Wow, this year has flown by. Christmas is over and New Year’s is just a
few couple of days away. As you may remember, Chef and I spent Christmas in Charlottesville last week and our time couldn’t have been any better. Okay, mayyybe if we’d had Mr. Leon with us, we’d have had a slightly better time. Over the roughly 4 full days we were in Virginia, we managed to binge eat everything in sight and drink copious amounts of wine and cocktails. So now, as many other good-time-having Americans are, I’m looking for good running shoes, a quality activity tracker (Fitbit? Jawbone?), and a new insulated mug to drink all of the tea I can get my hands on. Side note: My favorite teas are mint or Stash’s Lemon Ginger. From now on, I will be drinking approximately 48 ounces of tea at work to stay hydrated and start flushing out all of the toxins I’ve consumed.
But that’s not exactly why we’re here, is it?
No, we’re here to discuss the absolutely amazing time I had in London last year while also drinking copious amounts of tea.
Even though I’ve not always been a fan of tea, I’ve always been a fan of tea parties. I loved getting dressed up and then trying all of the fancy treats they’d serve. It wasn’t a hard sell. Growing up, it was a delight having girls’ day adventures with my mom, Judy and Emily featuring afternoon tea. I’m especially fond of Lovejoy’s Tea Room in San Francisco because of those girls’ days. However, I hadn’t realized I’d been doing it all wrong until I experienced afternoon tea at The Orangery at Kensington Palace while with my parents in London last year.
We had purchased a tour bus package from The Original Tour the day before (loved it!) and were quite content using it as both a tour guide and public transportation. My family and I hopped on one of the bus lines and headed toward Kensington Gardens (which is right next to Hyde Park). Despite being difficult for us to find inside Kensington Gardens (we may have walked by it once or twice..), it is one of the most stunning buildings I’ve ever been inside. A narrow, all white interior was lined with sets of tables and chairs, and dotted with large plants which made the china tea sets pop with color. If the interior design was this pretty, I couldn’t wait to see what the food looked like.
I managed to do something productive while shoveling food and tea in my face While at the Orangery, I learned the history behind afternoon tea: The Duchess of Bedford, Anna Maria Stanhope, felt sluggish each day between lunchtime and dinner time, so she had her maid/butler
smuggle bring her bits of bread and tea. Soon, she started inviting friends to her secret little “happy hour” of sorts. Then she brought it back to London where everyone loved it. Because, snacks. Sounds like my kind of lady!
The Orangery offers different options for Afternoon Tea, the main difference being with Champagne or without. Despite being an avid lover of bubbles at any time of day, I ordered the non-fancy afternoon tea. My parents did as well, but we each chose different tea flavors. As you can see in the photo above, the tea cakes and finger sandwiches that accompany the tea are beautiful! Everything looked so pretty, I almost didn’t want to eat it. I loved the crumpets with clotted cream (my first time trying!) and strawberry jam. And those finger sandwiches! I could have had many more of those sandwiches, they were so good. I wasn’t a huge fan of the desserts, but it was probably better for my waistline anyway.
I would highly recommend visiting the Orangery, should you be in London! We had a wonderful time with great service and lovely snacks. After tea, we walked around Kensington Gardens before hopping back on our Original Tour bus toward our AirBnB.
Looking through these pictures make me long to be back in London, if just for afternoon tea! Perhaps I’ll bring a fancy tea cup and saucer to work and indulge my nostalgia even if it will be without crumpets and clotted cream.
The Orangery offers afternoon tea daily between 2:00-5:00 pm with no reservation required. Pricing varies, depending on whether you order the English Orangery Afternoon Tea or the Royal Afternoon Tea. Breakfast and lunch are also served each day.