Afternoon tea originated with Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, who invented the concept at a time when most people would only have two meals a day, which led her to complain of a ‘sinking feeling’ in the afternoon. She therefore decided to consume a pot of tea and a light bite, taken privately in her boudoir. She was soon joined by her friends, and the practice became so popular, that it spread throughout London.
The resurgence of this traditional dining style has allowed foodservice outlets of all types to create a point of difference on their menu. With an option to suit every customer, Tetley Tea Academy explores some of the most interesting afternoon tea concepts to give you inspiration.
The Goring has served afternoon tea for more than a century, so with more than a hundred years of experience, it’s no surprise that its offer has been enjoyed by customers as discerning as the Queen Mother and the Duchess of Cambridge. Classic fare including strawberries and cream, scones and sandwiches accompany champagne and Assam-Darjeeling blends.
With its rock and roll vibe, Hotel Pelirocco in Brighton has created an afternoon tea with a difference. Retro sweets such as Battenberg and chocolate roll skewers are served with jam tarts. As guests get stuck into the colourful feast, they also have the option of adding karaoke, a burlesque performance or a private DJ to their experience.
Lucky guests at Taj Hotel, 51 Buckingham Gate, can opt to enjoy a 24 Karat Gold Afternoon Tea. A half bottle of Luxor Pure Gold 24K Brut Champagne is served with Gold Leaf Jelly, White Chocolate Delight and Strawberry Tart, each including flakes of real 24K gold leaf, taking the sense of sumptuousness afternoon tea fans crave to a new level – true decadence.
A snip at just £15 per head, afternoon tea at the Holiday Inn, Reading gives guests the chance to enjoy a refined dining occasion during their stay, and the hotel the opportunity to upsell an experience alongside its accommodation. Perfect for weddings and bridal parties or simply groups of friends who may not be staying at the hotel but are looking for a treat, freshly brewed tea is served alongside homemade cakes and sandwiches.
Sleek snakeskin upholstery, five floors above London’s Soho sets the occasion for No 20 Sanctum’s Ultimate Indulgence. Poached oyster with bloody Mary relish; seared steak on sourdough; rabbit pancetta and leek pasty; and roast beef and Yorkshire pudding create a thoroughly ‘manly’ afternoon tea, rounded off with a cigar.
Part of the joy of afternoon tea is the chance to experience something different. Regularly creating new seasonal concepts can help operators deliver this. Cloud 23 Bar, Manchester is already taking bookings for its Christmas afternoon tea, complete with festive pastries and carols sung by a local choir. It runs throughout December, so there’s plenty of time to tuck into mince pies and stolen in advance of the big day.
Another way to add variation to your offer is by designing afternoon teas focussed on events. From political happenings through to national celebration days, an afternoon tea that captures the zeitgeist can bring new business and media attention. Taj Hotels’ 51 Buckingham Gate helped diners get into the spirit of Wimbledon with Pimm’s Jelly and Wimbledon branded tennis ball-style macaroons.
Visitors to London can often feel overwhelmed by the amount of things to fit into their busy schedule. By jumping aboard the vintage BB Routemaster bus, they can combine several quintessentially British experiences. While sipping tea, passengers can also take in the sights of Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the London Eye and Marble Arch. With patriotism being a central part of the revival of afternoon tea, natives with national pride may well be tempted to buy a ticket too.
Make the most of the grey pound, by devising a menu that appeals to older customers. Tearoom, Where Memories Meet in Kent is situated above an antiques centre and brings an old-fashioned charm to its offer by using the shop’s dainty crockery. Operators who have introduced an offering for this market have seen their profits boom with business vastly expanding due to visits from coach tours.
The InfiniTea at St Ermin’s Hotel, London is an imaginative take on a children’s tea party. Capitalising on an unexplored section of the afternoon tea market, the hotel lavishes little ones with Batman cupcakes, Superman brownies and Kryptonite strips, served on a superhero-shaped cake stand. Adults can enjoy the hotel’s classic afternoon tea at the same time.
With tea consumption originating in Asia, it seems only fitting that London restaurant, Silk, has introduced a Japanese themed afternoon tea. Alongside a wide range of blends, guests can tuck into a bento box filled with sweet and savoury sushi. A former courthouse is the setting for this oriental occasion, making it a must-visit for consumers seeking the quirkiness often expressed in afternoon teas.
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