A ‘nice cup of tea’ along with a delicious treat or two is the answer to almost anything. Celebrating a special birthday? Planning a relaxed catch up with an old friend… maybe arranging a romantic outing? Fed up of the weather and need cheering up? Afternoon tea adds a sense of occasion to any occasion. It’s the perfect pick-me-up. No wonder it’s also known as high tea!
The afternoon tea tradition started as a whimsical idea of Anna, 7th Duchess of Bedford, a friend of Queen Victoria back in the 19th century but this typically British custom is still going strong. The classic afternoon tea ceremony usually involves sipping tea from bone china cups, with dainty sandwiches, fresh scones or cakes served up on pretty plates with white linen napkins.
In our quest to find the best places in Yorkshire for afternoon tea (hard work, but someone had to do it!) we found some 5-star afternoon tea venues and a couple of places offering unusual twists on the tradition…
Starting in the north, we recommend Coghlans at Barningham’s for a totally indulgent classical afternoon tea experience, including all the usual ingredients and a few delicious extras. Coghlans is close to the historical market town of Richmond, on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, which has a lovely selection of gift shops, galleries, a cobbled market square and a Norman castle. Coghlans Classical Afternoon Tea is £42 for two people.
In laid-back Leeds, we had a super-relaxing late afternoon tea at the Lazy Lounge, one of the city’s premier gin bars. Substituting tea for a china teapot of heavenly Gin Punch, served in teacups, and a small array of cakes and sandwiches, we sank into one of their Chesterfield sofas and just soaked up the quirky atmosphere. The punch combines Hendricks gin with Sauvignon Blanc, elderflower syrup and tonic, fresh strawberries, cucumber and mint. This is a great option for a get-together with a group of 4 or more friends but make the most of the shops before you go… you might find the afternoon stretches into the evening! Lazy Lounge serve their Afternoon Tea with Gin Punch for 2 to 4 people at £28.
Head to the coast, to Yorkshire’s first single malt whisky distillery. In the sleepy coastal village of Hunmanby, just a short walk from the wonderful beach of Filey bay, you can take afternoon tea in the unusual setting of the Spirit of Yorkshire whisky distillery. The Pot Still café here is beautifully lit and designed with large windows looking out on the enormous, shiny copper stills of the distillery, below. It’s a quirky setting for a fine Yorkshire afternoon tea of sandwiches, freshly baked scones and cakes with your favourite tea or coffee. It makes an ideal reward after an exhilarating walk along the beach, or maybe above the cliffs at the nearby Bempton RSPB bird sanctuary. Afternoon Tea at the Spirit of Yorkshire Distillery is £18 per person.
Afternoon tea in a vineyard (we think it’s a great combination too!) Yorkshire Heart is an award-winning wine producer of white, red and rosé wines. An afternoon tea experience here starts with a taste of their award-winning sparkling wine, and a talk by the enthusiastic owners on the story behind Yorkshire Heart and their wine making process. You then get to sample a selection of their wines, along with light refreshments, before settling down into the warm atmosphere and stunning setting of their vineyard visitor centre for afternoon tea. The vineyard is based off the A59 between York and Knaresbrough, another intriguing and unique Yorkshire town, and around 15 minutes’ drive from York. A Tour of the Yorkshire Heart Vineyard followed by Afternoon Tea is £30 per person.
An afternoon tea tour in Harrogate If you’re familiar with the Victorian spa town of Harrogate you’re probably aware that tea has been a key social event in the town’s history and character. If you haven’t visited yet you’re in for a treat… in fact, make that three treats! The Afternoon Tea Tour, hosted by Kay Atkinson and her company Yorkshire Appetite, takes you to some interesting parts of the town’s social history, and – along the way – you enjoy your afternoon tea over three different locations, finishing in the lovely historic St George hotel. From here you may well be tempted to retrace your steps through the town to walk through the gardens, shop in some of the independent shops, see what’s on at the Exhibition Centre or maybe plan to visit the stunning Victorian Turkish baths before you start. An Afternoon Tea Tour of Harrogate for two people costs £49.
Other afternoon tea venues worth mentioning…
We may have got carried away describing our favourites, but here are a couple of other unusual places to indulge in afternoon tea in Yorkshire. Enjoy afternoon tea in the regal setting of the Countess of York – a beautifully restored railway carriage at the Railway Museum in York, this is a special and unique place to enjoy afternoon tea. Another hotel that offers a memorable afternoon tea is Middlethorpe Hall, not far from York racecourse, where you could combine a visit to their spa and swimming pool with afternoon tea in a large historic drawing room overlooking the attractive gardens.