The Afternoon Tea Awards 2016 Go to…

From traditional settings to old-fashioned grandeur to minimalist affairs or even quirky alternatives, Afternoon Tea is an institution in itself. The quintessentially English tradition is one of my favourites, so receiving an invitation to the Afternoon Tea Awards and the launch of Afternoon Tea Week 2016 (8th to 14th August) was well received, as you can imagine.

Before I made my way to the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane with my friend Anna, I looked into the origins of afternoon tea. I found out that it was a surprisingly new tradition. The seventh Duchess of Bedford, Anna, introduced it in the nineteenth century. The evening meal in her household was not served until 8 p.m. She started a habit of asking for a pot of tea and a light snack of bread and butter to be taken to her boudoir around 4 p.m. and before long, she was inviting friends to join her. It became a fashionable social event in the 1880s, with afternoon tea served in the drawing rooms of fashionable society.

I also found out the meaning of ‘high tea.’ I had always assumed it was a synonym for ‘afternoon tea,’ but I was wrong (in a way). Afternoon tea or ‘low’ tea would be served in upper class households around 4 p.m., before a walk in the park. ‘High’ tea would be a more substantial meal later in the day in middle and lower class homes, at 5 or 6 p.m., instead of a late dinner. ‘High’ and ‘low’ refer to the height of the tables on which the tea and food are served. High tea would be served at the dinner table.

To go back to yesterday night, Anna and I arrived fashionably late, but it went unnoticed as guests were all standing in groups and chatting. The representatives from over 30 of London’s finest hotels and restaurants were eagerly awaiting the results and mingling.

The evening, despite its grandeur, was organised in an informal way, with all elements of a traditional afternoon tea set out ‘buffet’ style. The downside of this set-up was that we did not get to chat to anyone. It would have been awkward to disrupt conversations by approaching people. I find that sitting at a table generally facilitates networking and chatting to people come a lot more naturally, but that is my personal preference.

There were finger sandwiches.

There were exquisite tartlets.

There were choux buns filled with the lightest cream and fruit purée you could dream of.

There was no tea, but Lanson Champagne was flowing. No one complained.

Afternoon Tea Awards

I love the wide range of options available for afternoon tea in London, and I have been lucky to try a dozen or so in the past decade, from the classy, sophisticated feel of the Royal Horseguards’ Hotel to the Ritz, the simplicity of afternoon tea in a small tea room, the decadence of a ‘pink’ afternoon tea or the exuberance of a themed one.

The inaugural Afternoon Tea Awards really set a benchmark for the best afternoon tea options available to the general public. The panel of independent judges is unbiased and the restaurants and hotels shortlisted for the awards represent ‘la crème de la crème’ of afternoon tea experience, from the moment you set foot in the restaurant to the moment you leave. The focus was on food, drink and service, but creativity also had a part to play in the judging criteria.

Four awards were presented by Martha Collison, the youngest ever contestant on ‘Great British Bake Off’ and Keith Newton, Managing Director of AfternoonTea.co.uk said “The standard was extremely high and we are delighted that the hard work that venues put into their afternoon tea has been recognised by the judges”.

Drum roll…

The judges also awarded the following ‘Highly Commended’ and ‘Commended’ certificates.

Highly Commended

·       The Langham London

·       Fortnum& Mason

·       Harrods – Georgian Restaurant

·       Sketch

·       The Milestone Hotel

·       Brown’s Hotel, Mayfair

·       The Connaught

·       The Goring

·       Royal Garden Hotel

·       Corinthia London

·       The Dorchester

·       Ting @ Shangri-La Hotel, At The Shard, London

·       The Lanesborough

·       Conrad London St James

Commended

·       The Landmark Hotel

·       The Montague on the Gardens

·       The Park Lane Hotel

·       The Wellesley

·       The Marylebone Hotel

·       The Chesterfield Mayfair Hotel

·       One Aldwych

·       The Ritz

·       The Royal Horseguards

·       The Rubens at the Palace

·       BB Afternoon Tea Bus Tour

Would it be an overambitious quest to make my way down the list and really see what I think about each and every one of these venues? I wonder whether I could call it research…

Afternoon tea week (8th-14th August 2016) promises to be a grand celebration of all things teatime in the world. Amongst confirmed activitiesJust some of the activities already confirmed include Newby Tea Tasting at Grosvenor House Hotel; Flower Arranging Afternoon Tea at Harrods; Epicurean Tea Tasting at The Ritz; Open air film screening & afternoon tea on board R.S. Hispanola, River Thames;  Afternoon Tea at Handel House Museum.   Many hotels and restaurants will also be offering an exclusive picnic version of their afternoon tea to take away and enjoy al-fresco, or at home.

