Afternoon tea has formed an integral part of English culture for many decades. But where did this tradition come from?
It all began in 1840s England thanks to Anna Maria Russell, the seventh Duchess of Bedford. Relatably, the Duchess was struggling to make it through the gap between lunch and dinner without getting hungry, so she began requesting trays of tea, bread, butter and cake in the late afternoons to subdue her growling stomach.
Anna then decided to turn this habit into a social event by inviting friends to join her and so, afternoon tea began!
Nowadays, the custom tends to be enjoyed as an occasional indulgence or as a form of celebration. Where better to partake in this quintessentially British custom than in the rolling hills and remote villages of the Cotswolds?
If you are planning an escape to the Cotswolds, be sure to check out our comprehensive list of the best places for afternoon tea in the Cotswolds.
The Best Afternoon Tea in the Cotswolds
Huffkins is an award-winning independent and family-owned bakery and tea room. Established in 1890, the company keeps the Cotswolds at the forefront of all of their bakes by using local ingredients in every treat.
These personal touches do not go unnoticed, with Country Life Magazine naming Huffkins’ afternoon tea as one of the top in the area. You can stick with the Classic Afternoon Tea or branch out by selecting the Celebration Afternoon Tea – either is sure to be a hit.
The original cafe can be found in the Cotswold town of Burford, where the founder, Mr Titcomb used to bake in a tiny stone cottage and deliver freshly-baked goods by donkey and cart. Nowadays, the company has establishments in several areas of the Cotswolds and has even stretched its wings to a branch in London.
2. Whatley Manor Hotel and Spa
Located in the heart of the Cotswolds, Whatley Manor Hotel and Spa boasts 122 acres of gardens, a brasserie and their own private cinema. A self-declared ‘grown-up getaway’, the venue offers the perfect classic British environment to enjoy afternoon tea in the Cotswolds.
Whatley Manor offers traditional afternoon tea with savouries, finger sandwiches, scones, cakes and sweet treats. There is also the opportunity to embellish the affair with some champagne, as well as an extensive tea selection that allows you to tailor the event to your liking.
The restored Cotswold manor house hotel can work around your schedule, as it offers afternoon tea every day of the week. If you strike lucky with the weather, prepare to enjoy your delicacies on one of the hotel’s sunny terraces surrounded by remarkable scenes of the stunning English country gardens.
3. Ellenborough Park
Another delightful spot for afternoon tea in the Cotswolds is the 5-star hotel and grand manor house, Ellenborough Park. This luxurious venue dates back to the 15th century when it was built on the original Cheltenham racecourse estate.
The hand-picked selection of teas at Ellenborough Park will have you utterly spoilt for choice. As well as classic options such as Earl Grey and English Breakfast, the hotel also offers quirky blends such as Tiramisu.
Expect to be steeped in luxury at Ellenborough Park, with delicious treats served on silver cake stands and fine china. Afternoon tea is available every day in the decadent surroundings of the Great Hall, Beaufort Dining Room and Beaufort Terrace.
4. Lucknam Park Hotel and Spa
The classic 18th century Palladian mansion of Lucknam Park Hotel will transport you to a setting fit for Duchess Anna herself. The elegant mansion is set amidst 500 acres of picturesque gardens and parkland that flourish with sculpted Yew hedges, clusters of fragrant lavender and edible flowers.
This grand venue offers hand-made scones with clotted cream and homemade preserves, dainty patisseries prepared by an on-site pastry chef, a selection of sandwiches, a choice of leaf tea or coffee as well as a glass of Joseph Perrier Champagne. While Lucknam Park Hotel is brimming with grandeur, it also manages to maintain a relaxed atmosphere, free of stuffy formalities.
Located just six miles from the city of Bath, this charming hotel makes a tasteful retreat from urban life. Tucked in the rolling landscape of the Cotswolds, the grand mansion offers a slice of luxurious escape in the Wiltshire countryside.
5. Barnsley House
Located in Stow-on-the-Wold in Gloucestershire, Barnsley House is a superb spot for unwinding while indulging in afternoon tea. This little haven offers delights for your eyes as well as your tastebuds, with stunning views of gorgeous gardens for you to enjoy while eating your tasty treats.
You can bask in the warmth and scenic surroundings of the sunny terrace or curl up by the fire in a cosy lounge; the choice is yours! For an added layer of romance, there is also the option of hosting a private afternoon tea for two in the magical Tuscan temple.
On top of the Classic Afternoon Tea offering involving finger sandwiches, sweet pastries and tea or coffee, Barnsley House also offers Pimms Cream Tea, G & Tea and Champagne Tea experiences. Whether you decide to stick to the tradition or spice it up with these iconic alternatives, you’re sure to be in for a treat.
6. Dormy House
Dormy House is a luxury boutique hotel and spa that offers afternoon tea near Broadway, the most popular village in the Cotswolds. Using top-quality regional ingredients, Dormy House serves afternoon tea in a chic on-site eatery known as The Potting Shed.
