Posts filed under afternoon tea

To A Tea | The Dorchester Hotel

I remember when I was three, my mom came into the living room one afternoon and asked if any of us wanted to go boating with her. While my other siblings mumbled out “nah,” I looked around with horror and jumped at the opportunity. About ten minutes later, I was soon confused as to why we were standing under the yellow lamps of the nearby high school in a long line to reach a table of old women with highlighters and paperwork. When I asked her when we would actually be getting to get to the boats, she laughed and said, “No, we are going VOTING. Not boating.” I was, as you can imagine, let down at the miscommunication. However, I remember feeling really special that I got to go on this special trip out with my mom in the early evening hours. Just me and her- which, as the middle child, rarely happened. I saw her transcend her normal role as “mom” into a normal, everyday human doing something that was totally outside my normal realm of her duties. It’s funny that I remember that, but it was just the first time I remember her in a different role other than “mom."


This week, Viola & I were invited for a special date at The Dorchester Hotel to have afternoon tea. Now, I love afternoon tea and I love the Dorchester, so I was really excited, but what made me even more excited was the chance to do it during their special half-term afternoon tea for little girls. The tea features all the wonderful goodness of their classic afternoon teas, but with the added bonus of REAL ballerinas from the English National Ballet coming to dance and perform a modified version of Sleeping Beauty for them. As if getting to socialise and swan around with real dancers wasn’t enough, they also had a pianist playing all the best songs (A Million Dreams, Disney classics and the like) and face painting. It was both a five-year-old’s dream…. and her mother’s.


But the best part for moms? The amazing staff didn’t bat an eye at the overcharged excitement of the junior guests. Instead, they were being totally kind and welcoming to them. (Which is not always the case in fine hotels, if you know what I mean.) It felt so indulgent and, yet, so unstuffy. 


I’ve always loved the themed teas that the Dorchester offers- their Wimbledon tea in the summer is especially cute- but this was definitely a special treat. I mean, let’s be honest, it doesn’t have to be a fancy day out in London to make your children feel special. It could honestly just be a coffee date or a walk through the park with a sandwich on a bench... but this definitely is a great memory to be saved for a later day. One I know I’ll cherish, and I hope she will, too.


Find more about the Dorchester’s Afternoon Teas here or browse my favourite spots for Afternoon Tea here.

*image original to Aspiring Kennedy

*this afternoon tea was gifted to us by the Dorchester

To a Tea | The Houses of Parliament


Did you know that you could have afternoon tea in the Houses of Parliament? Well, I certainly did not until recent years. And let me tell you, after you’ve learned the history and workings of the UK government in the glorious Palace of Westminster along the Thames, you’ll feel very special getting to have tea there. 

You can book the afternoon tea alongside your tour visit (sorry, you can’t just come for tea!) which is served on Saturdays and some weekdays. It costs £29 and has all the essentials: cucumber sammies, scones with clotted cream & jam, little cakes & an assortment of Twinings tea to drink. 


Occasional seatings in the MP’s dining rooms happen at random, and we were lucky enough to be sat in there at my most recent visit. It was so pretty and the view out the window was so sublime.


Find more information on having one of, in my opinion, London’s most unique afternoon teas on the Parliament website

Or opt for slo-mo action shots of clotted cream getting smeared all over scones in my most recent vlog…

Looking for where to have afternoon tea in London? 

Find more of my favourites in my To A Tea Series.

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

To A Tea | Number Sixteen

If you’ve read this blog for anytime, you’ll have heard about my friend, Amber. We’ve been friends for a long time during our London adventure- through good times and bad. She held my baby shower for me. My sisters came and crashed at her flat when the girls were born. We flew to Hawaii to be in her wedding with her Tyler. (Makes it easier when your friends have the same husband name as yours, doesn’t it?) We have been through a lot over the past years… and one of the ways we have stay close is, well, constantly rotating being pregnant between us! 

