Tour your way around Kent’s finest afternoon teas
Whether it’s an innate skill we’re born with, or it’s something we’re taught from a very young age, being able to spot a good afternoon tea is something we should all be proud to be able to do. Of course, it’s all about tradition and it’s also something that dates back to the 1660s in England. This is when tea first began to become popular, due almost entirely to the fact that King Charles II and his Portuguese wife, Infanta Catherine de Braganza enjoyed it immensely. The ‘common’ people, wanting to feel a little closer to royalty, started to take tea themselves. It’s not unlike seeing a celebrity endorse a particular pair of trainers and then watching every teenager in the country rush to buy them…our behaviours haven’t changed drastically in hundreds of years.
Yet, afternoon tea as a meal rather than a standalone drink didn’t really come into being until the middle of the 19th century. The idea was introduced by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in 1840. She would often become hungry at around 4pm and because her dinner wouldn’t be served for another four hours (she ate at the fashionably late time of 8pm), she needed to have a snack. So she asked that some tea, bread and butter was brought to her room each day. Soon, she began to invite friends to enjoy this ‘afternoon tea’ with her. And so, a great tradition was born – we’re just glad that the bread and butter became properly filled sandwiches and scones and cakes were added to the menu too!
In Kent, you’ll find a wide range of afternoon teas across all kinds of venues from traditional tea shops to hotel dining rooms and castles. It’s one of our favourite pastimes and, luckily for us, it isn’t too tricky to find a good one. Here are some of the finest examples across the county.
Eastwell Manor, nr Ashford
Eastwell Manor’s classic afternoon tea really taps into the traditional element of this feast for the eyes and the taste buds. There are fresh cut mini sandwiches and savouries, warm scones with homemade jam and scrumptious clotted cream, and a variety of exquisite sweet treats too. Add to that a selection of speciality teas and you really could ask for nothing more. More can be added, though, in the form of bottomless Prosecco, or Chapel Down rosé wine. Cheers to that.
The Secret Garden, nr Ashford
For an afternoon tea with a twist, try the fabulous Secret Garden. Here you can enjoy a traditional scones and cream afternoon tea, but you can also plump for a chocolate afternoon tea complete with chocolate chip scones and hot chocolate instead of tea or coffee. If you haven’t got a sweet tooth, there is an entirely savoury tea that’ll be just right for your particular palate.
Leeds Castle, nr Maidstone
Afternoon tea at Leeds Castle is, as might be expected in such auspicious surroundings, a rather elegant affair. Take tea in the dining room of the castle and, to make things even more special, add a glass of fizz to the delicious menu. A wide variety of tempting sandwiches are served including smoked salmon with avocado mayonnaise, and roasted vegetables with cream cheese aioli. Guests can also indulge in a selection of delectable sweet delights from chocolate macaroons to classic homemade scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam.
London Beach Hotel, Tenterden
Not only are the surroundings at the London Beach Hotel in Tenterden magnificent, so is the afternoon tea provided there. You can choose from a light snack version of scones (one plain, one fruit) with jam and cream, tea or coffee, or a larger, more substantial variety that contains those same gorgeous, warm scones plus finger sandwiches with fillings such as egg and cress or smoked salmon and a variety of cakes too. Add a glass of English sparkling wine for a special occasion, or simply just because.
Bessie’s Tea Parlour, Broadstairs
Bessie’s Tea Parlour is designed to bring a touch of nostalgia to our busy, work-heavy lives. Coming here is a chance to forget about everything except the amazing smell of freshly baked cakes and the look and feel of a true seaside tea parlour from days gone by. And of course, what would a traditional tea parlour be without a traditional afternoon tea? This particular one comes with the famous finger sandwiches, cakes and, of course, scones with all the trimmings as well as as much tea as you can handle. Add champagne, or switch tea for one of the incredible milkshakes that Bessie’s offers and you’ll have everything you could want.
Frasers offers a quintessential afternoon tea. You’ll be presented with finger sandwiches, a savoury tartlet, sausage rolls, a selection of cakes, plus a selection of delicious freshly baked scones with homemade strawberry jam and clotted cream. You certainly won’t want to miss out on those, that’s for sure.
Bay Tree Hotel, Broadstairs
The Bay Tree Hotel in Broadstairs is a wonderful place to stay when in Thanet. It is located right on the cliff tops, offering a dramatic and beautiful view, yet you are close enough to the centre of everything to enjoy all the attractions that Broadstairs and its neighbours have to offer. Afternoon tea at the Bay Tree is available whether you are staying there or not and can be as simple as a slice of cake and a cup of filter coffee, or an all-out traditional afternoon tea with oodles of treats and plenty of pots of tea; the choice is yours.
