includes jam and peanut butter sandwiches.
The Royal Garden Hotel £22.00/ £32.00 for champagne ‘Royal Tea’ Served on the Park Terrace amidst Kensington Gardens. Now serving a ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’ themed tea menu until 9th September.
The Royal Horseguards Hotel £28.00/ £35.00 champagne afternoon tea/ £45.00 celebration afternoon tea (champagne and personalised celebration cake)/ £23.00 for Light Champagne Tea Garden terrace has views over the Thames, while tea in the lounge is accompanied by a harpist.
The Savoy £40.00/  £51.50 with a glass of champagne Served in the opulent Thames Foyer with piano accompaniment.
The Ritz £42.00/ £54.00 for champagne afternoon tea Served in the hotel’s popular Palm Court. Demand is high and the hotel recommends booking at least 12 weeks in advance.
The Wolseley £21.00/ £29.75 for  champagne tea Not a hotel, but a very popular cafe on Piccadilly with chic European overtones.

 

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Photo credits: London Hotels Insight blogger Timea, UK Tea Guild, The Athenaeum, Claridge’s, London Hotels Insight blogger Jules, Chesterfield Mayfair Hotel, Langham Hotel, The Ritz, The Montague on the Gardens, The Lanesborough, Goring Hotel.

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