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National Cream Tea Day 2022: The best afternoon teas for home delivery

We tucked into scones, sarnies and cakes galore – it’s a hard life, we know

Siobhan Grogan
Monday 18 April 2022 16:00
<p>The tradition harks back to the Duchess of Bedford, who grew peckish between lunch and dinner</p>

The tradition harks back to the Duchess of Bedford, who grew peckish between lunch and dinner

Whether you slather on the clotted cream first or always start with jam, everyone loves afternoon tea. This year, National Cream Tea Day falls on 24 June and the Cream Tea Society are encouraging us all to enjoy a traditional tea in our own home and donate to a charity of our choice if possible.

The Society says Britain’s love of tea and scones dates back to the mid-nineteenth century, when new railways brought tourists to the West Country and tearooms and cafes served cream teas made with local ingredients.

However, the invention of the full afternoon tea we love today is credited to the Duchess of Bedford, who grew peckish between lunch and dinner and requested tea, bread and cakes be served every day at 4pm.

Afternoon tea still remains a decadent treat at top hotels and cafes, with lavish spreads available including sandwiches, pastries, scones and a glass of champagne or two. More recently, retailers have also started delivering afternoon teas straight to your front door, so you can scoff scones on your sofa.

Nearly all include cakes and scones but some even offer savoury pastries, chocolates and gourmet teas. We’d also recommend adding a bottle of bubbles if you really want to spoil someone – our choice would be the crisply fruity Laurent-Perrier’s cuvée rosé (£62, Laithwaites.co.uk).

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Just be aware most teas need to be eaten straight away after delivery so check the recipient will be home before sending. Or make life easier and simply order one for yourself instead.

How we tested

We made sure we were wearing an elasticated waist and tucked into these treat-packed hampers to find the tastiest. We considered how fresh each one was when it arrived, if it contained any unexpected surprises and if we would be thrilled to receive it as a present. We layered on the jam and cream (always in that order), brewed countless cups of tea and ploughed through a fair few sausage rolls to decide on the best. It’s a tough job, we know, but someone’s got to do it...

Best afternoon tea by post for 2022:

  • Best overall – Kettle & Crumb traditional afternoon tea for 2: £49.50, Kettle & Crumb, Kettleandcrumb.com
  • Best scones – Cutter & Squidge afternoon tea at home – UK delivery: £29.90, Cutter & Squidge, Cutterandsquidge.com
  • Best to eat whenever suits – Patisserie Valerie Spring afternoon tea: £32.95, Patisserie Valerie, Patisserie-valerie.co.uk
  • Best gift – Stein’s at Home afternoon tea posted gift voucher: £50, Rick Stein, Rickstein.com
  • Best for generous portions – Piglets Pantry Hello Spring afternoon tea for two: £35, Piglets Pantry, Pigletspantry.co.uk
  • Best for a family – M&S the Kensington teatime hamper: £40, marksandspencer.com, Marksandspencer.com
  • Best for birthdays – Biscuiteers afternoon tea birthday luxe tin: £48, Biscuiteers, Biscuiteers.com
  • Best for a couple – Darts Farm cream tea hamper: £29, Darts Farm, Dartsfarm.co.uk
  • Best luxe hamper – Harvey Nichols British afternoon tea hamper: £100, Harvey Nichols, Harveynichols.com

Kettle & Crumb traditional afternoon tea for 2

Best: Overall

Rating: 10/10

  • Serves: 1, also available for 1 and 4
  • Delivery: Free

It’s not truly afternoon tea without three full tiers of goodies, and this box of treats is the outright winner. It was the only afternoon tea delivery that included sandwiches – a risky move as it’s not easy to keep them fresh – yet they were very tasty eaten on the day they arrived. In total there were ten finger sandwiches made of classic fillings including smoked salmon and cream cheese, honey roast ham, chicken and baby spinach (our favourite) and egg mayonnaise with mustard cress.

As if that wasn’t enough, the all-recyclable boxes included two pork and caramelised onion sausage rolls, two pork and chorizo sausage rolls, two pork and stilton sausage rolls and four sundried tomato quiche slices (vegan and vegetarian teas are also available). Though portions are dainty, there’s so much food overall, we found this easily served three, if not four – although there are only two sultana scones included so you’ll be fighting over those.

There’s also clotted cream, Tiptree strawberry jam, carrot cake, lemon drizzle and chocolate brownies for a real special occasion blow-out. We especially liked the printed menu card and the fact three different teas – English breakfast, Darjeeling and Earl Grey – are included from Tea Makers of London so we could really feel like we were dining out in a fancy hotel. This would be a real treat for anyone to receive – just make sure they’re home on the day of delivery to enjoy those sandwiches at their best.

