"If you are cold, tea will warm you. If you are too heated, it will cool you. If you are depressed, it will cheer you. If you are excited, it will calm you."
- William E. Gladstone
Tea, to the British, is a magical ingredient in the everyday life. They drink more than 165 million cups of the aromatic beverage every single day, making Britain the second largest per capita tea drinking nation in the world following Ireland. (Surprise!)
In the average British home, afternoon tea is simply a mug of tea with cookie or cake. But for tourists visiting London, they want much more than just the humble cuppa, prompting hotels and cafes to offer lavish and creative afternoon tea menus for that memorable, quintessential English experience.
A 3-tier afternoon tea spread can be as filling and costly as a proper meal. If you're seeking the highest quality in tea service in Britain, check out the winners of The Tea Guild Top Tea Awards - the "Oscar" of the tea world.
A tasty break doesn't need to break the bank though, and there are plenty of atmospheric afternoon tea venues in London that offer good value for money. The popular Bea's of Bloomsbury, famed for its moist cupcakes with buttercream frosting, serves a quirky menu at the St. Paul branch for under £20.
For a pampered afternoon in a peaceful setting, the five-star DUKES London boutique hotel will not disappoint. Hidden in a courtyard a couple blocks from The Ritz, afternoon tea here is served in the pretty Drawing Room with just five tables, and the attention to detail is exceptional.
If you also happen to be a martini enthusiast, a visit to the hotel's famous bar is a must. Frequented by James Bond author Ian Fleming, the Dukes Bar is said to to have inspired the secret agent's drink preference: shaken not stirred.
Afternoon tea and cocktail. Now that's a combination as irresistible as 007.