With fancy sandwiches, scones, pastries and carefully selected tea leaves, afternoon tea appeals to diners of all ages with a zest for pomp and tradition. And today, we are going to take a look at exactly what is involved with this time-honoured ceremony and where to find the best afternoon tea in London.

What is Traditional Afternoon Tea?

Anyone who has ever felt the pangs of hunger between lunch and their evening meal will know exactly why afternoon tea is so important. It exists in many cultures—in various forms— throughout the world and serves both a practical and a ceremonial purpose in the British Isles.

Ever since the 1840s, this ritual has been seen as a classy yet practical way to pass the afternoon. Queen Victoria has often been held responsible for making this occasion hugely popular after she attended a tea reception of her own.

The exact components of afternoon tea will differ from one venue to the next. However, there are several elements that are deemed staples. The best afternoon tea in London generally comprises finger sandwiches with the crusts removed from the bread, scones with clotted cream, pastries, cakes and a variety of teas.

There are no hard and fast rules as to what ingredients must be included in the sandwiches. But cucumber, egg mayonnaise with crest and smoked salmon with cream cheese are some of the favourites that almost always make an appearance.

How tea times have changed

Afternoon tea is now seen as a luxury one-off between a small group of friends. But many years ago when the tradition began, tea receptions were notable events with tens if not hundreds of guests in attendance.

Between the hours of 4:00 and 7:00 in the afternoon, people would come and go from the host's event while indulging in a little luxury and extravagance for a couple of hours.

Best Afternoon Tea in London

Afternoon tea in London is best served in a classic and luxurious environment. And one of the best places to experience the finest examples of this traditional feast is in Belgravia. The area is steeped in history and has several locations where afternoon tea has been on the menu for many years. People from all walks of life love to continue this traditional event by coming together in the sumptuous surroundings of this historic quarter.

Peggy Porschen Parlour

Location: 116 Ebury Street, Belgravia, London,
Price: £50
Website: https://www.peggyporschen.com/pages/london-afternoon-tea

Peggy Porschen is one of the brightest and most colourful afternoon tea options in the whole of London. This patisserie has been in residence at this boutique location on Ebury Street since 2010 and the colour pink is certainly the first thing that sticks in many people's minds. There is nothing dull and understated about afternoon tea in this beautiful setting.

3-tiered cakes adorn every table with delicious sandwiches, pastries and scones all available throughout the afternoon. Several brands of popular tea are on offer as are a few bubbles for those looking to enjoy a little more extravagance.

And it isn't a one-size-fits-all display at this gorgeous location; afternoon teas are adapted to meet seasonal demand as well as special dietary requirements as well. These include vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free.

Don't forget to ask about the special kid's afternoon tea if you would like to take the little ones along to enjoy all that Peggy Porschen has available.

The Lanesborough

Location: Hyde Park Corner, London
Price: £75
Website: https://www.oetkercollection.com/hotels/the-lanesborough/restaurants-bars/afternoon-tea/

A dedicated and talented pastry team are responsible for serving up this memorable afternoon tea in some of the finest surroundings available anywhere in the capital. Afternoon tea at The Lanesborough in London is an occasion that one won't forget in a hurry. And for an extra special treat, why not visit at the weekend when the whole affair is accompanied by a top pianist?

For 2023, the Lanesborough Meadow afternoon tea is the very latest version of this Great British occasion to premier at the incredible hotel. It is inspired by the flora and fauna that grace the various parks in the surrounding area and brings a natural touch of elegance to the table.

Sandwiches include cheese, poppy seed and herbs along with chicken and mustard mayonnaise and smoked salmon with horseradish. The pastry selection is simply divine with cheesecake, fudge cake and chamomile daisy pastries available. Naturally, homemade scones with Devonshire clotted cream and a range of fantastic teas are also on display.

The Berkeley

Location: Wilton Place, London
Price: £75
Website: https://www.the-berkeley.co.uk/restaurants-bars/afternoon-tea/

The Berkeley presents one of the most fabulous afternoon teas in London. Following a decidedly fashionable theme, this event is described in the preamble as the couture cakewalk.

Several iconic moments from the world of fashion are represented in cake form. These include Christopher Kane's floral gown, Ralph Lauren's hero coat and Prada's camel coat being recreated in delicate biscuit and cake form. It is some of the most imaginative use of vanilla Chantilly that we have ever witnessed.

A range of exquisite champagnes is on offer to get guests in the mood and 0% alcohol drinks are also available.

The sandwich selection includes chicken and truffle, duck mayonnaise and peppered pastrami. Among the savoury treats are beetroot and feta pastry tarts. The staff will suggest various teas for your consideration throughout the experience and they are always happy to cater for any special requirements.