Disclosure: My friend Anna and I were invited to attend the event free of charge. I was not compensated for writing this post or asked to do so. The photo and all opinions are my own.

Sources for the origins of afternoon tea:

http://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/afternoon-tea/

http://www.afternoontea.co.uk/information/history-of-afternoon-tea/

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Comments

  1. tracey at Mummyshire
    14/07/2016 / 10:07 pm

    Oh I love, love, love an afternoon tea. Not that I have it often, but whenever I have done it always feels so decadent and indulgent and your photos are mouthwatering! I bet you had a great time
    Oh yes, do make it your mission to work your way down the list and let me know every time you do – I’ll live vicariously thru you!

    • 15/07/2016 / 12:50 pm

      Oh you’re so sweet hun! All I do as a hobby is eat. I’ll be the size of my house soon, bwahaha!

  2. This Mama Life
    14/07/2016 / 11:55 pm

    Oh wow, I am a huge afternoon tea fan so am always on the hunt for recommendations. This one looks fab, love the photos. Will have to pop it on the list ? X

    • 15/07/2016 / 12:49 pm

      Thanks lovely. The food was scrumptious there. Highly recommended!

  3. TheLondonMum
    15/07/2016 / 8:38 am

    I love afternoon tea- there are a lot of ones I haven’t tried yet.. at least I have a list now 😉

    • 15/07/2016 / 12:48 pm

      I’m the same, the list will keep me happy for a very long time!

  4. 15/07/2016 / 7:50 am

    Great article Mel! I loved to learn more about its origins but will take you on the task of trying to make it down the list?

    • 15/07/2016 / 12:48 pm

      It’s really interesting, isn’t it? Shall we make it down the list together?

  5. Rebecca | AAUBlog
    15/07/2016 / 10:16 am

    How fun! I do love afternoon tea. I have only ever been to The Dorchester but it was really lovely x

    • 15/07/2016 / 12:47 pm

      I’ve not been to the Dorchester! That’s definitely on my wish list of afternoon tea heaven!

  6. Pamela @ Brooklyn Farm Girl
    15/07/2016 / 6:55 pm

    Such a cute post, I love afternoon tea! Me and my 2 girl pals love taking a afternoon tea visit to a new place every few months, we have a special place in mind but saving it for near the holidays. Thanks for the ideas and the reminder to set up our next date!

    • 15/07/2016 / 8:36 pm

      It’s the same for my best friend and I: we tend to have an afternoon tea for our birthdays every year. It’s such a nice and decadent way to spend an afternoon with a good friend.

  7. Hello Beautiful Bear
    15/07/2016 / 8:45 pm

    Ooh I wish I could afford to have afternoon tea in some of these places, yum! 🙂
    Lovely photos and I didn’t know that about high/low tea, so interesting
    X X

    • 15/07/2016 / 9:30 pm

      Me too!

  8. steph_baybee
    17/07/2016 / 9:50 am

    I love afternoon tea, I have got my Mother in law booked in for one for her 70th birthday, and I cannot wait!

    • 18/07/2016 / 8:34 pm

      Exciting! Where are you taking her?

  9. Janine
    18/07/2016 / 8:47 pm

    I love afternoon tea. A friend and I are testing out a few hotels in the area to see which ones are the best.

    • 21/07/2016 / 1:24 pm

      Great idea!

  10. Jodie
    20/07/2016 / 6:52 am

    I’ve never experienced an afternoon tea session. Maybe I should. I just don’t like tea!

    • 21/07/2016 / 1:10 pm

      I always have coffee with my afternoon tea! It’s the food I love, he he!

  11. Kerry Norris
    20/07/2016 / 6:14 am

    I love afternoon tea. One of my fave things to do. I haven’t been to any of those places yet. Defo make it your mission to go through the list. X

    • 21/07/2016 / 1:11 pm

      I might just do that!

  12. Everything Mummy
    26/07/2016 / 7:50 am

    I am so jealous this looks bloody amazing, didn’t know that about high and low tea either!

    • 27/07/2016 / 11:59 am

      It was a brilliant evening. So glad I took my friend Anna with me!

  13. mumjd
    15/08/2016 / 7:47 pm

    I love afternoon tea. Was everywhere on the commended list in London, or were there any regional venues mentioned? I didn’t realise it was afternoon tea week last week, but I actually made scones for our charity bake-off at work last week

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