Where to find the best afternoon tea in Essex
By Helen Wright
Cake? GOOD. Jam? GOOD. Sandwiches? GOOD! If you’re planning on booking an afternoon tea in Essex, Joey Tribbiani would approve! We’re big fans of the beautiful county of Essex (where I am from originally) and already have this popular post highlighting all there is to do during a day out there. We also discovered that if there’s one thing our friends in Essex do well, it’s a high tea! For a unique gift or a special treat, one of these decadent afternoon teas in Essex will certainly fit the bill!
10 of the best afternoon teas in Essex
We searched high and low for the tastiest tarts, the juiciest jam and the most scrumptious scones and found some smaller businesses serving up tea just as delicious as the bigger hotels and restaurants. After a good scoff, we picked our favourite 10 tea rooms for an afternoon treat.
1. Mrs Salisbury’s, Maldon
Mrs Salisbury’s is a super cute tea room in Maldon, Essex and is currently voted the best afternoon tea in Essex on TripAdvisor, so we thought it was a good place to start! Opened by *the* Mrs Salisbury and her family in 2014, the tea room is a family-operated independent business, much loved by locals. As well as breakfast, lunch & afternoon tea, they also host bistro evenings and have a mobile food truck – which was VERY popular during Covid!
What’s for tea: The Signature Afternoon Tea includes: Fresh and filling finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and locally-grown Essex jam, cakes and surprise sweet treats. Unlimited tea and coffee. House-blended cocktails and Fizz are available on-request for an additional fee.
How much: £19.95 per person
Extras: If you’re already too sweet for all that sugar, Mrs Salisbury’s also serves a Savoury Tea. Sandwiches, cheese and onion scones, charcuterie cheese and biscuits, olives, pork pie and pickles.
How much: £20.95 per person
2. The Parlour Tea Room, Leigh-on-Sea
This fancy, vintage tea room is hidden away in a furniture shop but serves an exquisite spread, including a specialist tea menu. Better still, you can bring your own Champagne! There are also special events, including Jazz Sundays (with live music), a Chronicles of Narnia Menu and a Breakfast at Tiffany’s themed event. After tea, browse the curious selection of furniture, mirrors and gifts.
What’s for tea: Along with a huge specialist tea and coffee menu, you can expect vintage plates stacked with warm sultana scones, classic finger sandwiches, clotted cream and fresh jam. Artistic cakes and fancies follow, if you still have room.
How much? £30 per person (£35 on special event days)
3. Afternoon tea at Prested Hall, Colchester
Prested Hall is a beautiful 15th century manor house in north Essex, perched next to a lake. Famous for hosting weddings and events, this boutique hotel is the perfect location for a relaxing spa day or a sweet afternoon tea in Essex. The great thing about the afternoon tea here is that they offer a children’s portion at a lower price, making it ideal for families. Plus, children will love exploring the lush grounds that surround the hotel.
What’s for tea: The Prested Hall afternoon tea has a seasonal theme, using ingredients that grow locally at the time of year. Highlights from the festive menu included cranberry, orange and mixed-fruit scones, home made cakes and a classic sandwich selection. There is also a (slightly sexist?) ‘Gentleman’s Tea’, which is the savoury option. You can choose to sit in the elegant dining room or outside in the gardens (weather dependent).
How much: £21 per person for the standard afternoon tea. Champagne afternoon tea, £28. Children, £10.
Related post: Round up of the best Christmas markets in Essex
4. Mulberry House, Ongar.
This quaint hotel is in the small, but pretty town of Ongar, less than 10 minutes from the M11 motorway. Set in 22 acres of beautiful grounds in the heart of the Essex countryside, the Jubilee restaurant at Mulberry House overlooks a beautiful lake or in the summer months you can opt to dine outdoors on the terrace and take in the views with your tea.
What’s for tea: From 2:30pm until 5:00pm the hotel has an excellently-priced afternoon tea service, with a nice choice of classic tea-time treats including homemade cocktail finger sandwiches and daily-baked scones served with Tiptree Jam and Cornish clotted cream. There are three options available for afternoon tea in Essex at Mulberry House. The High Tea and Royal High Tea include the additional platter of dainty cakes and biscuits and the Royal tea includes a glass of sparkling Prosecco. For those who don’t drink tea, hot chocolate and soft drink options are available. What I liked about this menu is that if you wanted any additional scones, you can add them on for £1 each – if you think you can fit them all in, that is!
How much: Traditional High Tea: £17.95, Simple Cream Tea: £8.95, Children High Tea: £7.95 and Royal High Tea with Prosecco: £21.95
5. Epping Ongar Railway, Creamy Steamy Tea
For something a bit different, how about a throwback afternoon tea from a different era, coupled with a trip on a vintage steam train through the Essex countryside? Sold as a mini tour package, a classic Routemaster bus will take you on a tour through Epping Forest to North Weald. From there, you can take a seat in your reserved carriage and travel in style by historic steam train to Ongar. Then, there is a guided walking tour that will introduce you to the town’s historic sites, before sitting down to a full English tea in the local pub. The whole package makes a great gift and is a lovely experience for all ages.
