Tea in Britain is about as iconic as the Queen. The idea of taking this late-day refreshment evolved in the early 19th century, when the 7th Duchess of Bedford bemoaned “having that sinking feeling” as the afternoon approached. She took to allaying it with a pot of tea and a snack (consumed alone in her boudoir, of course) at around 4:00 p.m. each day. It quickly bloomed from there, and today takes even more creative shapes. What was once a simple biscuit in bed is often a showcase for experimental and delightful food artistry. We traversed London to sample the most unique afternoon teas in town. You’ll see impressive sandwiches and sweets, but there’s nary a scone in sight.
Bridget Arsenault is the associate editor, print and digital at Vanity Fair UK. and the co-director of the Bright Young Things Film Club. She covers the U.K. beat for Travel + Leisure; follow her on Twitter at @bridget_ruth.