Just our cup of tea

Just our cup of tea

Once upon a time, the British cuppa was a refined affair. It had nothing to do with builders, or hair rollers, or chimps. It was a ceremony, a ritual that signified civilisation, one that could be set up in the shade of a baobab tree or beneath a parasol in the remotest of landscapes, in the most unforgiving of climates. Rare, loose-leaf tea, allowed to steep for just exactly the right length of time to release its subtle taste and fragrance.

Joyous, then, that we’re seeing a return to the celebration of all that is fine about tea. The afternoon tea has come back into fashion as a what-better-way to spend a few hours, and is being enjoyed by fashionable young people under the age of 65 in some of the most marvellous buildings in the land.

In hotels where it is quite usual to have a dedicated tea sommelier, the afternoon teas are becoming ever better, in quality and creativity – with themes of haute couture, Alice in Wonderland, or the Chelsea Flower Show – in their pursuit of the Michelin stars of the tea industry: the Tea Guild Awards. The guild’s anonymous inspectors spend long afternoons slumped in armchairs before cake-stands piled with sandwiches and pies and scones and macaroons scented with rose and violet and orange blossom. And once a year all that hard work comes to fruition, when the prestigious awards are announced.

This year, The 2013 Top London Afternoon Tea Award by The Tea Guild goes to The Goring Hotel (pictured). In lovely, gentrified Belgravia, the hotel (where the Duchess of Cambridge chose to stay with her family, the night before her wedding) got an almost perfect score for the whole experience – not just for its perfectly brewed teas, with finger sandwiches and intricate patisseries – but for its setting: out in the charming garden in summer months, or cosied up by a roaring fire in winter (or, indeed, all year round).

Head of The Tea Guild Irene Gorman said: ‘Afternoon tea at The Goring Hotel is a truly special experience. The elegant surroundings and faultless presentation make it a memorable occasion aided by friendly, efficient and knowledgeable staff. It is easy to understand why this leading establishment attracts so many, of all ages, to take afternoon tea.’

Last year’s winner, The Athenaeum, was among 22 establishments to be given Awards of Excellence for 2013. Others include Claridge’s, the Corinthia Hotel London, The Connaught, The Dorchester, The Lanesborough, The Langham, The Savoy and all-time favourite, The Ritz.

The winners of Top Tea Place in the UK and Top City & Country Hotel for Afternoon Tea will be announced later this week.

For a review of The Goring Hotel afternoon tea and a full list of our Top London afternoon teas for all occasions, click here>>

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