by Emeric Harney December 10, 2021 10 min read 4 Comments
Somehow, even if you’ve never been to our fourth Harney Holiday Desteanation, London, you probably feel like you have. Between London being the focus of literature, movies, world events and of course the royal family, London has touched our lives in one way or another. Their love of tea, of course, makes the capital of the United Kingdom even more near and dear to our hearts!
My parents, Brigitte and Mike Harney, just came back from a whirlwind tour. They can attest London is very vibrant. Culture is returning, many restaurants are very busy making great-tasting food and are full of charming people. They saw a play at The Globe Theater, which we help support, as well as attending an opera with the English National Opera.
Established more than two millennia ago, this endlessly fascinating city of nine million has a diverse culture, with more than 300 languages spoken. Known for many things, including being one of the world’s major financial centers, London is a city of ancient landmarks and modern architecture. It comes as no surprise that it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world, with well-known landmarks such as Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Piccadilly Circus (not really a circus; think more NYC’s Times Square and you’ll be much closer), Big Ben, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square and so much more...the list goes on and on. London is home to four World Heritage Sites: the Tower of London, the Palace of Westminster, Kew Gardens and the historic settlement in Greenwich. Harney teas are sold at both the Tower and Kew Gardens.
While in London, you can shop at world-famous stores like Selfridges and Harrods, hit Upper Street for more than a mile of English pubs and restaurants, sightsee to your heart’s content, hit the West End for fabulous theater, visit several world-famous museums and so much more. Make sure you make time for Fortnum & Mason, a famous department store and the Queen’s grocer. Check out their hamper gift sets for which they are well known, and book afternoon or high tea in the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon, named in honor of Her Majesty’s visit in 2012 when she formally opened the room in the company of their Royal Highnesses the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge. On his recent trip, Mike had lunch downstairs at 45 Jermyn Street withThe Jane Pettigrew. Jane has been the most important tea person in London for decades.
Also on your London visit, make sure you’re on the lookout for red foxes. That’s right, roughly 10,000 red foxes inhabit London where, for the most part, they and Londoners live together in harmony. For the most part.
Blending London-inspired teas is as easy as buttering a scone, since the British are legendary for their love of tea. Our HRP teas, however, are the only line we created that is specifically supporting a British institution, Historic Royal Palaces. This independent charity looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace and Hillsborough Castle. The HRP line has a bit of a complicated origin story. Our founder and my grandfather, John Harney, was asked if he wanted the licensing rights to market teas for these historic British palaces owned by the Royal family (but not for residential use). Papa John was of Irish descent, but despite that he could not resist helping the Royal family. So we decided to do the tea in a new, octagon-shaped tin with jewel-like colors (or should we say “colours”), a nod to the fact that the royal jewels are kept in the Tower of London. Subsequently, we have become the largest licensor for the Historic Royal Palaces, which we think is pretty cool.
Here are some of our more London-focused HRP teas, along with some classic British blends:
The Holidays in London
We have no idea what in the world was wrong with Ebenezer Scrooge! It is virtually impossible to hate Christmas in London. Celebrated just as widely and vigorously there as it is here in the U.S., there are lights and merriment everywhere. If you visit London during December, don’t bother packing your bah humbug. You won’t need it.
If you want to start with lights, there are plenty of ‘em! Two of the must-see stops are the lights in Kew Gardens where you’ll experience sparkling tunnels of lights, dancing waterside reflections, mesmerizing flickering flames in the Fire Garden and the glorious panoramic Palm House light display. For something equally as spectacular -- or possibly even more so -- make sure to make the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park a holiday destination. It features the UK’s largest outdoor skating rink and Winter Wonderland’s Christmas Market, one of the largest of London’s many Christmas markets. Winter Wonderland lives up to its name in so many ways, including the chance to see all of London sparkle from high up in the Giant Observation Wheel.
Can’t choose which lights to see? Then take the Christmas Lights London by Night open-top bus tour to see Christmas lights at places like Regent Street, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, Marble Arch, The London Eye and Tower Bridge.
If ice skating is your thing, THE place to go is the ice rink in front of the Natural History Museum bedecked in twinkling lights and featuring a magnificent Christmas tree. Of all the many holiday ice skating rinks to choose from, another great choice is the Somerset House courtyard. Afterward, warm up with a serious cup of hot chocolate from Hotel Chocolat or sip on a cocktail in the Moët & Chandon Skate Lounge. You don’t have to invite us twice.
Looking for something a little warmer? Enjoy Christmas in London at one of their winter terraces, a London specialty. From après-ski-style hideaways to rooftop bars that have been transformed into enchanted woods, you can get cozy and toasty while enjoying a glass of mulled wine. Another way to stay warm is to enjoy London’s department stores and boutiques. See the light displays in stores on Oxford and Regent streets, or shop ‘til you drop while enjoying the Christmas sights at Seven Dials, Covent Garden or Carnaby Street. Another memory-in-the-making, goosebump opportunity is to stop in at St. Paul’s Cathedral during one of the Christmas Carol events. You’ll never hear those songs the same way again.