Orangery Tearooms, Whitstable
Every day there are freshly baked scones to whet your appetite and if that doesn’t appeal (unlikely, but possible) then there are plenty of other cakes to choose from too. Take your scone, cake and a pot of tea into the tearoom gardens that enjoy grand views over Whitstable Castle and out to sea when the weather is good (the gardens are open from April to October).
Rowhill Grange, Wilmington
Rowhill Grange – an incredibly beautiful spa hotel near Dartford – is ‘serious about the quintessentially English tradition of afternoon tea’ and it shows. Everything is homemade by Rowhill Grange’s in-house pastry chefs and that includes eclairs, profiteroles, Bakewell tarts, and, of course, scones. As for the sandwiches, they are made using the freshest, lightest, just-baked bread. You can take tea at Rowhill Grange every day from 12.30pm until 5.30pm in any one of the intimate lounges, the brasserie or the restaurant, and on lovely summer days you can even enjoy it on the terrace.
Elvey Farm Country Hotel, Pluckley
Elvey Farm, nestled in the middle of the beautiful Kentish countryside, was once a medieval farmstead and is now a delightful guest house that offers not only lovely rooms in a stunning setting, but fabulous food too. And that includes an exceptional afternoon tea. You can enjoy your afternoon tea on dainty vintage china plates, on a table covered in crisp, white linen. Homemade cakes, traditional finger sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream, and a variety of loose leaf teas from the Pluckley Tea Company make this something truly special. If you want to add some sparkle, you can opt for the Champagne Tea, which includes a glass of bubbly.
Riverhill Himalayan Gardens, Sevenoaks
If you want to combine a traditional cream tea with an untraditional (to say the least!) day out, then the Riverhill Himalayan Gardens should suit you perfectly. Here there are world class British sculptures, den building activities, secret pathways, beautiful views, a wealth of history and a yeti. Yes. A yeti. See if you can spot him as you enjoy the stunning surroundings of Riverhill. And when you have (or even if he is being elusive), treat yourself to an indulgent afternoon tea. Everything is homemade and all the ingredients are locally sourced, so you can’t get much more Kentish than this.
Chiddingstone Castle, Chiddingstone
The cosy tea room at Chiddingstone Castle has both indoor and outdoor seating, allowing you to enjoy the fine weather during the summer months. Here you can enjoy delicious homemade scones with cream from Cornwall and mouthwatering jam all served on vintage china crockery. You don’t even have to enter the castle grounds to enjoy the tea room (although it is highly recommended), so there is no entrance fee to pay if you are visiting just for the sumptuous sweet treats on offer here. For the larger cream tea with extra sandwiches and pastries, you must book in advance to save disappointment.
Tiny Tim’s Tearoom, Canterbury
If you want authentic 1930’s style with your cream tea look no further than Tiny Tim’s Tearoom in Canterbury. Here you can sit in rooms lit by chandeliers and choose from over 30 different blends of tea; even the music that plays here is from the 30s and 40s. Afternoon tea comes with all the trimmings including those numerous teas, freshly baked scones with clotted cream and jam, and cakes and treats that are baked in the tearoom fresh every day; they vary, but can include orange cake, Victoria sponge, and chocolate fudge cake.
Home Front Tearoom, Ramsgate
If you want to enjoy some delicious cake and a pot of the ‘cup that cheers’ but you want to do it in a 1940’s style tearoom, the Home Front Tearoom in Ramsgate is the place to go. Authentic and beautiful, this is a labour of love and well worth a visit.
The Lavender House Café, Bromley
With handmade cakes and a delectable cream tea menu to choose from, all made fresh daily, it’s no wonder that the Lavender House Café in Bromley is such a popular spot to take tea in.
The Lane, Deal
The Lane in Deal is a fabulous café, bar and restaurant, and its afternoon teas are the talk of the town – they are themed to the season and make for some beautiful food as well as some tasty treats too. All homemade, all delicious and all a true delight.
