In Britain they take their tea seriously. Each day the British consume 165 million cups of it. It’s the national drink – classless, timeless and tasty. But where to go? Join us for a teatime trip around Britain’s best places to savour a cup of the brown stuff.
HOTELS’ AFTERNOON TEA ‘NEVER
The Wolseley, London
Sitting sedately on grand London thoroughfare Piccadilly, The Wolseley was designed as an art deco car showroom in the early 1920s. These days it serves one of the best teas in London in a gorgeous space with high vaulted ceilings and striking black and gold décor. Order tea with scones, homemade jam and a selection of pastries in these imposing but surprisingly relaxed surroundings.
Opened in 1919 by Swiss confectioner Frederick Belmont, the sense of history at Bettys is matched only by the quality of the tea tasting experience. Before you go in, pause under the wrought iron canopy and take in the sumptuous seasonally changing window display. Select a brew from 50 teas and get stuck into a bewildering array of cakes, tarts, pastries and sandwiches.
Attic, BristolThe Attic is chic, simple and sophisticated. The emphasis at this minimalist tea house is firmly on the quality of the tea, about which the management are passionate. You won’t find heaps of cakes or fussy decor, just clean lines, designer china and refreshing, expertly prepared tea.
The Tea Cosy, Brighton
Swathed in Royal paraphernalia, The Tea Cosy in Brighton brings you a choice of regal teas with names like the “Queen Mother 100th Birthday Memorial Cream Tea”. House rules include the prohibition of dunking biscuits and resting elbows on the table and recent patrons have included a drag Camilla Parker Bowles. Kitsch, camp and with its tongue firmly in its cheek, The Tea Cosy gives you a fabulous taste of what makes Brighton so fun.
Llangoed Hall, Mid Wales
This 17th-century hall deep within the Welsh countryside makes a great setting for afternoon tea. Try the Welsh Tea with traditional Welshcakes or go all out for the Full Afternoon Tea with homemade scones, sandwiches, biscuits, fruitcake and pastries. Llangoed Hall is a classy and historic setting for tea and they serve champagne if you fancy something a little stronger.
Time for Tea, London
One for fans of tea in times gone by, Time for Tea is a 1940s-themed tea shop in the East End of London. You’ll find an immaculately revamped 40s interior with bone china cups, vintage furniture and gently jazzy, retro tunes. They also run events and parties. Open Saturday and Sunday 1200-1900 for tea and cake.
Tucked down an alley in Glasgow’s leafy West End, Tchai-Ovna is a relaxed hangout with eclectic furnishings and dark, comfy corners. This ‘magic teashop’ serves 80 teas and flavoursome vegetarian food. Order a pot of Darjeeling First Flush (or similar), settle back and play board games, read a book and while away the day in a low-key, Bohemian atmosphere.
The Balmoral, Edinburgh
Take tea at the supremely elegant Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh. Waiters in immaculate black, a harp plucking gently in the background, stands festooned with cakes brought to your table – it’s tea as it should be. Tea in the Bollinger Bar (the Palm Court) is traditional and very classy, the perfect way to end a day exploring Edinburgh’s elegant streets.
Leaf Tea Bar, Liverpool
This ‘punk’ tea bar pairs tea with late-night DJ sets, Wi-Fi and wine in a cool, modern space in Liverpool’s arty Elevator Building. It sells 24 loose-leaf teas and there are also tea tastings, live music and exhibitions. Head to the Leaf Tea Bar, stay all day and see it morph from relaxed daytime tea house to cool late-night club.
The Rose, Oxford
A sanctuary from Oxford’s busy streets The Rose prides itself on providing the very best – whether this means ingredients sourced from the local area or exotic teas from a little further afield. Who could resist a tea called Phoenix Pearl Dragon? The Classic Afternoon Tea arrives with organic smoked salmon and cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches followed by homemade scones and cake.