Each time we have a baby to celebrate, we do it in style. Whether its a traditional baby shower, a girls day trip to Paris, a posh picnic in the park…. We do what we can stop and celebrate the moment together. 

For this sweet baby, Amber booked us a girls day out in London. First up: massages in Mayfair at Illuminata. We had lush massages there and then cruised on to our afternoon tea at a place I had been dying to try- Number Sixteen Hotel in South Kensington. I had mentioned it ages ago, and as good friends do, she made a mental note and made it happen for a special day out. 


To start, I should say that this hotel is owned by the same group (Firmdale Hotels) that owns Ham Yard Hotel, which I blogged about previously, I feel like the branding of the group definitely overlaps between properties, but are both independently worth trying for their own merit. The price point and setting at both feels relaxed and cool… with a great sense of design. 

As you may quickly note, the two wow factors of afternoon tea at Number Sixteen Hotel are the garden and the price. The gorgeous garden is intimate and a plush oasis in Central London. There are very few tables, so be prepared to wait if the person seated at the table in the booking decides to perch. (We waited for 45 minutes to be seated from our booking time, as the person at our table decided to put in her headphones and pull out her laptop. Yuck.)

The garden has a small water feature that runs through the back half of it, a coveted gazebo at the far end, sparsely dotted with small tables throughout it, and a seemingly endless green background of pretty plants and flowers.

If the weather turns soggy, there is a small airy dining room (The Orangery) just off the garden where the tea service continues. While it doesn’t have the draw that the garden has, it’s definitely still a lovely backup.

When your tea arrives, expect the classic three-tiered offerings: sandwiches on bottom, scones (plain & fruited) with cream and jam in the middle, and a variety of homemade cakes and sweets crowing the top. There is a small, basic selection of teas to choose from- afternoon blend, earl grey, etc- to choose from included in the price, or you can upgrade to a more extensive list for a few pounds more. Find the full afternoon menu for the Number Sixteen Hotel here.

While the food and setting is ideal, the price really makes it the perfect moment- £29 for the summer Grayson Perry themed afternoon tea, and £22 for the standard afternoon tea tea resumes after September 10. It’s a price that is hard to beat in Central London.

To book your own table, book through the booking form on their website or contact the hotel directly at +44 (0) 20 7589 5232

NUMBER SIXTEEN | 16 Sumner Place, London SW7 3EG | 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

To A Tea | The Wind in the Willows at Haymarket Hotel

My mother-in-law has come to visit us in London each time we’ve had a baby… and this time was no exception. And each time she has come to visit after a baby has been born, we have celebrated with afternoon tea. In fact, we went to Fortnum & Mason when Viola was just a few days old. It was one of her very first times out of the house and I remember feeling like the whole experience was a bit of an out of body experience. When Harrison was born, we ventured to Sanderson’s Hotel in Marylebone for the Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea. It was adorable, but I think I spent the majority of our time there swatting VIola’s hand away from the music box stacked with sugar cubes. Ha!

And for Edie’s birth? Well, I had my site’s set on trying the special Wind in the Willow’s afternoon tea at the Haymarket Hotel just off Trafalgar Square. Now, if I’m honest, I knew slightly what to expect. After all, the Haymarket Hotel is another Firmdale Hotel- like Ham Yard and Number Sixteen. I was expecting a similar experience and taste to the other two previous teas… and I was right. But luckily, I really enjoy those places because this was just as good.

And if you remember my posts about those two, you may remember- I really love the price. At £24 per person, this was a special day out in Central London without spending a small fortune. At the moment, Haymarket is offering a special twist to their regular afternoon tea that I couldn’t wait to try- The Wind in the Willows afternoon tea.  This special offering runs through the 9th of September in honour of the new musical adaptation of the book by Julian Fellows to arrive in the West End. After that, the darling decorated biscuits and darjeeling cupcakes that are inspired by Ratty’s picnic will go away and the afternoon tea will return to it’s standard items.

