Out of this World: Science Themed Tea in London

One of the top things on my list for our family trip in London was to do tea – the tea, the finger sandwiches, the pastries, the whole thing. I did a lot of research into who had the “best” tea offerings in London (and ones that wouldn’t completely blow my budget) and found a ton of different offerings. 

 

If you Google “best high tea in London”, you’ll see loads of options. The options on all of the “Top tea spots in London” articles all seemed to be the higher-end options such as the Palm Court at The Ritz or the Fortum & Mason tea salon – which all looked wonderful, but also were out of my budget for this trip. But if you look a little deeper, there are plenty of very nice and affordable options all over London. We did the science afternoon tea at the Ampersand Hotel and loved it! 

What is the difference in tea services?

Traditionally, high tea was more a full meal – something with a main dish, maybe a side dish, bread or biscuits and tea to drink, served later in the evening when people were returning home from work. Afternoon tea was more of a social event, with finger sandwiches and pastries, served a earlier in the day. Offerings at afternoon tea were smaller or bite-sized portions, meant to tide you over until dinner in the evening.

Afternoon tea was more formal and associated more with higher classes, while high tea was an evening meal for the working classes. High tea was served at a higher, or dining table while afternoon tea was usually served on a lower, coffee table type setting around couches. Some places also offer a Royal afternoon tea, which often includes a glass of champagne. 

A third variation is a cream tea, which is a lighter service of scones, clotted cream, jam, and tea, and is often less expensive than the full afternoon tea.

Looking at menus and options for multiple tea spots, most had Afternoon and Cream Tea offerings. In many places, the offerings for an Afternoon tea service include enough food to be considered a meal. Considering this, I looked into whether it is OK to split an afternoon tea service between 2 people, and most sources I found said it was frowned upon. However, you could take any leftovers home with you. Additionally, many places offered the lighter cream tea service, and some had kids’ tea as well, with smaller portions and more kid-friendly fare.

Do I need a reservation?

While some tea spots may take walk-ups, I would say yes – make a reservation. Particularly if you have your heart set on a particular location, or if you want to attend a themed tea event. The more popular spots, like Harrods, may fill up quickly during busy tourist seasons. If you have dietary restrictions, it may be best to make a reservation so you can make them aware of those when you book. You can also find menus for teas online, though keep in mind some may have seasonal options that could change before your trip.

Themed Teas

A posting on an online travel group led me into searching for themed afternoon teas, and I found an amazing, and quite imaginative variety of themes available. From tea served on a double-decker bus as you ride through London, teas themed after your favorite British television shows (Bridgerton or Downton Abbey) or favorite books (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Peter Pan and of course, Harry Potter) – there were lots of options available to meet a lot of different interests. 

While I would love to tell you that we sampled all of the various tea options available all over London, we really only had budgeted for one, so we chose the Science tea at the Ampersand Hotel in South Kensington. Located within walking distance of the London Science Museum  as well as the Natural History Museum, we spent the morning exploring dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum and headed to tea at the Ampersand in the afternoon. 

The Science Tea

Since it was just my daughter and I for tea, we ordered a full afternoon tea, as well as a kids science tea. While it was more than enough food to fill us up for multiple meals, we wanted to try items from both menus. Both came with a pot of our choice of tea, and the kids tea included a Spaceman hot chocolate as well. 

 

We started out with beakers, pitot tubes and syringes full of flavored and colorful ingredients we used to mix up some fizzy lemonade. 

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Next came the tiered plates with our food. Mine was on the traditional 3-tiered plate service – but the kids one came on a rocket ship! 

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The best part: our server added water to the dry ice under our trays for a super cool smoke/fog effect.

The Food

While it was all very good, it truly was more food than we could finish! I thought the scones were particularly good (the passion fruit curd in a squeeze tube was a nice effect) as well as the chocolate and raspberry planet, which was almost too pretty to eat. We both thought the orange Petri dish jelly was a little odd, but my dino-loving daughter’s favorite was the chocolate dinosaur she had to “dig” for through cookie crumbs. I tried to sample everything on our plates and we both left extremely stuffed.

 

Overall, I would definitely recommend the science tea for families with kids or teens. The theming was great to keep the younger ones interested and trying something new, where a more traditional setting might have been a little much(or boring) for the younger ones.

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How long to allow:

We were at the Ampersand for about an hour and a half for tea. I never felt rushed, and we could have easily lingered longer in the comfy chairs if we hadn’t had other things on our agenda for the day. 

Other Thoughts:

Science Tea London Pinterest

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