Cutter & Squidge afternoon tea at home

Best: Scones

Rating: 9/10

  • Serves: 2
  • Delivery: From£6 for nominated day delivery between 8am and 8pm

We became a dab hand at spotting a decent scone while testing these deliveries yet the four included in this box were the most buttery and delicious of all. All handmade in London by a family-run bakery, this is definitely one for a sweet-toothed recipient as there are no savoury delights included, but the cakes are seriously outstanding.

The box includes two generously sized, super-squidgy brownies and two mini lemon drizzle cakes that were nothing short of divine. There are also two pots of Rodda’s clotted cream, strawberry jam and Cutter & Squidge’s own-label English breakfast tea. Though it’s best eaten on the day of delivery, the cakes and scones will actually last up to three days, so you have got a little wriggle room.

You can also add all sorts of goodies alongside the tea itself including boxes of cookies and Prosecco and there’s a vegan, wheat-free version too. Honestly, we’re still dreaming about the scones.

Patisserie Valerie Spring afternoon tea

Best: To eat whenever suits

Rating: 8/10

  • Serves: 2, also available for 4
  • Delivery: Nominated day delivery costs £4.95

We were absolutely astounded by this afternoon tea when it arrived. It turned up packed in dry ice and completely frozen, down to the clotted cream and jam, which we thought was a genius idea. The whole thing takes three to four hours to defrost, or can be whacked straight in the freezer to save for another day if more convenient, making it a great gift that recipients can choose to enjoy whenever suits them.

It’s definitely one for a cake connoisseur and is crammed with indulgent goodies of patisserie quality including salted caramel eclairs, ruby chocolate slices, cheesecake slices, raspberry choux, caramel biscuit slices and heavenly red velvet slices decorated with hand-piped cream cheese. All come in mini versions so you won’t be too overwhelmed but we still struggled to get even close to finishing, so it’s a good idea to defrost a few at a time for a more manageable treat.

We especially loved the fact the tea came with both sultana and plain scones and that you can add coffee – and even balloons – for an extra cost if preferred. A real feast for the money.

Stein’s at Home afternoon tea posted gift voucher

Best: Gift

Rating: 9/10

  • Serves: 2 - 3
  • Delivery: £2.90

During the first lockdown, Rick Stein launched Stein’s at Home to deliver some of the celebrity chef’s recipes nationwide. Initially offering three course meal boxes to cook at home, the range now includes luxury breakfasts, cheese and charcuterie boxes and generous afternoon teas which serve at least two to three people (if you don’t mind sharing scones).

These change seasonally including special teas for Mother’s Day and Easter, but a voucher allows the recipient to choose whichever one takes their fancy as it’s valid for two years from purchase. All are created by Stein’s chefs in Padstow and, as you might expect, savoury treats were the real stand-out stars in the tea we tested including classic flaky sausage roll, feta and spinach quiche and – what else? – two decently sized Cornish pasties.

Once you’ve ploughed through all those, there are four cakes to choose from including orange, rhubarb and strawberry, Dundee and a rich sticky chocolate cake, and we found every one easily served two people. The scones were among the best we tested too, slightly warmed in the oven then covered with cream first – the Cornish way as recommended by Rick on the accompanying menu. It gets extra points for including Yorkshire Tea bags too, which was by far the best tea we sampled in all our taste tests.

Piglets Pantry Hello Spring afternoon tea for two

Best: For generous portions

Rating: 8/10

  • Serves: 2, also available for 1
  • Delivery: £5.95

The Duchess of Bedford might have fancied tucking into tea between meals but you’ll want to skip lunch if you have this turning up at your door. The West Sussex food producer Piglets Pantry is renowned for its delicious pies and there’s no skimping on savoury delicacies in this cheery pink box.

Each delivery serves two but we thought it could easily be shared between four and included a huge sausage roll, a stand-out lamb kofta roll, two spinach, potato and feta quiches and two enormous chipotle and sea salt scotch eggs. A vegetarian and vegan version is also available.

There are also four ample cakes – all lavishly iced – for that essential sweet fix including a pink prosecco mini loaf, an orange and turmeric mini loaf and two carrot cakes, though we would’ve loved one of these to be a fourth flavour instead. Two buttermilk scones round off the banquet and we loved the fact these came with strawberry champagne jam, a nice change from the bog-standard flavour in every other box.