The afternoon tea is held in the hotel's restaurant, Brumus. While we were seated by the window (per my request), the awning outside was pulled and made our table have some seriously blue tinged lighting… it didn’t bother us at the moment, but my pictures are pretty dismal from the off lighting. Luckily, I was grabbing a few moments on video here and there, so I’ve got a short little video of our day below to share.

It was a sweet day, and I’m so thankful for these moments and memories we have made to mark the birth of our London babies with such a simple- yet sweet- little tradition.

P.S. If you’re wildly observant, you may notice that the kids are dressed a bit like the book? Well, you’d be right. Boden has just launched a Wind in the Willows series, which was serendipitous timing, as they sent some pieces over for the kids that same week. Can you believe it? Lucky them! (No adult clothes from the series, sadly!) But I think they look pretty cute. Find the collection here if you’re in the UK. Or if you’re in the US, find the best selection of Boden I know of here.

HAYMARKET HOTEL | 1 Suffolk Pl, London SW1Y 4HX | +44 20 7470 4000

*images and video original to Aspiring Kennedy

St. Andrews | Afternoon Tea at The Old Course Hotel

On my last work trip before this baby arrives, I headed up the East Coast of Scotland for a long weekend trip to St. Andrews and beyond. While we were headed to some lovely sites outside of St. Andrews, I have to be honest; I was the most excited about this portion of the trip. I absolutely love St. Andrews, and have gone through silly trains of thought that have nearly made me relocate there just for the sheer pleasure of residing in that sweet coastal town in Scotland. (Okay, Tyler wouldn’t really ever let this happen… but if I weren’t married to him, who knows where I’d be.)

Since the group that I’m with is all females, we opted to have afternoon tea at the Old Course Hotel with them. At £20 per person, this is one of the most reasonably priced teas that I know of… and it’s setting in the airy conservatory along the golf course with the sea alongside it is just, well, perfect.

The conservatory is slightly ethereal and the crisp design of the space makes it feel extra special. The actual afternoon tea is really yummy, too. Warm scones, fresh jam, homemade cakes and pastries crowning the plates of little sandwiches just feels perfect. The hotel also boasts some great teas to choose from, too. 

After the tea, my colleague and I tucked into the hotel’s incredible Kohler Spa. Ever since staying at the hotel when I was first pregnant with the twins, I’ve been dreaming of trying out the spa. (It was fully booked when we stayed at the hotel!) So a week in advance, I called in and got us treatments booked for after our afternoon tea. 

The spa experience there was all I hoped it would be- with Kohler owning the hotel, the water fixtures are impeccable. Every aspect is perfectly done- because they have such great water fixtures. Expect fantastic showers, expansive pools and steam rooms, a rooftop hot tub overlooking the golf course and relaxation rooms to sit in all along the way

I had the NEOM pregnancy treatment.  It was a massage + body scrub for 80 minutes. It was only £90, which felt like a steal compared to the prices for luxury hotels in London. The treatment was lovely, and is something I’d definitely recommend to all my pregnant friends. (Find their complete listing of services and treatments here).

After my session, they brought me into the Deep Relaxation Room and tucked me in (literally) on a little reclining chair with a cosy blanket, got me a drink and some nibbles and left me to it. I spent another two hours in the spa- relaxing there, taking a long shower and lingering doing extraneous grooming that I never have time to do at home (like shape my eyebrows and shave above my knee). It was glorious and I felt entirely unrushed. It was how all spa treatments should be, in my opinion.

So while the spa at the Old Course Hotel in St. Andrews is one that is a bit too far away for me to enjoy on a regular basis, I can definitely say that it is completely worth visiting when you make it to St. Andrews. Not only was it one of the best pregnancy massages I’ve had, the entire spa experience made it feel even more enjoyable.