Penshurst Place, Penshurst
Penshurst Place near Tonbridge is where the Elizabethan poet and soldier Sir Philip Sidney was born, and today it’s considered to be one of the best and most complete examples of 14th-century architecture in England. Open to the general public, the grounds, gardens, and the house itself are a fascinating insight into life as it once was…including all its finery. More finery includes the lovely afternoon tea available in the Garden Restaurant. Penshurst Place Cream Tea is a delicious and utterly traditional combination of scones, jam, cream, and tea (or coffee), and can be enjoyed every day that the gardens are open.
The Yarrow Hotel, Broadstairs
Freshly made sandwiches, gorgeous scones with cream and jam, and a selection of impressive looking (and tasting) cakes…that’s afternoon tea at The Yarrow Hotel in Broadstairs. You can enjoy your tea in the lovely solarium or the lounge and no matter which you choose, you will find yourself surrounded by wonderful architecture and fascinating history.
Kent & East Sussex Railway, Tenterden
One of the Seven Wonders of the Weald, the much loved Kent and East Sussex Railway is always popular with visitors and you don’t need to be a train enthusiast to enjoy it – a love of history and tradition, and of good food and entertainment will work just as well. Along with themed nights and marvellous meals, both the station at Tenterden and refreshments on the trains themselves include a wonderful cream tea. With warm, buttered scones, sticky clotted cream and Kentish preserves, you can watch the world go by as you eat and sip at your cup of tea of coffee.
Juliet’s, Tunbridge Wells
Juliet’s loves tradition and tries to keep it wherever possible. When it comes to afternoon tea, that task is an easy one. There are plenty of finger sandwiches (freshly made, of course, using artisan breads), cakes and perfect fluffy, warm scones – served not just with clotted cream and Bob Maman strawberry jam but with French butter too for an extra taste of opulence – to indulge in when you are enjoying tea with Juliet. Plus there is Prince and Son’s tea and Juliet’s own special coffee blend.
Corby’s Tea Rooms, Ramsgate
Situated just a few metres from the Royal Harbour in Ramsgate, Corby’s Tea Rooms has already got a great location going for it. But it also has some wonderful cakes and other treats, and a choice of interesting different teas. For tea and cake with a view and some super friendly service, this little tea room is a good pick. And if you’re feeling as though you would rather indulge at home, that’s not a problem; Corby’s offers a takeaway service too.
The Tulip Tree Tea Rooms, Chiddingstone
Chiddingstone is the quintessential English village – it’s owned by the National Trust, and it doesn’t get much more traditional than that. So a tea room within that village has to be something pretty special indeed, which this one is. The Tulip Tree Tea Rooms is housed in an old converted coach house and it is certainly lovely. The attached gift shop has a fantastic claim to fame as well – it’s said to be the oldest working shop in the UK; someone been selling something from that location since 1453!
The Smugglers Lounge, Birchington
Afternoon tea at The Smugglers is served from Tuesday until Saturday and it consists of all the most wonderful produce put together in the most tasty of ways. There are freshly made finger sandwiches, scones hot from the oven with jam and freshly whipped cream, plus a varied assortment of homemade miniature desserts. To make things even better, tea and coffee are unlimited so you can refill as much as you want to. Add some Prosecco to proceedings to make the occasion an even grander one.
Hotel du Vin & Bistro, Tunbridge Wells
A landmark in gorgeous Tunbridge Wells, the Hotel du Vin – once a Georgian mansion – is a Grade II listed building that has been lovingly restored to its former glory. Fantastic views from the terrace or lounge (which offers leather sofas and an extensive wine list) and knowledgeable and friendly staff mean that every visit to the Hotel du Vin is a good one. The afternoon tea on offer here is taken in the Dom Perignon Lounge and is served daily from 3pm until 5pm. A choice of teas, mixed finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam, and a selection of cakes makes this sumptuous feast as traditional as they come.
Hempstead House Hotel, Sittingbourne
Champagne afternoon tea or traditional afternoon tea: the choice is yours. Enjoy your tea in the grand surroundings of the opulent Hempstead House Hotel in Bapchild near Sittingbourne. The hotel is set in four acres of stunning landscaped gardens and the hotel itself is a traditional country house with a spa. It’s no wonder that afternoon tea is so good here, this place is all about treating yourself and being pampered.
The Tudor Rose, Westerham
The Tudor Rose is the oldest tea room in gorgeous Westerham, having been on the same spot for the last 100 years – it has aged extremely well and serves superb tea and cake overlooking the green with its statue of Churchill.