There are two afternoon tea menus for you to choose from; the Farmhouse Tea which includes hearty treats such as bacon scones and sausage rolls and the Champagne Charlie menu which is accompanied with a glass of Veuve Clicquot.
Expect classics such as fruit tea loaf and scones, along with delicious specialities such as blackcurrant and pistachio tarts and lemon cheesecake macaroons. There is also an opportunity to eat al-fresco, with the hotel offering the option of a picnic in its glorious 400-acre estate.
7. The Kitchen
This quaint little cafe is set in the thriving hilltop town of Minchinhampton in Gloucestershire. The Kitchen uses seasonal and locally sourced ingredients to ensure that you enjoy the freshest tasty delights during your afternoon tea.
The Kitchen has three afternoon tea choices: the Classic, the Traditional and the Vintage all of which are served every day from 3pm – 5pm. Celiacs are also catered for here; this trendy tea house offers plenty of gluten-free options so you don’t have to sit out on the festivities.
The Vintage Afternoon Tea serves all kinds of delicacies on fine vintage china. To make you feel extra fancy, your table will also be dressed for the occasion, donning its finest linens and seasonal flowers – a lovely touch!
8. The Painswick Hotel
Enjoy a touch of luxury in the boutique-style interiors of this 18th-century mansion in Stroud. The historic yet elegant architecture creates the perfect environment for enjoying a modern twist on the classic afternoon tea.
The Painswick Hotel adopts a pick-and-mix style when it comes to afternoon tea, allowing guests to personalise their orders. You will have the liberty of selecting sweet and savoury bites yourself, according to what takes your fancy on the day.
With Painswick Beacon only a 5-minute drive away, what better way to return to civilisation after a trying trek in the spectacular hills than with an elegant afternoon filled with delicious delicacies and refreshing drinks. You can enjoy the treats from the comfort of a sofa and roaring fire or amidst incredible views on the outdoor terrace.
If you are leaning towards dining alfresco during the Spring or Summer months, it would be best to consult the forecast before making any decisions.
9. The Tea Chest
Tuck into tasty treats while relaxing in the warm and inviting atmosphere of this little cafe. This quirky coffee shop lies just off of the river Thames in the picturesque Cotswold town of Lechlade-on-Thames in the south of the area.
The Tea Chest stocks a wide array of tea varieties including Smokey Russian Caravan, Spiced Masala Chai, Mojito Mint and much more, along with classic staples such as English Breakfast and Earl Grey. This little gem also offers the option of ordering tea by the cup or the pot, allowing guests to sample several different blends in one sitting.
This forward-thinking spot caters for all by offering an ever-changing selection of gluten-free and children’s specials. This way, no one has to make do or miss out.
Whether you decide to relax by the warm, wood-burning stove or while taking in river views from the garden, The Tea Chest is a perfect place for unwinding after a riverside walk in Lechlade.
10. Blenheim Palace
If a classy, luxurious afternoon tea is what you’re searching for, look no further than Blenheim Palace. Spanning a size larger than both Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, this is a venue flooded in grandeur.
Situated in the market town of Woodstock, this splendid palace is over 300 years old and is recognised as the birthplace of Winston Churchill as well as the former home of the 12th Duke of Marlborough. Along with these royal connections, Blenheim boasts a garden of 11,500 acres which guests are free to explore.
Afternoon tea is served in the luxurious setting of the hotel restaurant, The Orangery. Its regal backdrop makes a fitting environment for sipping champagne and sampling the luxurious sweets.
11. Tisanes Tea Rooms
Nestled in the picturesque village of Broadway, Tisane Tea Rooms occupies a 17th-century Cotswold stone building that is full of old-world charm. This tasteful little gem is open every day from 10am – 5pm and offers a casual, welcoming take on the classic afternoon tea.
The tea house allows well-behaved dogs to join and get in on the fun. The cafe also has a pretty, stonewalled garden which gives guests the option of dining alfresco, weather permitting!
Tisanes Tea Rooms is a proud member of the UK Tea Council. Naturally, the cafe offers a diverse range of loose leaf teas, with over forty different types available. As a traditional English tea shop, Tisanes offers classic flavours such as English Breakfast and Assam, along with more unusual blends such as Japanese Sencha and Apple and Cinnamon.
The landscape of the Cotswolds is full of rolling hills, deep valleys and steep escarpments, making scenic walking routes plentiful in the area. What better way to recover from a strenuous hike than by spoiling yourself with delicious delicacies amongst the beautiful surroundings?
Little havens in the rolling hills of the English Cotswolds make perfect spots for indulging in the classic British tradition of afternoon tea. The region is full of charming eateries and tea rooms, and if you are not sure where to visit, you can refer to this list of the best places for afternoon tea in the Cotswolds.
If you’re planning a holiday in the Cotswolds and are looking for somewhere to stay, why not check out our range of self-catering properties in the region.