Book in advance of your stay to avoid disappointment. You can email to book at


Bring a swimsuit. The spa has so many great rooms, pools, sauna/steamroom- you really miss out if you don’t have a swimsuit to enjoy them.


Give yourself a good buffer of time before and after your treatment. You’re going to want to enjoy the spa for all it has to offer.

Pregnant and feeling like you need a spa break? (You probably do!) Find my reviews of other great UK spas here:


Follow Aspiring Kennedy on Bloglovin

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

To A Tea | Afternoon Tea at Ham Yard Hotel


 had the chance to spoil a new mom to a pretty afternoon tea this week, and every bit of the experience was so lovely that I couldn't wait to share it. If anyone is looking for a fantastic afternoon tea in Central London (and why shouldn't you be?), look no further. I've found a place that will be just your cup of tea.

It may be bold to say,  but I think this ranks the best afternoon tea in London. Everything about it is fantastic: the food, the setting, the service & the amazingly modest price. I'm planning to make this a new favourite meeting place, and it's only right to share it here with you.

So come on and join us for our gorgeously bright afternoon sitting in the conservatory at Ham Yard. (Make sure you grab a bite of the Battenburg before it's all gone!)


When I was flipping through my mental Rolodex of great places for tea, I was trying to find something in between the grand tea rooms and small kitschy bakeries. Somewhere in the back of my mind, an old conversation about Ham Yard popped up and I decided to look into it.

The menu looked fantastic and the pictures online of the space looked gorgeous. But the price? It didn't seem right... £22?! All the reviews looked great though, so I called in and snagged a table.

When I arrived, the setting was evening cooler than I thought. If you go, expect a well-groomed clientele of young yuppies with great style to be surrounding you. 

The food was fantastic, featuring classic items with slight twists to make them interesting, yet not offensively changing what works. The scones were the perfect size, and served warm in a little cave of a crisp napkin.



And the cakes? Ooooh goodness. Gorgeously presented and even tastier. 

So yes, I have a new favourite place for afternoon tea in London... and I have no doubt you will, too.

Ham Yard Hotel | 1 Ham Yard, Soho, London W1D 7DT | +44 20 3642 2000

Looking for more options on the best places for afternoon tea in London? Check out my To A Tea series for more of my favourites.

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Pack Your Bags | York's Teddy Bear Tea Room

Hello from a train to Edinburgh. The rain drops on the windows compete in number to the fingerprints of my children. Ha! Only 46 minutes left, but who's counting?

I wanted to share this adorable stop in York that has become a favourite on mine in the past few years: Stonegate Teddy Bears. While the store downstairs will lure in children with its shop windows stuffed with, you guessed it, teddy bears- the tiny tea room upstairs is what will get mom & dad to gladly stick around.

The Teddy Bear Tea Room

Perched above the adorable Stonegate Teddy Bear shop in the city centre of York is the Teddy Bear Tea Room.

Wind your way up the stairs to the second floor (well, third, if you're an American) and head to the room on the left. If the table by the window is open, snag it and enjoy the gorgeous views of the nearby York Minster.

The menu has been newly expanded to a range of items that spans across your daily meals- from breakfast, lunch and tea. While there are endless option listed, make sure to ask about the daily rotation of cakes- as they are homemade and absolutely worth getting.

While portions may be bigger than you might expect, don't worry- I can proudly say that a single person can polish off a slice on their own.

The room was decorated for Christmas and Michael Bublé's Christmas album was playing on the speakers. With the cold winter night coming out above the street and the Christmas mood set, I realised that it was officially that time of year. What a way to start the festive season!

My mom heard we were going and offered to buy each of the kids a teddy bear. (Classic Grandma move.) Viola immediately found the most sparkly one with a pink scarf and named her "Cinderella Bear Two," as "Cinderella Bear" is at home on her bed. Harrison grabbed a panda, among 40 other items, but since this was the cheapest and cutest- we decided that was the one for him. He hasn't touched it since.

