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Published May 4th 2012
In recent years there has been a growth in venues offering upmarket afternoon tea. This often includes dainty sandwiches, cakes and pastries and a glass of champagne and comes at a rather high cost. However there is still a place for traditional tea shops and tea rooms, offering homemade cakes, scones and speciality teas and coffees. Many of these also cater for those wishing for more, including a glass of bubbly. Just try to visualise a scene from a Miss Marple mystery where genteel ladies take tea in the village tea room at 4pm and still wear their hats.
Here are a few of my favourites, in no particular order. You'll have to excuse me, but my favourite afternoon tea treat is scones with jam and clotted cream. I'm a dab hand at baking, but I can't make scones to compare with the best of them.
The Orange Pekoe in Barnes is a place I return to every few weeks and always restrict myself to one scone with jam and clotted cream, washed down with a pot of tea. The scones are baked off the premises, but are served warm and are available as traditional Devonshire or fruited. They open for breakfast and also serve light lunches. Children are well catered for and there is outside seating. You will find many hardy south Londoners sitting outside in most weathers, especially those with their dogs (for whom water is always available). Orange Pekoe also sells loose leaf tea to take away.
Orange Pekoe Scone and Jam
The Tea Box in Richmond also offers inside and outside eating, various combinations of high and afternoon tea and a huge range of loose leaf teas. The scones are served with the traditional jam and clotted cream and there is a wide choice of cakes as well. Tea is served in china cups, accompanied by a special timer that alerts you when the pot has brewed sufficiently. Light lunches are available as well as afternoon tea, and the Tea Box also lays on a programme of events in the evenings. We took my mum for Mothers' Day and the place was packed.
The Tea Box Scones and Tea
Maison Bertaux has maintained a presence on Greek Street in Soho since 1871. Although not strictly a teashop, more a French patisserie, they serve loose leaf tea by the pot, with a tea strainer, and extra hot water. Fruited scones are available, but their pastries are sublime and melt in the mouth.
Sweetie Pies Boutique Bakery in Church Street Twickenham is a new kid on the block and has only been in existence for a couple of years. Rebecca, the owner, has tapped into the zeitgeist for femininity and cupcakes and changes her ranges regularly, often fitting them to particular occasions. You can stop by for a scone or a cupcake and a cup of tea, or have the full monty, including finger sandwiches and cakes on tiered plates as long as you book in advance.
Sweetie Pies Boutique Bakery - Picture Courtesy of their Website
The Tea Cup is tucked away in Brewers Lane, close to Richmond Green. It's only small but offers delicious homemade sandwiches, cakes and cream teas as well as speciality teas. Do look out for it if you're shopping in Richmond or visiting the Green or the theatre.
Afternoon Tea at the Tea Cup
The Doll's House on the Hill has been sitting on top of Harrow on the Hill for the past six years. You can take your breakfast, lunch or tea outside or on either floor inside, depending on the weather. Tea is served in dainty china cups and you have a choice of scones or homemade cakes. You might even find yourself taking tea with boys from the local Harrow School.
The Doll's House on the Hill
Le Chandelier in Dulwich is very different from the other places on this list. It is in the style of a traditional tea salon and furnished with antique inspired furniture downstairs, with a Moroccan themed small room upstairs. Depending on the day of the week it is open from breakfast time to dinner time, but tea time is when the yummy mummies appear with their offspring. Everything is delicious, including the décor, and there are interesting speciality teas on offer.
Le Chandelier Afternoon Tea - Picture Courtesy of their Website
I adore afternoon tea and hope you do too. Where do you go when you want a proper cuppa, or pot of tea and a little something sweet and naughty to go with it?