A charming children’s version – featuring sausage rolls, a cupcake and scone, raisins and biscuits for decorating – is also available for a bargain price (£12, Pigletspantry.co.uk).

M&S the Kensington teatime hamper

Best: For a family

Rating: 7/10

  • Serves: 4
  • Delivery: £4.99 for nominated day delivery

It’s not easy sending a foodie gift from afar to a whole family but this hamper really hit the spot in our house. There’s plenty inside so everyone will find something they fancy among the pack of four scones, tin of Scottish shortbread, packet of Viennese milk chocolate dipped fingers and pack of ten delicious Swiss chocolate truffles. And the good news is that some items have much longer use by dates on than usual afternoon tea deliveries, so it won’t all need to be eaten the moment it arrives.

There’s also the obligatory tin of M&S Gold label tea and a generously-sized jar of strawberry jam but the Victoria sandwich cake got the biggest thumbs up with our junior testers. We also loved the smart grey wicker hamper with faux-leather handle and strap it all came in, perfect for using afterwards for storage around the house. Be aware there’s no clotted cream included if you want the full cream tea extravaganza though.

If you’d rather spend less but still want to treat a whole family, we also loved the fantastically priced M&S ultimate afternoon tea selection (£20, Marksandspencer.com) which includes biscuits, Bakewell tarts, brownies, tea and coffee and that all-important Victoria sponge.

Biscuiteers afternoon tea birthday luxe tin

Best: For a birthday

Rating: 7/10

  • Serves: Not specified
  • Delivery: £2.99 - £3.99 for Royal Mail tracked delivery

Okay we know this isn’t strictly an afternoon tea but it’s a delightful take on the tradition we would love to receive. This beautiful Happy Birthday tin is chock-full of afternoon tea-themed biscuits hand iced by celebrated biscuit makers, Biscuiteers. This includes biscuits in the shape of teapots, colourful macarons, tartlets and even bottles of prosecco in gorgeous pastel shades.

All are utterly moreish gingerbread and even better, have a shelf life of at least three months making them perfect to send by post. You can even add a gift message at checkout. If you’re not sending for a birthday, tins are also available for all sorts of other occasions including to celebrate a new home or baby or to say thank you or congratulations. We’ll take one of each please.

Darts Farm cream tea hamper

Best: For a couple

Rating: 8/10

  • Serves: 2+
  • Delivery: £7.95 for standard delivery

If you’re going to order a cream tea, you might as well go straight to the people who do them best. Darts Farm is an award-winning farm shop in Devon, known for stocking the best local artisan food suppliers.

Though there are no savoury additions or lavish cakes in this hamper, the basics are all there for a truly knockout cream tea. They include four divine hand-baked scones from family-owned Devon bakery Ryders, a pot of award-winning Waterhouse Fayre strawberry jam and a generous tub of clotted cream from independent family-run dairy Sutton Lucy. There’s also a box of Brew tea and two bottles of refreshing Luscombe Sicilian lemonade made in South Devon, which made a lovely unusual addition to the box.

We also liked the included leaflet telling us a little more about each producer. Bear in mind, the price is for a cardboard box but you can pay extra to send the goodies in a cloth bag or wicker hamper instead.

Harvey Nichols British afternoon tea hamper

Best: Luxe hamper

Rating: 8/10

  • Serves: Not specified
  • Delivery: Free

When jam and cream just won’t cut it, this swish black wicker hamper from Harvey Nichols goes all out to impress. There’s not a scone in sight but we don’t think you’ll miss them once you start digging into the luxury own-branded treats included in this lovely gift.

Alongside a jar of marmalade and the obligatory jam, there’s also a packet of creamy rhubarb fudge, shortbread biscuits, Marc de Champagne milk chocolate truffles and moreish Harvey Nichols really chocolatey biscuits in a smart copper tin. Tea addicts will be thrilled by the three boxes of teabags – afternoon tea, earl grey and assam – but we think receiving a hamper like this is a cause for even more celebration. Luckily, there’s also a full-size bottle of Harvey Nichols English sparkling Brut NV packed full of citrus aromas and green apple flavours to toast this far-from-traditional tea.

The verdict: Afternoon tea by post

If you want the full afternoon tea experience, the Kettle & Crumb traditional afternoon tea for two cannot be beaten for its tasty range of sandwiches, tasty cakes and thoughtful extras like a choice of tea bags. If you just want to treat someone with a sweet tooth to an old-fashioned cream tea with quality ingredients, the Cutter & Squidge afternoon tea at home is an absolute delight.

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