We love the Teddy Bear Tea Room and it's one of those simple stops that makes traveling to the same place a fun adventure for us... and our kids, too! ;)

Find more of our favourite places in York here, as well as my travel guide to England here.

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

To A Tea | Four Seasons Park Lane


Typically, summers in England can be fairly... bleak. It's pretty common that your plans for picnics in the park or a weekend spent in the garden can be spoiled and swapped out for soggy days spent warming up over hearty meals and cups of tea. You find yourself living for those days when the skies clear and you- finally- get to see London in all it's steamy, sunny glory. As you sit sweltering in the air-conditionless English summer, you feel like you've earned each sunny moment with all of those rain-soaked days before it.

When I headed to the Four Seasons today to try their special afternoon tea, "A Journey Through British Summer," I knew it would be lovely... but I wasn't sure how it would be different than most of other afternoon teas. And if you're looking to spend a day out in London, you may be asking yourself why this particular afternoon tea is worth trying over so many others. And that's where me and my snazzy iPhotos can come to help.



First of all- location is everything, yes? So imagine yourself along the edge of Hyde Park, just a stone's throw from Buckingham Palace tucked inside a plush room inside the Four Seasons. Sunlight is dripping in through the windows in that way it seems to imply even the sunshine is higher quality than elsewhere.


Imagine being served a three-tiered tray of the prettiest food you've ever seen. Each item looks like it came out of a photo shoot... yet rather than being enjoyed by thousands of reader, each gorgeous little cake, sandwich and scone was painstakingly handmade for the eyes of you alone.

(I know, I know... this gets me all hot and bothered, too. Stick with me though.)



Now, imagine that you have your choice of the finest teas in all of the world to sip with these treats. You can choose fromdelicately curled oolongs, flowering jasmine teas, a delicate lemongrass or any of the other gorgeous teas available by JING. (We were lucky enough to be served a flight of teas, because, really... who can even choose?) Normally, I like classic English breakfast with milk- but we had Felicity from JING there to guide us through pairing various items with the teas. I didn't have one splash of milk with the entire tea... and I actually preferred it!



The tea is themed for British Summer classics. Tiny cakes hit the highlights: chocolate cakes shaped like ladies hats from the Ascot Race, white chocolate domes hand-painted as Wimbledon tennis balls, strawberries & cream cakes, Pimms baba au rhum set the scene, while classic British sandwiches meet simple refreshment. (Smoked salmon with a tiny bit of mashed spring pea, cucumber sandwiches with tiny slices of radishes and mint, and a tiny merger of crab and brioche that might leave even the biggest skeptic a bit emotional.)



As the food began to disappear from the table and our eager faces melted into satisfied grins, we joked that the only thing missing from this classic British summer treat was rain.... but we didn't seem to mind as we ventured to the patio to round out the perfect experience.


Find out all about the Four Seasons Afternoon Tea here. Too far from London? Order JING and celebrate the art of tea at home to avoid those FOMO blues.


Looking for a great afternoon tea in London? I always am. See more of my favorite places in my London guide.




*images original to Aspiring Kennedy


To A Tea | The Dorsett Hotel, Shepherds Bush


If you're following along on Instagram, you may have noticed we have a new hood- Shepherds Bush! We are still in Central London, but just on the edge of it. It's a great fit for us- near friends and with a ton more space for our money. We are loving life here!

Obviously, one of the first matters necessary to us settling here was finding a great afternoon tea nearby. (I have my priorities, people.) Luckily, The Dorsett Hotel is just around the corner from our new house and, as I've come to discover, a place I'm sure I'll be finding myself on many afternoons in the near future.



The hotel graciously invited me to come for their special afternoon tea in celebration of the Queen's 90th Birthday. The tea has a menu that really highlights classic summer treats of Britain. When my original date had a last-minute change of plans, I was forced to scrounge up someone to join me. Just as I was about to whip out my phone and start hitting up some replacements, Tyler & I decided that there was a particular three year-old who would love a special afternoon out with her mom. So we tossed on dresses and the two of us trotted down to The Dorsett.




