Do I want more sandwiches or scones? I found myself briefly contemplating this question as I sat in a well-appointed room engaged in a long-standing British pastime: afternoon tea.
Afternoon tea started as a way to curb one’s hunger between the two meals of the day: breakfast and dinner. What started as a solitary experience grew into a small private gathering and then blossomed into a public occasion.
And what a lovely occasion it is. This is particularly so at London’s Athenaeum Hotel, which was everything I wanted in an afternoon tea experience and more. The international staff were attentive and playful. The tea selection offered the standards along with some creative alternatives. The sandwiches, scones, and sweets were as delicious to the eye as they were to the palate. And they were plentiful.
As a result, I declined the replenishments. This turned out to be an excellent decision because an entire new display of treats would arrive soon. I have a hard time turning down chocolate, and this time was no different.
I thought my Athenaeum experience would be the tea highlight of my trip. While not as elegant, an unexpected encounter would equal the afternoon tea experience: the discovery of the House of Twinings.
Twinings English Breakfast is my dad’s absolute favorite tea. My siblings and I always keep a box in stock to ensure dad’s daily ritual is a satisfying one whenever he’s visiting. As I ventured toward Fleet Street in honor of a friend’s recent Lincoln Center production of Sweeney Todd, I turned to see what seemed like an architectural afterthought.
Instead, I realized I had found the tea mother ship!
I hadn’t known the shop existed, and my already high spirits skyrocketed. Immediately, I thought of my dad and smiled. Inside was everything Twinings, including teas for tasting and a tiny museum section. I left with an array of teas for my family members, including, of course, English Breakfast.
In addition to stopping to smell the roses, I recommend taking time for tea!