The best afternoon teas in Yorkshire
PUBLISHED: 09:00 16 February 2015 | UPDATED: 16:04 10 September 2019
We set Tony Greenway the enviable task of seeking out the finest tea experiences in Yorkshire and he hasn’t let us down
Apparently, it was Anna Maria Russell, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, who started the elegant ritual of afternoon tea, writes Tony Greenway. As Anna lived in the mid-1800s, she had nothing to do all day but read romantic poetry, fall into a faint and, when she had woken up, take a turn around the room and then play the harpsichord.
Understandably bored — and starving around 3pm — the duchess asked for tea, cakes and sandwiches to tide her over until the dinner gong; a sensible suggestion which developed into a British institution. In fact, today, the only thing more British than afternoon tea would be Giles Brandreth wearing a Union Jack waistcoat and singing Rule Britannia while cutting the crusts off some cucumber sandwiches.
Afternoon tea is, however, a serious business, and there is some etiquette to be observed according to the rather fabulous website afternoontea.co.uk. This includes remembering to stir your tea correctly by placing the spoon in the cup at the 6 o'clock position and then folding it towards the 12 o'clock position (while avoiding any clinking against the sides). Also, don't raise your little finger when you drink as this is nothing more than an affectation; although, as for milk or tea in first, the website has no definitive answer.
Middlethorpe Hall in York is a serious contender for favourite afternoon tea in Yorkshire. But there are some others that are rather fine, too:
Bettys Cafe Tearoom, Harrogate, York, Ilkley, Northallerton
Sorry to be obvious, but this is Yorkshire, so afternoon tea at Bettys is what you do, as the queues outside can testify. Bettys says it's been perfecting its afternoon tea for 95 years, so no wonder it's good at it. Sandwich selections include roast Yorkshire ham and mustard, prawn Marie Rose and oak roast salmon; plus there are sultana scones with strawberry preserve and clotted cream, and miniature cakes. The champagne afternoon tea comes with a 125ml glass of either Hebrart Premier Cru or Moutard Rose Prestige.
Black Swan, Helmsley
The award-winning Black Swan really knows its tea. But don't take my word for it. Nip into its elegant tea rooms — voted the Tearoom of Excellence in 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013 — to sample a pot for yourself (it's also served in the lounge and the Cygnet Bar). Delights in store include dainty finger sandwiches with fruit scones — and the menu changes seasonally to make the best use of fresh, local produce.
Rudding Park, Harrogate
Stately Rudding Park's sample afternoon tea menu includes a selection of open and closed sandwiches, cakes (we're talking traditional chocolate eclairs, scones, pistachio macaroons, red berry tart with mango mousse), a homemade scone (with clotted cream and strawberry jam, natch) — and you can upgrade for a glass of champagne. Children's afternoon teas are also available.
Cedar Court Grand, York
This is Yorkshire's only five-star hotel, so you'd expect it to have a fine afternoon tea menu. And so it does, with finger sandwiches and a selection of scones and cake (including rhubarb and custard cone and dark chocolate delice). There's a Sparkling Afternoon Tea with Prosecco; Champagne Afternoon Tea (with — yes! — Ruinart NV) or even Hendricks Gin and Tonic afternoon tea. The Children's Afternoon Tea includes jelly and gingerbread persons. Count me in.
The Talbot, Malton
Now run by celeb chef James Martin (he's a Malton boy, you know), the Talbot's afternoon tea includes finger sandwiches and pastries, raisin scones with clotted cream, plus a choice of almost 20 teas from around the world.
Devonshire Arms, Bolton Abbey
This, of course, is one of the best-known culinary spots in the whole of Yorkshire, thanks to its Michelin-starred Burlington Restaurant. If you're up for a spot of post-noon tiffin (and we don't mean that in a Carry On movie way), the Devonshire Arms afternoon tea menu includes full afternoon tea, sweet afternoon tea, Wharfedale tea and cream tea.
Middleton Post Office Tea Parlour
A former Yorkshire Life Food and Drink winner, this quaint vintage tea room is a must visit when you're in Pickering. There's a standard Afternoon Tea available and the special Savoury Middleton Medley.
The Spiced Pear, Hepworth
The 1940's tea room serves a classic afternoon tea and a unique Gentlemen's Afternoon Tea which includes: Bread and Dripping, Yorkshire Pudding and Roast Beef, Horseradish, Pork Pie and Yorkshire Piccalilli, Scotch Egg & Balsamic Onions
Goldsborough Hall, Harrogate
A right royal location that was home to Princess Mary, aka the Queen's aunt, in the 1920s. Today you can test its afternoon tea credentials in Princess Mary's drawing room, the Jacobean Library and/or — if the Yorkshire weather is behaving itself — on the terrace. The Winter Afternoon Tea menu I'm looking at includes the chef's selection of finger sandwiches, scones, brioche bread and butter pudding, plus rhubarb and ginger jelly, and spiced apple and walnut cake. Ooh - and it can be served with champagne, if you so desire.
Raithwaite Hall, Whitby
Raithwaite Hall's afternoon tea menu includes a selection of homemade pastries and traditional cakes including — and I'm salivating as I write this — eclairs with star anise crème. A champagne afternoon tea and a children's afternoon tea, plus a good ol' cream tea, is also available.
Middlethorpe Hall, York
This gorgeous William and Mary country house offers one the best fine dining experiences in Yorkshire so it stands to reason that the afternoon teas here are going to be out of this world, too. Tea is served (well, we say 'served' — at Middlethorpe it becomes more of a ceremony, really) in the 18th century drawing room, in front of the fireplace or facing the south lawn. Sheer class.
Lewis and Cooper, Northallerton
Teas include Yorkshire Gold, fresh leaf teas, green tea, Pure Assam, Lapsang Souchong, China Rose, Earl Grey; and afternoon tea is served on a china two-tier stand. Try the Lewis & Cooper strawberry jam, while you're about it. It's heavenly.
Elizabeth Botham's Tea Rooms, Pickering
Well known for its Resolution Tea, named after Captain Cook's famous boat, this is a shipshape afternoon cuppa, served with Botham goodies on a traditional stand.