Of course, what would Christmas in London be without an afternoon tea? At the Waldorf Hilton London, you’ll be transported to the magical world of The Nutcracker at their Sugar Plum Fairy Afternoon Tea. Or choose a decadent experience at the Queen of Afternoon Tea at Hotel Café Royal. As always, The Ritz London does not disappoint with their afternoon tea in the decked-out Palm Court, or enjoy a Festive Afternoon Tea at The Savoy. For a completely different experience, have your afternoon tea on the go while taking in the sights! Brigit’s Bakery Afternoon Tea Bus Tour allows you to take your afternoon tea while riding in a vintage London 1960 Routemaster bus. Sit in a beautifully decorated area with teas, cakes and pastries while enjoying the sights. Two more wonderful places to try are the Corinthia Hotel by 10 Downing Street (maybe you’ll see the Prime Minister, who knows!) and the Connaught Hotel on beautiful Mount Street -- both of these establishments proudly serve Harney tea. So many afternoon tea choices! We love London!!
In British homes, Christmas again looks very familiar to what we know. Santa, or Father Christmas, comes down the chimney on Christmas Eve. In some homes, children write a letter to Father Christmas but instead of putting it in the mail (or the post, as they would say), they let it burn in the fireplace so their wishes go up the chimney, which would be an easy place for Santa to find them! One very British Christmas tradition is that of the Christmas cracker or popper, a wrapped paper tube tied at both ends. When the ends are given a tug, there’s a somewhat loud “pop!” as the paper breaks, revealing small trinkets inside the tube, along with a hat to wear for Christmas dinner. Speaking of dinner...here are three dishes you’ll typically find at a British Christmas meal. While mince pies are still a thing, too, we went with one dish that may surprise you.
If you don’t already know what Yorkshire Pudding is, then know this: it’s not pudding like you think of pudding. More like what we call a popover, Yorkshire Pudding is traditionally served with roast and gravy, but can be filled with almost anything you wish.
*Note: Using lard, beef drippings or bacon fat is preferred over vegetable oil, as the oil does not add flavor and can make the pudding greasy if not used sparingly.
**Note: Much like making muffins, you can make your Yorkshire Pudding large or small. Choose a tin that works for whatever size pudding you’d like to create.
Sorry vegetarians, but a traditional UK Christmas lunch or dinner is pretty much a meat-fest, and one that wouldn’t be complete without these little delights. They’re a little different than the ones we have in the U.S. because they’re wrapped in bacon!
If you want to wrap these ahead of time and freeze them, you can do so. Just make sure to defrost them thoroughly before putting them in the oven.
Again, the word “pudding” does not mean what you think it means in this very classic British holiday dessert. This is more like what we know as a fruitcake, and while it’s simple to put together does require some time to marinate and come together.
*Note: Mixed spice is a special British spice. You can purchase mixed spice, or substitute it with a mixture of allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, cloves, coriander, ginger and cardamom.
**Note: If you wish, you can substitute suet with shortening. Freeze the shortening, then grate it in a large-hole grater to create clumps. Freeze again before using.
December 14, 2021
I am in love with this desTEAnation! The ONLY think that would make this better is if I could have some clotted cream aswell! Thank you Harneys!! I love your whole business!!
December 14, 2021
I enjoyed reading the article while sipping a cup of H&S English Breakfast Tea. And I especially enjoyed the pictures as they are lovely to look at. The recipes are interesting too as they are informative of ingredients that I was not aware of that made up the dishes.
December 14, 2021
Since you mentioned Fortnum and Mason: their Fortmason blend has looooong been one of my most favorite tastes. Are there any Harney blends that approximate it? Or, even better, can you make one that totally does? I have considered bringing in a canister and asking, but that is no longer an option, and, since you know the source, far better than I, also not necessary. Thanks for considering this.
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December 14, 2021
Your all about London tea blog brought back fond memories of the tea-ventures that I enjoyed when I lived there and wrote about British & Celtic tea customs. Your grandfather, John was a big part of the inspiration and encouragement of my intro to the world of tea. I just took your tea in London quiz and was a bit confused about the question “Traditional English tea time is…?” If you are asking about the traditional time for afternoon tea, AKA Full Tea, the answer, as I was taught by Mr. Twining, and the tea buyer for Fortnum & Mason, among others is 3PM-5 PM. High Tea, “dinner in all but name,” is served at 6 PM. The name is said to refer to the fact that this meal was eaten at a high dining table rather than the low parlor table reserved for afternoon tea. Originally a working-class supper, when I lived in London, high tea entrees were often available as early as noon, or as late as closing time, in places that served British pub grub. Elevenses is the tea version of a mid-morning coffee break. Bed tea is sipped in bed before getting up for breakfast at the table. Cream tea, AKA as Light Tea, is a snack of scones served with clotted cream, jam and a pot of tea. It is traditionally served late morning to early evening and might include sandwiches or a piece of cake.