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If you’re visiting London, you have to experience one of my favourite British traditions– afternoon tea.

What’s afternoon tea?

Afternoon tea came about back in 1840 when the seventh Duchess of Bedford would get hungry around 4pm in between her lunch and dinner. She began requesting tea, bread and butter to her room to satisfy her hunger. Soon she started invited her friends to this little afternoon meal, and now it’s a full blown tradition. These days, afternoon tea is offered at most hotels and many restaurants, typically every day between about noon and 4pm.

How to Experience Afternoon tea in London. Afternoon tea is a British tradition that's definitely worth trying when visiting London.

What happens at afternoon tea?

Depending on the venue, what happens can vary, but here’s a rundown of what you can expect for a traditional afternoon tea.

First, you pick your drink from a selection of hot teas, and they’ll bring your tea out in its own little tea pot. You’ll likely use a strainer to filter out the tea leaves, so ask your server if you need some help with this.

Then you’ll be brought a selection of sweets, savoury finger sandwiches, and scones. This is traditionally brought out on a tiered serving plate. You’re meant to start from the bottom and work your way up, finishing with the sweets.

To eat a scone properly, cut it in half, like a burger bun, and then put the clotted cream and jam on each piece and eat them separately. There are arguments around the UK about which ingredient should go first, as different areas do it differently, but it’s totally up to you!

Traditional afternoon tea is lovely but some venues offer themed teas, and have their own twist. Look out for Christmas and winter-themed teas if you’re in London in December.

Read next: Things to Do in London During the Christmas Season


How much does afternoon tea cost in London?

The price of a full afternoon tea in London ranges greatly, from about £20 per person all the way up to about £80 per person, depending on where you go. If you’re really on a budget, or perhaps short on time, you can go for just a “cream tea”, which comes with just the tea and scones and nothing else.

If you’d like some recommendations for where to get afternoon tea, sign up for our free course — 7 Things You Must Do When Visiting London. Afternoon tea is one of them, but there are a few other things you must experience when you’re visiting.


Read next: How to Experience Sunday Roast in London

Jessica Dante

Jess is the founder of Love and London, an online travel guide that helps London tourists to visit London like they live there. She's been featured in Refinery29, Forbes, BBC Radio 2, HuffPost, and more. Jess is also a sustainable and ethical travel advocate.

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