In Europe, Gluten Free, Life as an Expat, London, Travel

Afternoon Tea in London: Why You Should Go and What to Expect

Last week our friend came to visit. As no trip to London is complete without tea and scones, we decided to do high tea in the city.

This was my first high tea and all I can say is yum. The Brits really know how to put together a midday meal. Controversial opinion but afternoon tea might even have brunch beat…

For one thing, it’s been around a lot longer. The story goes that afternoon tea was introduced by Anna, the Duchess of Bedford in 1840. As in many European households, the Duchess ate dinner around 8:00 PM, meaning she would grow hungry between lunch and dinner. Deciding to ward off hunger in style, she would ask her servants to bring her tea and light sandwiches and cakes around 4:00 each afternoon. Over a century later, afternoon tea is a British staple—a meal like no other. Now that I’ve experienced my first high tea, I’ve gotta say, you go, girl.

Not only was our tea experience delightful, it was also completely gluten-free! We discovered that, as usual, English restaurants are ahead of the game when it comes to catering to gluten-free diets. We read through this list of gluten-free high teas available throughout London, each with its own unique touch.

108 Brasserie

After reading descriptions and checking prices, we decided upon the Afternoon Tea at 108 Brasserie. This is a small restaurant inside a hotel just off the High Street in Marylebone.

It turned out to be a good pick! Instead of just offering gluten-free substitutions for some items, 108 Brasserie actually provides three dedicated tea options: traditional, gluten-free, and vegan. This makes it a great choice for anyone, especially if your group has different dietary needs. You can check out all three menus here.

Gotta Have a Cuppa

Each of the three tea options comes with a tower of delicious goodies created especially to suit its description. Afternoon tea at 108 Brasserie also comes with your choice of a dozen different types of tea.

A special tea curator chooses the teas from throughout the world and they come in green, white, black, or herbal. For an additional £10, you can also order sparkling wine. As we were attending afternoon tea, Paige and I opted for tea: specifically Earl Grey and China White Leaf.

Happy Tiers

Our research also taught us that, while each restaurant offers a distinct take on traditional tea fare, the menu typically consists of the same few treats: scones, finger sandwiches, and mini sweets and petits fours.

Tea also includes little dishes of jam, lemon or orange curd, and clotted cream for the scones and sugar cubes for the tea.

Our afternoon tea was presented on a three-tier tower. The bottom tier held four sultana scones while the middle was full of a variety of finger sandwiches and the top layer was all desserts.

Our particular gluten-free edition included four finger sandwiches each: egg salad, salmon, cucumber, and Coronation chicken (a bit like a chicken curry) on a variety of different gluten-free bread. While seemingly simple, the sandwiches were scrumptious and provided a nice savory balance to the top tier of sweets.

This last tier included mini carrot cakes, brownies, Battenburgs, and lavender pannacotta with sparkling wine jelly (Jello).

All of the desserts were beautifully presented but this last one was stunning, with berries and edible flowers suspended in the clear layer of jelly. I might have to take a whack at this one for our next dinner party!

Although the individual sandwiches and cakes were petite, the quantity made for a very filling meal. Afternoon tea is in no way a snack, it’s a meal in itself. We weren’t hungry for hours after our tea. We even had our server pack up two of the scones and carrot cakes for later.

Everything was delicious and beautifully presented. It was also a lovely experience, taking a break in the middle of the day to chat over a pot of tea and some sweet and savory treats.

Anyone headed to the UK should definitely book an afternoon tea. It’s such a quintessentially British meal and the options are immense. You can take afternoon tea in gardens, in tearooms, on rooftops, even aboard moving buses. Check the options in your destination, I really don’t think you can go wrong!

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