Picture this: Savoury sandwiches, fluffy scones with jam and cream, mini sweet treats that pack a tiny but mighty punch of cheer, served on a pretty three-tiered tray… getting hungry? I’m salivating just writing that. And let’s not forget the pretty pots of piping hot tea, to be enjoyed from delicate porcelain cups in a comfortable, yet elegant, setting. Welcome to afternoon tea, a much-loved British custom, and one of my favourite activities to enjoy in good company.
I recently enjoyed a day trip with a fab afternoon tea at the World of Wedgwood in nearby Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire. As you can imagine, it was decadent and delightful, but first, let’s talk about the origins of afternoon tea, one of my favourite activities.
How did afternoon tea originate?
While tea itself has been sipped and savoured since 300-ish BC China, ‘afternoon tea’ is a relatively young mid-19th-century concept. And my favourite part is that a delightful way to spend an hour or two with friends, your partner, or family members apparently originated from the hunger pangs of a 19th-century duchess.
Back in the Victorian era, dinner/supper would be served around eight o’clock pm. But, Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, found she got peckish around mid-afternoon. (Relatable.) One day, it was just too much to bear, so she asked her staff to bring her some tea and snacks. This proved to be quite satisfying and soon became the thing to do with her aristocratic friends. Fast forward a few decades and it was the fashionable four o’clock thing to do for members of society. These days, it’s an accessible social activity to enjoy in good company and/or gift idea that boosts tourism for hotels and restaurants, and makes everyone feel a bit posh.
I like to think the Duchess of Bedford would have enjoyed her afternoon tea from a gorgeous Wedgwood tea set. If you know your earthenware, you know Wedgwood means quality. So much so that Queen Charlotte was Josiah Wedgwood’s patron in the Regency (a.k.a. the Bridgerton) era. In recent times, Wedgwood has held a Royal Warrant since 1995 as Potter to Her Majesty, the late Queen.
And if you’re going to have a nice meal, why shouldn’t your crockery be lovely?
The afternoon tea experience at World of Wedgwood
My boss and her PA know how much I love tea. So it only felt natural that my work Christmas present was afternoon tea for two at World of Wedgwood. (Thank you!) At £27.50 per person*, the Wedgewood afternoon tea experience is mid-tier in price and good value for money. Five-star hotels and restaurants with afternoon tea on their menus cost far more, and small cafes and tea houses tend to offer simpler offerings in the range of £12-15 per person. There’s something for everyone’s budget.
*I know you’re not really meant to see the cost of a gift, but I had to look it up so I could write this blog.
Upon arrival at the Wedgwood Tea Room, we were warmly greeted and shown to our table in the fabulously decorated dining room. This is not your grandmother’s stuffy tea room, folks. It’s bright and airy, with much to catch the eye without being overwhelming.
Your choice of tea is included and unlimited, so you can pour from your pretty teapot into your equally pretty tea cup as many times as you like. I had the Earl Grey, the Brit had the Breakfast tea. For a little extra cost, you can have some prosecco or Champagne to add some bubbles and fizz to the day.
But I’m sure what you might be slightly more concerned about is which sweet and savoury delights are on the menu. The current offering to arrive at your table in a three-tiered-tray style includes:
- Chicken & sage mayonnaise
- Beef brisket
- Ham hock & cider apple
- Cream cheese & cucumber
- Egg & cress
- Plain and fruit scones served with strawberry jam & clotted cream
(For the record, I put the cream on first. It just makes more sense. Don’t @ me.)
- Sticky toffee cake
- Apple & cinnamon crumble tart
- Triple chocolate brownie
- Wedgwood blue macaroon
- Lemon blackberry & pistachio posset
Things to do at World of Wedgwood
An outing to the Wedgwood estate in Stoke-on-Trent is a great day trip from London or from anywhere in England. It’s a very affordable experience, in that you could actually not spend a single penny.
Yes, you read that correctly. You can visit the World of Wedgwood for free, and that’s because there is no price of admission for the very impressive V&A Wedgwood Collection, and the walking paths are also free to explore. That being said, you’ll likely end up spending some money in the shop, at the tea room, or in the outlet store. It would be hard not to! Or you might decide to book a Wedgwood Factory Tour or take a pottery class (and then have afternoon tea.)
How to get to Staffordshire and the World of Wedgwood:
- 45-50 minute drive from Derby or Manchester
- 90-minute train from London Euston
You can plan your trip here.
This was a really fantastic day out and about with the Brit and highly recommend having an afternoon tea experience at the World of Wedgwood. (It also makes a great gift!)
- Ambiance: 5/5
- Food: 5/5
- Service: 5/5 Value: 4.5/5 (slightly on the pricier side, but worth it for the experience)
- Overall: 5/5 – Highly recommended!
“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”— Henry James