When you think about English dining culture, afternoon tea is one of the quintessential experiences.
Once a snack for the upper classes, afternoon tea is now a meal in its own right, and readily available for anyone to enjoy. You are spoilt for choice in London, with most of the hotels offering an afternoon tea menu. Hotels at Paddington Station in London put you in an excellent location to find somewhere to ensure this leisurely activity.
Afternoon tea is a decadent experience, even though there are lots of deals to keep the price low. Your accommodation in Paddington, London serves you well for access to lots of places to enjoy an afternoon tea whether you are on a budget or want to indulge in something a bit more luxurious.
You can enjoy a sweeter stay at the Park Grand Paddington Court London, with our special package which includes afternoon tea for two. But what are the essential ingredients to make your experience, and what will your tea ceremony involve?
There are 10 must-haves, which we have compiled here.
It goes without saying that tea has the starring role of your afternoon tea experience. When handed your afternoon tea menu, the list of teas in fact outweighs the sandwich fillings and number of cakes available.
Alongside the classic English Breakfast blend, Earl Grey is a popular choice for afternoon tea – a black tea with a hint of citrus flavouring from its bergamot oil. You will also usually see Assam listed, which comes from the mountains of India and is usually paired with milk and sugar. Another Indian tea is Darjeeling, which has a floral flavour and is best drunk either alone or with a dash of lemon juice. Sri Lankan black Ceylon tea is fragrant and complements an afternoon tea, with or without milk. For something with an added punch, you can try the smoky, Chinese Lapsang Souchong tea.
There are always a few herbal options too, peppermint and chamomile being the most common options.
Your opening course will be a collection of finger sandwiches with the fresh, fluffy bread cut into dainty little rectangles, with their crusts chopped off. Typical and popular fillings include cucumber, smoked salmon and cream cheese and egg with watercress. Sometimes you will find sliced ham, chicken or cheese options, too.
More and more restaurants offer gluten-free options, so if you are coeliac – don’t worry, you can still have the proper afternoon tea experience.
Scones are the second course of your afternoon tea. You should receive a mix of plain and fruit scones, and they should be warm from the oven when delivered to your table. They are typically served with clotted cream and jams. When you have a cream tea in south west England, a typical afternoon snack is cream tea – scones and tea. In Devon, the cream goes on the scone followed by a lashing of jam. In Cornwall, it’s jam first. At afternoon tea – the decision is yours! There is also debate in England about the current pronunciation of ‘scone’ – do we pronounce the ‘e’, so it rhymes with ‘bone’ or lose the ‘e’ as we do with ‘gone’?
If you’re using your afternoon tea to celebrate a special occasion, then adding a glass of champagne is essential. This can be enjoyed as a starter alongside your sandwiches, or saved until you tuck into the sweet round. You will usually be offered a choice of brut or rosé. Even if your tea isn’t for a special occasion – we encourage adding a glass of fizz anyway. Cheers!
Cakes and pastries
Warn your dentist before you indulge in some afternoon tea – your third and final course will be a helping of sugar-coated pastries and succulent cakes, and it’s not uncommon (or impolite) to ask for seconds. Cakes will vary depending on where you dine, but expect a plethora of chocolate, fruit, lemon, meringue, eclairs and cupcakes
It goes without saying that your tea experience is one to be shared. Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, introduced afternoon tea to England back in 1840. As her dinner would not be served until late, she would become hungry in the late afternoon and so begun taking her tea with light snacks. This evolved into afternoon tea parties, where Anna took to inviting peckish friends to join her for tea and gossip. Honour the tradition, and keep it social. Enjoy tea with friends, or book a special package with the Park Grand Paddington Court London, which includes afternoon tea for two.
The right crockery enhances the experience. When tea is served in bone china, the material does not taint the taste so you get the full flavour of your choice of tea, plus richer aromas. Crockery is often mismatched, with floral patterns that slightly clash. In more contemporary settings, it might be simpler but one thing is certain – the food will not disappoint you.
The finest afternoon tea experience will serve loose leaf tea rather than bagged tea, which is a higher quality, bolder in flavour and even contains more antioxidants. Allow it sufficient time to brew before you start slurping (your server will advise the optimum brewing time) and make you use the strainer when you pour, to reduce leaves bobbing around in your cup and getting stuck in your teeth later.
Afternoon tea stand
Presentation is key, and your afternoon tea feast should be spread across three layers on a tiered stand. Although we refer to the food items as courses, really you can eat them in any order you prefer – you might want to start with a scone whilst they’re still warm, for example. Be sure to take a photo before you begin!
Afternoon tea is not to be rushed. It is a slow affair, so no clock-watching once you sit down. Even when making a cup of tea at work, it is common to take a pause, to truly savour the taste. A true tea experience must never be rushed.
Now that you know what to expect, are you ready to experience it for yourself? Book now!