Home / Afternoon Tea: What is it, History, Origins and Best Tearooms

Afternoon Tea: What is it, History, Origins and Best Tearooms

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea is a quintessentially British tradition. Also known as “High Tea”, it’s really just another excuse for us to sit down and enjoy a cup of tea, albeit with a few more sandwiches, scones and treats than usual. But where did afternoon tea originate and where can you find the best afternoon tearoom near you?

Let’s find out.

Afternoon Tea in your Region: Tea Rooms Near Me

Here on TeaReviews.co.uk we love afternoon tea just as much as anyone. We have a passion for it and we have sipped teas and scoffed scones in most major cities and towns throughout the United Kingdom. This section of the TeaReviews.co.uk website is a testament to this passion and to those experiences. It serves as a foundation page for afternoon tea in every town and city. Just take a look at the links in the menu to learn about the best places serving afternoon tea in your region. We also have reviews of actual tearooms for you to look at, but because some regions are more accessible than others, we’re unable to review every tearoom we list.

If you think we have made a mistake with these listings, let us know. This is a self curated list and while we’re constantly updating it, there is only so much that we can do without your help. So drop us a line if we missed something. And if there is somewhere serving afternoon tea near you that you would like to recommend, just contact us and suggest it. We like to find these places ourselves and don’t just list any random tearooms we come across, but if we get enough recommendations from actual customers about a particular tearoom, then we will consider adding it.

If you do run a tearoom, please don’t contact us to request that we link to you. We don’t want to provide preferential treatment. We are more than happy to provide updated details regarding the menu, prices and, when we have permission, addresses, but our goal is to provide a list of premium afternoon tea services that we love and our readers enjoy, not to become a spammy directory of afternoon tea in the UK.

What is Afternoon Tea?

Afternoon Tea History

Afternoon tea in the United Kingdom is usually fairly standard across the board. You pay for the tea on a per person basis and each person is served a multi-tier of plates known as a “tier platter”. There are often three plates—a big one on the bottom, a small one on the top and a handle though the middle that supports it and allows it to be easily carried—but there are also tearoom that serve anywhere from 2 to 5 tiers.

These plates are typically used as follows:

  • Bottom Tier: Sandwiches. Often cut into fingers but also into triangles and squares. The only accepted rule is that they are small and well presented.
  • Middle Tier: Scones. Often homemade and served with pots of clotted cream and jam. Butter is also occasionally offered as an alternative.
  • Top Tier: Cakes and treats, including mini versions of popular cakes (Victoria Sponge, Chocolate Fudge), French sweets like macaroons, flans and little dessert pots.

Where did Afternoon Tea Originate?

We have actually reviewed the first location that was said to offer cream tea. It was introduced by the Duchess of Bedford back in 1840 who wanted to consume a meal between lunch and dinner because there was a long break between the two meals in her house.

She basically created a British institution because she was hungry and in need of a cup of tea. You can’t get more British than that.

The original afternoon tea was simply a pot of tea and a small snack. It is a process that millions of tea lovers go through several times a day and one they don’t pay much heed, but to a 19th century Duchess making a cup of tea or enjoying a light snack wasn’t quite as simple as walking into the kitchen and putting the kettle on. It was an ordeal orchestrated by several household staff and one that needed to be planned in advance.

It’s hard to imagine having to go through such a long and tedious process today, but at least this process spawned a convention that allows us to enjoy the finest cakes, scones and tea and pass it off as tradition.

If you take a look at our guide to Afternoon Tea in Bedfordshire you will be able to learn more about the house in which the first cream tea was served. You can actually book yourself in for your own high tea and order gift certificates to give to your tea loving friends.

Our Afternoon Tea Guides

Afternoon Tea Origins
This main guide might not interest you as much as our other content on this subject. After all, there is a good chance you already know what afternoon tea is, where it comes from and what it consists of. So, to make things a little more interesting, take a look at our pages below:

Afternoon Tea Sandwiches: In this short guide we discuss traditional sandwiches to enjoy with cream tea, all of which you can make in your own home. These recipes include very basic and straightforward ones, as well as ones that are a little more complicated. We have ideas for vegans and vegetarians though, so be sure to take a look.

Afternoon Tea Locations: We have tried to cover the many afternoon tea locations in the country. Each one covers a specific town or city, telling you where the best places to enjoy cream tea are. To make it easier for you, here are some articles that break them down into regions. Just take a look at these and you will find additional town and city links within: