Afternoon Tea in London: What to Expect

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Plan to do afternoon tea during your family vacation in London. This lovely British custom is an excellent way to slow down and warm up on a chilly afternoon.

A pink and white tea set with fresh roses is ready for tea time in London.

When we travel as a family, everyone gets to claim their One Thing that they must do during the trip. My own one thing during our London trip was to experience a traditional afternoon tea party with my girls.

My older daughter immediately suggested we try Peggy Porschen’s because of the lovely photos she spotted over on Instagram.

We booked our tea table in advance of the trip but now that we’ve done it, I wanted to share some tips on how to make your tea experience even better.

Where to Do Afternoon Tea in London

A mom and her daughters stand under the floral arch outside Peggy Porschen's in London.

While I was planning our trip, there were so many decisions to be made. Choosing where to have our tea wasn’t one I bothered to research very much.

If you’ve ever travelled with teens, you’ll know just how important social media can be in choosing the spot. So when my daughter suggested Peggy Porchen’s and shared the Instagram pictures & YouTube videos with me, I was totally game.

Pink and frilly and over the top? Heck yes. It looked perfect.

Is this the best spot to have an afternoon tea in London? I would probably argue that it is not.

Was it worth it? You can read my full thoughts on that at the bottom of the post if you’re interested, but we did have a very memorable time and it was a highlight of our trip for sure.

If you’re looking for a more traditional British afternoon tea, you could also look at Fortnum & Mason, The Savoy, The Ritz, or any number of amazing hotels and restaurants throughout London.

Tea is not hard to find when you’re in London.

Make Reservations

If you’re interested in having afternoon tea at Peggy Porchen’s, I would definitely recommend making reservations in advance.

The private tea room is very small and can only service a couple of families at a time.

You could take your chances with a table at the last minute, but you’ll be seated for tea out in the front part of the restaurant by the pastry case.

What to Wear

We snuck our tea time in between touring and our rush to the train station to take the Eurostar to Paris. We did afternoon tea in jeans and sweaters because we were in a rush.

If I had to do it over again, I would have chosen a more relaxing time for our tea service and given us the opportunity to dress a little nicer for the experience.

If you’re going to a fancy afternoon tea at one of the luxury restaurants mentioned above, I would dress smartly in business casual outfits if you can. Be sure to check the dress code because some of the more formal establishments may require something even more.

What Will Be Served

A 3-tier tray of tea time sandwiches and pastries at a tea shop in London.

During a full blown English afternoon tea, you will be presented with a tiered tower of treats that includes:

  1. Finger Sandwiches
  2. Scones with Clotted Cream and Jam
  3. Sweet Pastries or Bite-Sized Desserts

Your tea will come with cream and sugar and lemon slices as well.

Since I’m familiar with making finger sandwiches for parties, I expected the sandwiches to be much lighter. I was very surprised to see how substantial the amount of food is involved in a classic afternoon tea!

A coronation chicken salad sandwich on a pink tea plate at a tea shop in London.
My Coronation Chicken Finger Sandwich.

At least at Peggy Porschen’s, each person is presented with 5 finger sandwiches that were more food than I could have eaten if that had been my whole lunch!

Then there were two medium-sized scones AND a slice of carrot cake and a giant cupcake per person.

This would have been more than enough food for our entire dinner if I had known how generous the servings would have been. Unfortunately for us, we had only planned on it being an afternoon snack so we didn’t come as hungry as we should have. We also had to leave what was left on the tower since we were traveling to Paris within the next hour.

Plan to skip lunch or dinner, a classic afternoon tea will be an entire meal.

Tea Time Etiquette

A dad and his daughter drink tea by holding their tea cups with their pinkies up.

During our afternoon tea, we were each presented a personal-sized pot of tea to enjoy.

It is proper to pour the cream into the tea cup before the tea itself if you want milk in your tea.

While we jokingly posed for pictures with “pinkies up,” I discovered this actually considered a rude way to hold your tea cup. OOPS! It still might be my favorite picture of my husband from the trip.

The tower of treats is mostly self explanatory. Eat the finger sandwiches as you normally would.

Split the scones and spread them with the clotted cream (which is like a cross between butter and whipped cream) and jam.

But most of all, relax and eat slowly. This is a time to slow down and enjoy the company of the ones you’re with.

Budget Concerns

There is no escaping the fact that a full blown afternoon tea is very expensive.

We paid £50 per person which initially shocked me but now that I’ve seen how much food came with our towers along with the wonderful service and private room we got to enjoy it in, I understand better the cost.

If you want to still enjoy an afternoon tea but are on a budget or you don’t need all that food, look for a restaurant that offers something called a “cream tea.”

Cream tea is served with just the scones, clotted cream and jam, and tea. It would have been exactly what we needed that afternoon if I had known but the full blown tea experience was still so fun.

Is Peggy Porschen’s Worth It?

The Peggy Porschen's tea shop in London has twinkle lights on the ceiling and floral decor everywhere.

So after all that hype, was Peggy Porschen’s worth it?

Yes, but I wouldn’t do it a second time. We looked so forward to this moment on the trip and it was very special, very delicious, and lots of fun. But for the price, I think we’d prefer a larger restaurant in a more formal setting.

The food was very well prepared, the desserts were delicious, and I’d kill to have one of those scones right now.

Our waitress was attentive and kind and made menu substitutions for the picky eaters in our group.

The tea came in the cutest pink and white floral teapots and the setting of the restaurant was picture-perfect for Easter week while we were visiting.

I have no regrets other than I wish we could have enjoyed our leftover pastries the next day.

More London Travel Tips

Planning a family trip to London? Don’t miss my other helpful tips here:

The photo collage shows the tower of treats at tea time next to a pink and white china tea set.

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