Tea Time: The Orangery

Afternoon tea is a British tradition that has been celebrated in England since the 1840s when Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, started sneaking in a pick-me-up to alleviate her late afternoon “sinking spells.”

With no meal between an early breakfast and a large, late dinner, I don’t blame her!

Soon, she began inviting her friends to join her for an afternoon gathering, and the habit quickly spread throughout high society.  Now, Afternoon Tea or High Tea is served regularly throughout London in hotels, attractions, and restaurants. You’ll see suit-clad ladies (and men!) conducting business meetings, tourists enjoying a respite from sightseeing, and friends just enjoying a fun afternoon visit.

Recently, we hosted our first visitor, and after biking around town all morning, it seemed only fitting that we treat ourselves to a proper tea.  Though this was my first time having afternoon tea, I have a feeling it won’t be the last…

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Kate and I have obviously become great friends.  Unfortunately, she has a newborn, so she isn’t very social right now.  I know she would have asked us to tea in their royal apartment if it wasn’t undergoing massive renovations.  As soon as it’s finished, I’m sure the invitation will come.  In the meantime, we’ll happily settle for tea on the terrace at the Orangery.

via royalparks.orgPromenade leading to the Orangery

The Orangery is a beautiful light filled cafe that is located just north of Kensington Palace.  It’s hard to beat a seat on the terrace on a sunny summer day.

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There are several ways to do it, but we opted for the English Afternoon Tea here.  As soon as our personal pots of tea and three-tiered trays of savories arrived, I knew we would not be leaving hungry.

photo(6)the spread

The variety of sandwiches included smoked salmon and cream cheese, egg salad and cress, ham with mustard, and cucumber and mint, all of which are pretty standard tea offerings.  We then polished off two scones with clotted cream and jam, and finally,  made our way to the mini cakes and pastries that adorned the top tray.

photo 1Carb overload??  Yes, please.

Despite eating almost every morsel, I can’t say that I was blown away by the food.  Some sandwiches were delicious while others seemed a bit stale.  The scones and cakes were good but not great.  The tea, however, was spot on.  Regardless, the whole setup–from the fine china cups and plates to the terrace overlooking the palace grounds–was perfect.  I’ll definitely give it my thumb’s up.

Things to note:  The atmosphere is relaxed, so no need to dress up for this tea.  I recommend making a reservation, or arriving right at 2PM, when they first start serving tea.  Otherwise, I hear you can expect to wait a bit.  We arrived right at 2PM, without a reservation, and had no trouble getting a table.  The full afternoon tea is £23.  It can easily substitute for a late lunch, or you could always get a full tea and share it with someone else.

Click here for a link to the Orangery website.

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