What’s for tea: A simple serving of scones, cakes and sandwiches with the option of tea, coffee and soft drinks.
How much: The entire tour (which takes 4.5 hours), including tea, vintage bus and steam train ride costs £49.99 per person. Seasonal dates only. Alcoholic drinks can purchased separately.
Related post: The Epping Ongar Railway also have Halloween and Christmas train events
Our favourite afternoon teas in Essex
6. Cardamon Tea Lounge and Shop, Colchester
This extremely cute little teashop and bakery in Colchester serves one of the loveliest afternoon teas in Essex. Such a lot of thought and artistry goes into their beautifully decorated, homemade cakes, that children and adults are equally amazed by the creations.
What’s for tea: This place really does it differently with different variations on the sandwich/cake/scone theme every time you visit. Their most popular tea is an Alice In Wonderland themed afternoon tea, but they do different events throughout the year, including Harry Potter, Mary Poppins and Sherlock Holmes. A great place for a small group, birthday gathering or special occasion but also just to pop in on a Tuesday for one of their soft and creamy cakes. During Covid, even their takeaway boxes were a hit!
How much: Alice in Wonderland themed afternoon tea, £15 per person. Themed afternoon teas (Harry Potter / Mary Poppins) include a glass of bubbles, £20 per person. Children’s tea: £6.50
7. Tiptree Jam Tearooms, Tiptree – Afternoon Tea in Essex
You will recognise the famous Wilkin & Sons Tiptree logo from every supermarket in the UK, and I have even started seeing Tiptree Jam popping up across the pond in the USA too! The fruit for Tiptree Jams is locally grown in Essex (you may have seen other tea rooms on this list mention the much-loved brand) and you can visit many of their farm locations and tea rooms across the county. Their story began in the early 1700s with Trewlands, the farm that was later to become the main site for jam-making in the Essex. Most famous is their Little Scarlet jam; a preserve made from exclusive, tiny, strawberries and so sought after, even the Queen requests it! Today they are a modern brand with a priceless reputation and their jam is the only way in Essex…
Check out this fab Bon Appetit feature about Little Scarlet.
What’s for tea: The simple Tiptree cream tea includes two homemade fruit scones with the famous Tiptree Little Scarlet Strawberry Preserve and Rodda’s Classic Cornish Clotted Cream. Served with your choice of tea or filter coffee. The larger, afternoon tea is a classic English Afternoon Tea in Essex served on a three tier cake stand with two freshly made sandwiches of your choice, homemade fruit scones, Tiptree Little Scarlet Strawberry preserve and clotted cream. A selection of miniature individual patisserie items decorate the platter, with a choice of tea or coffee. The ‘Sparkling’ option, of course, comes with a glass of fizz each.
How much: Tiptree Cream Tea, £6.95 per person; Afternoon tea for two, £30; Sparkling Tea for two, £38. You can also purchase cute gift vouchers, which make lovely gifts.
Related post: The Tiptree Farm is one of our top places to visit in Essex
8. Marygreen Manor, Brentwood
This place has quite the history! Parts of the incredible Tudor house remain standing from 1580 and the location of Marygreen Manor has seen a lot of drama over the years. The manor was once owned by the Wright Family, who emigrated to the USA and their descendants, Wilbur and Orvill Wright, became the famous pioneers of air flight. Nowadays, times are more relaxed at Marygreen Manor. Now a hotel, guests can enjoy the celebrated Tudor features, as well as a delicious cream tea in the beautiful Victorian conservatory.
What’s for tea: Classic Afternoon Tea is served, including finger sandwiches, scones and jam, cupcakes and sumptuous chocolate éclairs to choose from. The Celebration Tea is a slight upgrade, with canapés instead of sandwiches, an assortment of petit fours and a glass of Prosecco.
How much: Afternoon tea £17.50 (or £26.50 with Champagne). Celebration tea £29.50
9. Sara’s Tea Garden, Southend
This authentic, local café with a charming garden offers a laid-back, easy-going afternoon tea in Essex with beautiful home-baked scones, cakes and finger foods. A perfect spot for a rest after a day by the coast and better still, dogs can come too, with their own special treat menu! We love the old-school 60s blue teapot and cups.
What’s for tea: Homemade scones with jam and cream, mini cakes, breads, sausage rolls and sandwiches. A choice of tea and coffee.
How much: A reasonably-priced £19.95. Cakes and snacks can also be purchased separately if you don’t feel like scoffing the whole tea.
10. Le Bouchon, Maldon
This luxury afternoon offers something a bit different with some interesting and original flavours, rather than the same old, traditional fillings.
What’s for tea: Sandwiches include coronation chicken, micro coriander on pitta, crayfish cocktail wrap and egg with greek yoghurt. Pick from a range of mini savouries, including truffle, wild mushroom, tarragon arancini and ham hock terrine with pineapple relish. Of course, jam and scones are offered, along with mini desserts; apple crumble, salted caramel bites and Mango and coconut frangipane with pineapple Chantilly. Who said afternoon tea had to be boring, eh?
How much: Luxury Afternoon Tea, £22.95 Friday – Sunday only. Add a glass of Prosecco for £6.95 or a glass of Champagne for £8.95
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