The tea is served to you on fluffly velvet sofas in the hotel's sleek golden atrium bar, Jin. The setting is different than your classic tea room found in London with its merging of luxe finishes and modern lines.



The Queen's Afternoon Tea begins with your choice of several loose leaf teas. (Though if you're feeling torn, just know you can change up your brew throughout the tea to fit your mood.) Soon after, you'll be greated with an enormous spread of tea time fare.



Think all the English classics for this tea: coronation chicken and smoked salmon sandwiches, warm scones and crumpets with giant pots of cream and jam, Eton Mess parfaits, strawberries and cream, brightly colored slices of Battenburg cakes and all the works. It really was a great taste of British summer time... actually, more than just a taste- it was one of the largest teas I've ever been served. (Luckily, they wrapped up the pieces we couldn't finish and we got to take them home with us.)



In London, there are so many places to get expensive afternoon teas. I love those places, but I think we often assume that afternoon teas at a lower price may be missing an element from them. Well, I'm here to tell you- this one is not. (After all, the Dorsett is one of Prince Harry's favorite hangouts.) And at almost half the price of what you can pay at some of the well-known tea rooms, the Dorsett's Queen's Afternoon Tea really is a great treat for an afternoon out.




THE DORSETT HOTEL, 58 Shepherds Bush Green. London, W12 8QE



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy


A Field Guide to British Biscuits


Tea. I mean, it is simple enough- hot water combines with tea and a beverage is created. Yet this, seemingly, straight forward cup of tea comes a lot of additional detail.

What type of tea do you drink? How do you take it? Loose leaf or tea bags?

Everyone has their preferences on how they drink their tea... but one of the more important details to discuss with tea is biscuits. (Because tea really shouldn't be drank without biscuits. And biscuits should definitely always be eaten with a hot cuppa.)

I'll say that while we, as Americans, lump biscuits into the general cookie category, but after a few years here- I can't do it anymore. There are cookies (softer, larger and more of a homemade nature) and then there are biscuits. Biscuits are crunchy, mass-produced and are sized small enough to fit perfectly when dunked into a mug of tea. 

And they are so, so cheap. Obviously, you can buy fancy biscuits at the famous department stores for several pounds per package... but if you head into any grocer, they'll have a huge section dedicated to the brand-name and generic versions of each of these biscuits. All costing anywhere from £0.40 per pack upwards to around £1.50. Basically, biscuits aren't a treat that is exclusive to the elite... no, no. Everyone has the right to enjoy a good biscuit with their tea.

So after years of taste testing, I present to you- the fruits of my labor. Yes, I give you a field guide to the best British biscuits. 

1. custard cream: a petite sandwich of two flat biscuits married by a custard filling. (most similar to: vienna fingers)

2. digestive: perhaps the godfather of all biscuits. a standard cookie that absorbs tea to an astounding degree when dunked. (most similar to: graham crackers)

3. bourbon creams: an oblong sandwich made from two long chocolate biscuits with a chocolate filling. also known as a "bourbon biscuit." pronounced as "bore-bun," rather than "bur-bin." (most similar to: e.l. fudge sandwich cookies)

4. shortbread finger: a butter cookie made, traditionally, of flour, sugar and butter. while shortbread can be made into several shapes, the finger makes for an excellent companion to tea. typically associated with scotland, as mary queen of scots is said to have brought the biscuit into popularity.

5. jammie dodger: a sandwich comprised of two flat biscuits with a jam filling (typically raspberry). some variations have sugar crystals on the biscuit or jam-filling.

6. jaffa cake: though in the biscuit family, the jaffa cake is actually comprised of a layer of sponge cake, covered in orange jam coated in chocolate. 

