Tea Time in London

Posted in England| Food| London| UK
Tea.A flavorful drink that warms your insides, relaxes you, soothes a sore throat and helps you unwind.  A cup of tea can be a brief break from your day…but little more than that.

When I first pictures people having tea in England, I imagined them sitting down at a table covered in lace, sipping from a cup made of fine bone china. The sugar would be in cubes and the milk in a tiny porcelain pitcher. When I learned that the concept of afternoon tea, also involved food, I figured that meant the addition of 1 or 2 fairly flavorless cookies (I mean biscuits) that found their way onto the saucer next to the tea cup.

My idea of what tea in England was all about

It never crossed my mind that tea could actually be a meal that, if done right by my standards, could leave you feeling full. OK, perhaps a big, burly truck driver wouldn’t feel completely satiated, but those with a more standard appetite, could walk away from the table feeling happy and full.

In London, most of the department stores and the higher end hotels offer an afternoon tea service. There are also stand alone restaurants that focus predominantly on offering tea.  Sure a few finger sandwiches and minature desserts may not sound like a lot of food, but once you come down to your last scone with jam and clotted cream (which is far more delicious than the name lets on) you have loaded up with a fairly decent calorie count (a number I chose not to research).

On this most recent visit to London, I decided I was due for a proper tea service and on the recommendation from a few friends, I decided to check out afternoon tea at the Cafe in Liberty Department Store.

Three Tiers of Tasty Treats

The department store itself is quite remarkable as it feels like it is right out of a storybook with a tudor facade, creaking wooden floor boards and a whole section dedicated to buttons and spools of fabric as if people still regularly sew their own clothes.

Exterior or Liberty Department Store (Photo Credit: Luis Villa del Campo)

But on to the most important part, the afternoon tea service (And in case you’re wondering afternoon tea is the meal I was having, that comes with finger sandwiches and scones and desserts. High tea happens a bit later in the day and is more of a working class meal with heartier fare such as meat and fish dishes).  While I was tempted to go for the champagne tea (personal rule: never turn down the offer of champagne), I stuck with the traditional tea service and choose a flavorful South African Rooibos tea to start. Not long after my pot of tea was delivered, the 3-tiered tray of sandwiches, scones and desserts arrived and my friend and I dug in.

Ready to dig in – Tea at Liberty Cafe.
Everything that showed up on our table was delicious.  Even though we’d only eaten a few hours before, we still managed to clean our plates.  And what’s my favorite part of the tea service? I have to say it is the clotted cream. Yup! While fresh scones are always appreciated, they are basically just a way for me to avoid spooning clotted cream directly into my mouth.  Not very lady-like in the least.  This is Englad after all and I like to maintain proper manners, even while I’m stuffing my face.

2 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • Dana Carmel @ Time Travel Plans March 1, 2013, 2:22 am

    I love the concept of tea time, siestas, and all of the other customs in Europe and elsewhere that remind people to take time out to enjoy life.

    • Nailah March 2, 2013, 3:57 pm

      So true, Dana! One day I hope to live in a place with a strong siesta policy! Ahhhh…

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