I have a confession to make: I’m a tea snob. I make no apologies. Once you’ve experienced the heavenly aroma and robust, full-bodied flavor of loose leaf tea, it’s difficult to return to the bilge water that passes for most bagged teas these days. So when I travel, I always look for somewhere that will provide me with an authentic, traditional afternoon tea experience.
What makes an afternoon tea traditional? It’s not just the delicious tea and amazing food; it’s the entire experience – the service, the atmosphere, the throwback to a simpler, more elegant time. It’s an opportunity to reconnect with friends and loved ones, totally undistracted by the modern world.
One place that has perfected this afternoon tea experience is The Goring Hotel in London, which began serving afternoon tea after it opened in 1910. The current owner is the founder’s great grandson, Jeremy Goring, and the hotel is the last hotel in London that’s still owned and run by the family that built it. The hotel exudes luxury and elegance, with just a bit of a wink: you might be seated at a table in their tasteful lounge, and find a small card featuring a quote from Homer Simpson.
Depending on the time of year, you can either enjoy afternoon tea in their lavish lounge or on the beautiful outdoor terrace overlooking their garden. The hotel discourages the use of electronic devices while in the bar and lounge, so for a brief moment it’s like you’ve stepped back in time. It’s pure bliss.
The staff will give you a tea menu, like when a restaurant presents a wine list, so ask for recommendations if you’re overwhelmed by the selection. The tea is served from a silver teapot poured through a silver tea strainer into gorgeous yellow and white china, and while you’re enjoying your freshly steeped tea the food will arrive in a literal tower of culinary delights.
The lower tier has a selection of scrumptious finger sandwiches (my favorite is the Coronation Chicken). The middle tier is filled with scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam. If you’ve never experienced true English scones with clotted cream and jam – it is hard to describe. Forget the faux scones sold at Starbucks, these are simply a little bit of heaven. I took my friend’s eight-year-old daughter for her first official afternoon tea recently, and the first words she said were, “O.M.G. ! How did I live MY ENTIRE LIFE not knowing about this??” So high praise!
But wait! Tea doesn’t end with scones! After that, you still have an entire tier of pastries to enjoy. The Goring changes the menu depending on the season. I was fortunate to enjoy the Coronation Tea featuring a mousse-filled pastry in the shape of the Queen’s hat , complete with candy flowers, as well as light-as-air macaroon with a gold covered chocolate crown on the top.
I’ve had afternoon tea everywhere from Russia to California, and The Goring is simply the best. But don’t take it from me: they were recently awarded the Top Afternoon Tea in London by the prestigious UK Tea Guild. The hotel has seen an increase in guests since winning the award, so if you’re heading to London be sure to make reservations about two months in advance. And when you arrive – make sure that you tell them Jennifer Berg from Liberty Travel sent you!
If you have any tea and travel questions for Jennifer, you can submit a comment below. You may also contact her directly via email or phone at 412-787-3624.