Afternoon tea is a tradition that runs deep in the Queen's country, and no trip to London is complete without it. With a plethora of renowned tea salons, Fortnum and Mason has certainly established itself as one of the more prominent ones.
Located in the posh St. James quarter, Fortnum and Mason is one part mega-tea gift shop and one part grand tasting room. The store occupies the entire ground floor and is primarily focused on orthodox black teas and western blends. The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon is on the upper floor and can be best described as a upscale hotel banquet hall. A small army of servers cover a space that spans a few dozen tables. The tea room feels like a highly efficient operation, if not intimate one.
In terms of tea, two types are available: a standard collection of western blends, and a slightly pricier catalogue of orthodox varietals. Afternoon tea includes only once choice from either list, so this isn't the ideal place if you'd like to try a full range.
The tea is served in the F&M's signature aquamarine china. A sip uncovers tea that's of decent quality, though not entirely memorable. What was memorable though, was the mountain of finger sandwiches and pastries that accompanied the tea.
A trip to Fortnum and Mason may be worthwhile depending on expectations. Do come for the efficiently run, albeit touristy, experience of sipping tea in a grand salon. Don't come if you're seeking an intimate, in-depth tasting with a knowledgable professional. Do come for the heaps of finger food. Don't come expecting a tea that will leave a lasting impression long after your trip.
Fortnum and Mason
181 Piccadilly, St. James's
London W1A 1ER, UK