It's no secret that the Brits have developed an expert affinity for the art of afternoon tea. In Birmingham particularly, a host of top level restaurants and cafés—from the laid-back and casual to the upmarket and extravagant—have complemented their highly rated spicy main courses (Brum's the capital of curry lovers, after all) with all sorts of traditional and more modern takes on the nationally infamous brew.
A bit of history lesson before you get caffeinated: although a quintessential British tradition, enjoying an afternoon tea is actually a relatively new custom around these parts. According to the history books, seventh Duchess of Bedford, Anna, introduced the tradition back in 1840. Feeling the hunger pangs around 4pm, way before her dinner time, she'd ask her servants to brings her some tea with bread and butter to hold her over until her next meal. She eventually invited friends and family to join her.
So, whether you want to go traditional after a day spent perusing the city's top museums or prefer a sweet pick-me-up following countless hours shopping around town, these locales will let you have your miniature cake... and eat it, too.
Best afternoon tea in Birmingham
Why go? For stunning pastry delights from chef Olivier Briault.
Since his appointment in 2015, acclaimed pastry chef turned head chef Olivier Briault has turned The Edgbaston into a must-visit destination for afternoon tea. From the opening amuse bouche—a tasty morsel presented in a sea of misty liquid nitrogen—it’s clear he’s offering an experience a cut above your usual fare. Passionfruit caviar-topped macarons and delicate Paris Brest continue the magic through ’til the last crumbs.
Why go? Afternoon tea? So passé. Now it’s time to welcome High Chai.
At Indian ‘streatery’ Zindiya, the name of the game is creating an authentic, immersive experience. With their High Chai, that means taking the format of a British afternoon tea and reimagining it with Indian flavours and sweet, moreish masala chai. Samosas, paneer tikka pieces and Bombay sandwiches nuzzle up to spiced scones and a twist on a carrot cake, for a cross-continental fusion that’s all kinds of delicious.
Why go? Push the boat out in the opulent surrounds of a restored Georgian building.
A mere moment’s walk away from Edgbaston’s beautiful Botanical Gardens, Three Church Road is the ideal spot to continue a day of serene indulgence. In the oh-so-tasteful surrounds of the restored Georgian interiors (all dark woods and muted colours), you can dig into a tasty, traditional spread of finger sandwiches, scones and the like. And it’d be rude not to top it all off with a glass of bubbly, wouldn’t it? Luckily, that’ll only set you back an additional fiver.
Why go? Too much testosterone for your average tea? Why not try a special Gent’s version.
We’re firm believers that men, women and everyone in between should be free to sample the delightful wares of an afternoon spread, but we understand that dainty sarnies might not be to everyone’s tastes. So at the 1565 restaurant, part of the Park Regis hotel, they’ve beefed things up a bit with a special Gent’s Afternoon Tea. In place of cucumber sandwiches, you’ve got steak and chicken sliders, while the booze of choice is a dark rum cocktail.
Why go? For an easygoing atmosphere, with a few tasty curveballs.
Hotel chain Malmaison has got the chic-on-a-budget thing nailed. It should come as no surprise, then, that its afternoon tea follows suits. For under twenty quid, you’ll get the full shebang (minus booze)—and they don’t shirk on quantity or quality, either. The savoury options (bagels, sliders, etc.) get the thumbs up, but it’s their cake selection that really brings things home. Featuring dinky brownies, Bakewell tarts and even a fruit shake, it’s lip-smackingly good.
Why go? Quaint and traditional is the order of the day at this British institution.
If there’s a better match than quintessentially English design brand Laura Ashley and the quintessentially English pastime of taking afternoon tea, then we’ll eat our delicate, floral-printed hat. The most ridiculous thing here is that it took until 2017 for our Laura to open a tea shop, but last year she (well, they) did in Solihull. Since then it’s become a go-to spot for classy, treating (that’s treat eating, obv); the only issue is whether to Instagram the food or the walls first.
Why go? Afternoon tea with an Indian twist, at this award-winning eatery.
What happens when one of Birmingham’s best Indian restaurants decides to get in on the afternoon tea action? One of the most delicious new slants on a classic in a while, that’s what. Bringing the flavours of India and styling them with the delicate attention to detail you’d expect from a high tea, Praza’s offering is refined but with an almighty flavour punch—aka the best of both worlds. Featuring a selection of authentic Indian street food favourites, alongside sweet treats like the ever-popular galub jamun, it’s a whole new—and brilliant—dining experience.
Why go? Chocolate- overs of the world, rejoice: we have found your mecca.
If you’re a dark chocolate fan, then you’ll know Bournville as the dark red bar that’s always tempting you from the fridge. If you live in Birmingham, however, you’ll know Bournville as a Southerly bit of the city. It’s here that Cadbury makes the chocco, and it’s here that you can head to Cadbury World and sample it all via the ever-delicious medium of afternoon tea. This one’s all chocolate err’thang. And frankly, we couldn’t be happier about that.
Ready to explore the city's cultural side?
From its attractions to its art galleries, theatres and libraries, Birmingham has plenty for culture vultures to sink their teeth and talons into. However, we think it's the Birmingham museums that are perhaps its best selling point when it comes to a spot of culture. Find all the best institutions with our must-do guide.