The British are known for their love of tea, scones and cake, so as the tea room capital of the world, London must live up to some high expectations. Alongside its grand, sophisticated afternoon tea establishments, the capital has a range of smaller, quainter and infinitely more charming tea rooms – perfect spots for sitting with a book and a homemade treat on a cold winter afternoon, or for indulging in a little luxury with a group of friends.
Highness Café is one of Islington’s many little gems, with a warm, cosy interior a world away from bustling Highbury Park outside. The tea room gives off a simple, rustic atmosphere, with a particularly lovely upstairs seating area full of mismatched wooden chairs and dimly lit lamps, tucked away at the top of a spiral staircase. The selection of freshly baked cakes is impressive; with a large selection of Christmas treats on offer during the winter months such as mince pies, stollen and a pear and cinnamon cake. The selection of loose leaf teas is also good, offering a number of classics alongside some more unusual concoctions, such as orange peel and pomegranate and there are plenty of coffees available for non-tea drinkers too.
Yumchaa boasts one of the finest selections of loose leaf teas to be found anywhere in London. An edgier, more modern take on the classic tea room, Yumchaa is the perfect place for students and young professionals to spend an afternoon reading, working or simply catching up with friends. Small pots of tea on the counter allow customers to smell all the teas before choosing which one to buy, aside from all the classic flavours, the tea room offers all kinds of unusual combinations of fruits, flowers, herbs and spices in black, green, red or white tea, all with delightful names like ‘Wanderlust’ or ‘Enchanted Forest’. The ‘Chilli Chilli Bang Bang’ comes especially highly recommended for anyone who likes a little spicy kick to their tea, and many flavours are available to purchase in bags to take home.
While Oxford Street’s department store House of Fraser may not seem like the obvious place to house a tea room, The Tea Terrace is a surprisingly charming oasis in the middle of an otherwise wild metropolis of frantic shoppers and dawdling tourists. Although the tea room is rather large and gets pretty busy at times, the pastel coloured décor, floral teapots and the adornment of poetry across the walls instantly boost the Tea Terrace’s charm factor. And, most importantly of course, the food is excellent; cream teas, stylish sandwiches and light meals, combined with table service, add a touch of luxury to this tea room.
While a venture out to Zone Four may seem a little daunting, Pembroke Lodge’s location in the heart of Richmond Park is difficult to beat. The elegant white building, with its paved terrace outside, is a popular spot for weddings and family gatherings, and is definitely also the perfect place for a cream tea. It really is worth grabbing a table on the outdoor patio on a warm afternoon, with its stunning hilltop view across the park. Cream teas (scones with clotted cream and jam with a cup of tea or coffee) are excellent value for money and if you’re lucky, the scones may still be warm when they come out. A wide variety of cakes and more substantial meals are also available.
A tiny tea room situated in the basement of an independent bookshop, Tea and Tattle is an incredibly charming hidden gem, remaining largely unnoticed by the many passers-by of its central London location. A full afternoon tea costs only £17, a great price for a normally luxurious item, and comes with dainty sandwiches, fresh scones and a generous slice of cake and, of course, a tea of your choice (these items can alternatively be bought separately). The interior decor is simple but attractive, and the Oriental-style pictures on the wall blend the quaint with the exotic, providing a delightful atmosphere for a bit of respite from the bustle of Bloomsbury.
High Tea of Highgate is a small, bustling tea room. Its location in the heart of picturesque Highgate, with quaint brick buildings and little independent shops, combined with the relaxed and cosy atmosphere of the tea room itself, makes for an experience a world away from the fast-paced lifestyle of central London (even though the City is still well within view from the top of Highgate Hill). Decorated in pastel shades with freshly baked cakes lined up along the counter and a wide selection of herbal teas, High Tea is an ideal end to a leisurely afternoon in one of London’s most delightful suburban spots, if you can manage to grab a table, that is!