Dover Marina Hotel, Dover
If you like a lot of choice when it comes to your afternoon tea and you like something a little less traditional then the offerings at the Dover Marina Hotel will be exactly right for you. There are three different afternoon teas to choose from including the Marina Cream Tea – traditional sultana scones, the Marina High Tea – poached egg on toasted crumpet plus sultana scones with clotted cream and jam, as well as macaroons, chocolate and orange truffle and lemon drizzle cakes, or the Marina Afternoon Tea – finger sandwiches, sultana scones, plus a selection of pastries. You’ll get plenty of tea and coffee which each selection, or a glass of bubbly if you prefer.
The Secret Garden Café, Deal
When you go to an art gallery you should always expect surprises. At the Joanne Harmer Gallery in Deal, however, that surprise has nothing to do with the fabulous art, but is actually a ‘secret garden’ café in the most stunning little courtyard. Freshly baked cakes and a wide range of teas and coffees can be yours and you can enjoy them relaxing in a rocking chair, or perhaps a double swing seat while listening to music.
Café Nucleus, Chatham
Café Nucleus at the Nucleus Arts Centre in Chatham has a great philosophy when it comes to its food: dining here should be an experience, rather than simply refuelling. So when it comes to afternoon tea, you know you are in for a treat at this café. The famous afternoon tea at Café Nucleus includes all the traditional favourites such as scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam, as well as a mouthwatering selection of finger sandwiches such as ham and chutney, mature cheddar and caramelised onions, and Scottish smoked salmon with cream cheese, as well as the addition of Champagne, should you choose it. And, if you want to give someone a gift they will love, there are even gift vouchers available too.
Fleur De The, Rochester
Homemade cakes and pastries, traditional teas and specialty coffees are what makes Fleur de The such a hotspot for people of all ages. Relax on Rochester’s pretty high street in the care of a great tearoom. Choose from a traditional afternoon tea, luxury afternoon tea, chocolate afternoon tea, sparkling afternoon tea and the addition of a children’s version should you have little ones with you.
Groombridge Place, Tunbridge Wells
A delicious cream tea to be found in Kent exists at Groombridge Place. The menu includes a luxury tea option with a glass of Prosecco served on the terrace or bowling green. All cream teas can be booked on the day of your visit except luxury teas which need to be booked in advance. They include scones, clotted cream, jam, finger sandwiches and a selection of fabulous cakes and pastries.
Browns of Bexley, Bexley
Great food, great service, a gorgeous location and fabulous interior – Browns is a lovely place to take the weight off your feet and indulge in something tempting and tasty. That something could well be one of the many cakes that are made onsite and you can even eat them in the pretty courtyard outside should the weather suit.
Riverside Tea Room, Eynsford
Eynsford is a gorgeous little village with a river where children can be found paddling and fishing during the summer, and you’ll find quaint pubs, village shops, churches…the list goes on. Add to this chocolate-box village the Riverside Tea Room and the cakes they serve there, all homemade of course, and you’ve got it all. There are a wide variety of afternoon teas to choose from in the most traditional and comfortable of spots. Enjoy unlimited tea and coffee, finger sandwiches, cakes and either plain or fruit scones.
Miss Mollett’s High Class Tea Room, Appledore
Known as ‘a little slice of paradise in Kent’, Miss Mollett’s High Class Tea Room is a sumptuous taste of how we used to live, but with all the modern conveniences and some of the most wonderful cake concoctions that anyone might want. There is even a picture gallery and gift shop, as well as outside seating so that guests really can make the most of the place.
Where Memories Meet, Wateringbury
This tearoom is set in an antiques shop, so if that’s your thing then this will be the ideal location for you to enjoy some tea and cake as well as a choice of moist, moreish scones served with butter, clotted cream and strawberry preserve. Even if you’re not into antiques, Where Memories Meet is intriguing enough to grab your attention; it even has its own spring-fed well.
The Moat Tea Rooms, Canterbury
The building that houses the Moat Tea Rooms is impressive in itself – half timbered and dating back many centuries. Within that, you’ll find a cosy, friendly tearoom serving green, black and oolong teas as well as plenty of home-baked goodness. Everything is freshly made and if you need the tea to be specially adapted for either dietary reasons or due to a special occasion, just let the owners know and they will do their very best to oblige.
Raspberry Room, Brasted
Afternoon tea at the Raspberry Room in pretty Brasted is a joy indeed. Everything is made fresh on site and the selection of cakes available is hugely impressive. You can either sit inside in the lovely tearoom itself, or sit outside watching the world go by along Brasted High Street.