British Tearooms

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.

Tea time, particularly in London’s hotels, has never been busier. So says Britain’s Tea Guild which sets high standards for the hotels and tea shops serving the country’s favourite drink. Though visitors, including families and groups of young people, are seen in growing numbers consuming their Earl Grey, cucumber sandwiches and delicate pastries, a marked trend is for business people to meet over afternoon tea instead of a possibly time consuming lunch. These so-called “power teas” are now featuring in many executives’ diaries.

“For busy executives trying to juggle work and a young family, afternoon tea enables them to finish their working day a little earlier. Even with a glass of champagne, it doesn’t break the office budget either,” says Tamarisk Saunders-Davies on behalf of the Lanesborough Hotel which (with the Four Seasons) was given the Tea Guild’s Award of Excellence 2006. The Conservatory at The Lanesborough, on Hyde Park Corner, has launched London’s first tea sommelier service. Karl Kessab is passionate about tea and is happy to discuss the numerous varieties on offer and the ritual of taking tea in these beautiful surroundings. Among the offerings are Darjeeling First Flush, Rooibos from South Africa and White Tea – a rare unprocessed variety produced from young leaves and named after the white downy hairs with which leaves are covered. Afternoon tea costs from £28 per person. The Tea Guild’s website gives details of other places around the country to sample this unique British tradition.
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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.

Bettys, Harrogate

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, Bristol

The 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.

Tchai-Ovna, Glasgow

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.