Now, London has revived this tradition (minus the getup) with a vast number of hotels, restaurants and cafes serving their take on the custom. Here's a selection of the best, both traditional and alternative:
Best for traditional:
Claridge's Afternoon Tea
Brook Street, Mayfair, London, W1A 2JQ
Having been named the Tea Guild's Best Afternoon Tea in 2006, 2011 and 2012, and presented with an Award of Excellence five times, Claridge's is undoubtedly one of the top choices for taking Afternoon Tea in London. Served in the Art Deco Foyer and Reading Room, the menu features more than 40 different blends of tea from around the world, a selection of classic finger sandwiches, pastries and homemade raisin and apple scones served with Marco Pollo jelly and Cornish clotted cream. Furthermore, live background music from a pianist and harpist enhance the experience and the hotel's generosity with refills adds to the appeal.
Best for fashionistas:
The Berkeley Afternoon Tea
Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, Belgravia, London, SW1X 7RL
Despite sticking to the traditional offering of tea, cakes and pastries, the Berkeley gives its afternoon tea a modern twist by serving a menu of treats inspired by the current season's catwalk designs. The spring/summer 2013 Prêt-à-Portea - the Fasionista's Afternoon Tea - includes a Dolce & Gabbana Sicilian chic pistachio green and vanilla striped pannacotta dress topped with chocolate ring, an Alexander McQueen yellow honeycomb cream oversized dress topped with marzipan bee, and a Jonathan Saunders ombré polka dot lemon and orange blossom dome shift dress set on a shortbread biscuit.
Best for shoppers:
The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon
Fortnum & Mason, 181 Piccadilly, London, W1A 1ER
Located on the fourth floor of one of London's most famous department stores, The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon is ideal for those looking to combine the occasion with a day of retail therapy. Ever since Fortnum & Mason first opened its doors in 1707, one of the main focuses has been on tea and Fortnum's is regarded as the original tea house. In 2012 the store's beloved St James's Restaurant was given a grand overhaul and, newly titled The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon, was reopened by Her Majesty the Queen, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge. Teas from all across the world and some of the store's own blends are served alongside an array of sandwiches and cakes.
Best for a vintage twist:
73 Blythe Road, London, W14 0HP
Served in the charming fine food pantry, which has a 1920s theme running throughout, afternoon tea at Betty Blythe is the perfect option for girly birthday parties, elegant hen dos or baby showers. Finger sandwiches and cakes are served by tea ladies in vintage dresses, beads, hats and ruby red lipstick, and a dressing up box and optional pre-dining activities further add to the occasion. Guests can work up an appetite with burlesque dancing, Charleston dancing, fascinator hat making or a vintage photo shoot.
Price: £21 | Optional corkage (bring your own bottle) £2.50 per person
Best for gents:
The Sanctum Gents Afternoon Tea
Sanctum Soho Hotel, 20 Warwick Street, London, W1B 5NF
With afternoon tea often considered a women-only occasion, the Santum Soho Hotel has provided a more masculine alternative. Serving up mini dishes such as seared steak with peppers and mushrooms, a lamb and potato hotpot, a mini beef burger and a horseradish stuffed Yorkshire pudding, this is as far away from dainty cucumber sandwiches as you can get. Further highlights are a silver tankard of Jack Daniel's Tennessee whiskey and a complimentary cigar to enjoy on the roof terrace.
Best for burger lovers:
187 Wardour Street, London, W1F 8ZB
Replacing sandwiches and scones with burgers and doughnuts, BRGR.Co has given the long-standing British tradition a drastic makeover. The casual affair offers three sliders - a classic cheeseburger, a chicken Caesar bun and a lobster and bacon slider - served with mini fries, warm doughnuts filled with salted caramel, a chocolate brownie and a raspberry cheesecake. Drink options do include the traditional cuppa but the more appropriate milkshakes and homemade iced teas are also available.
(Photo via okinawahai.com)