Don't clink your cup while stirring, make sure the teapot spout faces the hostess, and lose the raised pinkie. Those are just three rules of etiquette (there are more) that afternoon tea drinkers will learn at London's Langham Hotel, this year's winner of the prestigious UK Tea Guild award, an honor based on a rigorous 125-pound score card.
The Brits, true to stereotype, consume more tea per capita than anywhere in the world. And their tea rooms take their mission of serving afternoon tea seriously. Here are two of my favorites:
The Langham. This five-star hotel across from the BBC ought to have it down. They've been serving high tea since 1865 when the hotel was christened by none other than the Prince of Wales. They claim it's where this oh-so-British tradition was born. Still held today in the posh Palm Court, the Langham's afternoon tea remains quite the fete with complimentary champagne, cakes inspired by famous jewels (Delices de Cartier, anyone?), hibiscus and rose tea and a resident pianist tickling the ivories while guests nibble away on scones and clotted cream.
The Langham recently underwent a $125 million renovation and is about to open Europe's first Chuan Spa, an Old School concept based on Traditional Chinese Medicine that harmonizes your Wu Xing element. 1c Portland Place, Regent Street, London, GB W1B 1JA, (44) 20 7636 1000
Brown's Hotel. This five-star icon in Mayfair is London's oldest hotel and if you're an anglophile, this is the place to satisfy every one of your cherished fantasies -- from British authors to high tea.
Not only was it started by the butler of one of Britain's most well-known poets (James Brown, butler to Lord Byron, opened the doors to this London landmark in 1837, the same year Queen Victoria took the throne), but it's where Rudyard Kipling wrote The Jungle Book, where Agatha Christie set her novel, At Bertram's Hotel, and where A.A. Milne landed after selling his home in Chelsea.
The Brown's Tea Room snagged the Tea Guild's Best of London Afternoon Tea award in 2009. It has fireplaces (yes, that's plural), a baby grand and 17 varieties of teas, including Brown's owns blend, served up on silver trays with clotted cream, homemade jams, crustless sandwiches and buttery scones. 33 Albemarle Street, Mayfair, London, 800.223.6800.