On our last day in London, after visiting a flurry of museums and marching through lovely parks, the clouds started to gather. Hilariously, we’d enjoyed beautiful balmy sunshine during the trip, even though we’d left after days of chilly rain in Chicago. With our checklist of “places to see” almost entirely checked and our other checklist of “souvenirs to gather” taken care of, we didn’t have much in mind—except sitting down for afternoon tea.
I 💗love💗 afternoon tea. (It’s the lolita fashion meetup type most likely to lure me out of my cozy little hermit hole.) I’ll happily sit down to drink a cup of tea and savor a dessert in almost any café, but a full afternoon tea service gently thaws my frozen little heart. (And I get cranky about the misused term “high tea”!) Looking at savories and sweets that seem almost like edible dollhouse food always entertains me. I appreciate standard fare, such as currant scones or cucumber sandwiches, and I’ll happily try something new and inventive if the chef exhibits creativity! Given the tea culture in the UK, it seemed somewhat like a waste to leave without having a full tea service. As it was just my husband and I together on our last day, logistically this became a bit easier than trying to get a last-minute reservation for a larger group.
The incoming rain seemed like the perfect signal to get indoors to a tea house. We also substituted this as our “evening” meal (despite the fact that it was still afternoon) so that we avoided overwhelming our budget.
We selected TWG Tea for a few reasons: we within a 10-minute walk of the location, we’ve been given their teas as a gift and enjoyed them, and trying to have afternoon tea without a reservation at a hotel is rather difficult. I adore afternoon tea hosted in a hotel, as they often have more luxurious ambiance than a restaurant, but when checked with a few that would have been close by they were understandably unable to accommodate us. TWG is a relatively newer tea company (founded in 2008) and based in Singapore, so it wasn’t a particularly British-themed excursion, but that wasn’t really high on my priorities at the time. If we find ourselves in London again, I plan to make an actual reservation in advance at a place or two after some reading and research.
Luckily, we did not have to wait when we entered the tea room at TWG; they were able to seat us immediately. I believe that we were given two set menu options that were very similar: a “Paris” afternoon tea that came with a pot of tea, finger sandwiches, two miniature croque monsieur with tea-infused béchamel, and desserts, and a “London” afternoon tea that included two scones instead of the croque monsieur miniatures. (I feel like I may be misremembering some element of this, because I didn’t snap a picture of the menu and I can’t seem to find a copy to reference.) My husband selected a smoky black tea and I, once again, ordered Darjeeling (Castleton estate). He ordered the set with croque monsieur, and I ordered the set with scones. (I’ve actually been on a bit of a scone-kick since our trip, but perhaps I should save that for another day.)
Both sets came with the same finger sandwiches and desserts, an assortment of chicken salad, smoked salmon, cucumber, and egg salad. Nothing particularly unique, but everything tasted well and appeared to be freshly made. I didn’t catch a picture of my husband’s two tiny croque monsieur, but I tried a bite of each and quite enjoyed them! I’ve been thinking about making something inspired by them at home. The scones were fluffy, one herbed and more savory and one with dried fruit on the sweeter side. The tiny desserts included a variety of flavours and textures. I really enjoyed how neatly-formed they all were, without anything out of place.
The teas themselves tasted wonderful. 💖 I appreciated trying another Darjeeling, and my husband found his tea enjoyable.
One of the things I particularly liked was that the shop left a “book of teas” on the tables during your time in the dining area. It arrived with the menu, as it came with small paragraphs describing each tea, so in a way it supplemented the tea menu. However, they did not collect it with the menus, so I read through it while we enjoyed our afternoon tea time and used this information to plan for my selections in the shop below. I was able to read the notes in the book and make a short list for the downstairs shop of tea that I wanted to smell. This made our shopping very efficient! I picked up the Earl Grey Gentleman for a friend who prefers very robust Earl Grey and some Oud Night for myself, curious about the perfumed aroma.
Also, stopping for tea at TWG and having another cup of Darjeeling cemented my resolve to go back to Mariage Frères and purchase the Darjeeling I had initially decided I could live without. All in all, it was a lovely way to wait out the rain, enjoy a delightful meal, and immerse myself once again in tea! 🎀