7.  nice biscuit: a small, crunchy biscuit that looks generic upon first glance, but stands out for it's coconut flavor and trademark "nice" stamp across the front. 

8. tunnock's caramel wafer: thin layers of wafers and caramel combine within a chocolate coating. while it may taste along the lines of a candy bar, it is definitely considered a tea-time staple. (most similar to: hard to say- but maybe something like the love child of a kit kat and a twix?)

9. chocolate covered digestive: though technically still a digestive, the chocolate variation on the classic is worthy of distinction. 



I know, I know. I skipped a few classics like ginger biscuits, wafers, rich tea biscuits and tea cakes. These are worthy candidates, but alas- they'll have to make someone else's line up of the best biscuits.

Now, study this with great diligence and make sure you do plenty of lab time with the subject. You won't be able to ace this topic unless you test all the subjects... many, many, many times.


What's your favorite tea & biscuits combo? ( I hold true to a cup of english breakfast (with milk) and custard creams.) 




*image original to aspiring kennedy


To A Tea | Baglioni Italian Afternoon Tea + Spa

You know those places that you pass everyday in your normal errands that you always notice, but go years without taking a foot inside of them? Well, I have passed the Baglioni Hotel a squillion times as it is so close to our flat, but had never actually been inside until today.

And I'll just go ahead and spoil the ending: I'm planning on going back all the time now. The End.

But in case you want to read the chapters in between my entrance to the hotel and the conclusion, here you are. (I could probably write a small love story about our day here.)

The Baglioni is part of the Baglioni Hotels- an Italian chain of luxury hotels. Their London property sits on an amazing location just at the end of Kensington Church Street across from Kensington Palace. While everything around the hotel is very, well, British, the Baglioni has just the right amount of Italian flair to make it a distinct destination. 

It's not different in an obnoxious way... instead, it's more like English with an Italian accent. :) Case in point: the Baglioni Italian Afternoon Tea.



While the concept, setting and flavors are predominantly standard for an afternoon tea, the Baglioni has added in some special Italian touches to it: Bellavista instead of Champagne, traditional scones served with jam, cream AND nutella, mini paninis stuffed alongside traditional finger sandwiches and Italian treats like cannoli and tiramisu for dessert.

We had a few guests make a cameo during our visit.  

Of course, they were both hungry, too.


But that giant dish of Nutella wasn't even the best part.

The Baglioni has an offer for a Spa Day that combines the Italian Afternoon Tea with a 50 Minute Massage in their luxe spa for £105. Relaxation? Deep Tissue? Hot Stone? You name it- they are all included in the offer. And you can trust me, you are not going to find that combination for that price anywhere in London! All the details can be found here... and giddy Instagram selfie taken in the spa below. 


The hotel spa is definitely not an afterthought. The facilities are gorgeous, the treatment rooms are stunning and the showers and steam room are worth a trip to the spa themselves.

What an amazing day- thank you, Baglioni, for making my dreams come true. And thank you to my friend, Nancy H Gibbs, photographer extraordinaire, for taking such gorgeous photos.

Find more of London's best afternoon teas here.


*images by Nancy H Gibbs

*This visit was hosted by Baglioni Hotels. Opinions are my own.



To A Tea | Madhatter's Tea at the Sanderson

While I may not be blogging much over the past few weeks, I have been eating well. With our parents in town, we have been hitting up some special places in London that have been on our "list" for a while.

I'm still doing the #AKsweetescape (50 days of no dessert from June 1 - July 20!), so at many of these places I'm having to suffer through people eating gorgeous desserts, but I have allowed myself to enjoy having afternoon tea with both of our moms while they were here. After all, it'd be rude not to, right? Ha!

After taking Viola to see Cinderella (again) at the theatre this week, we decided to compound the day of indulgence with an afternoon tea at the Sanderson. I called in and made us a reservation for later that afternoon, which was a bit tricky as the tea is so popular.


What makes the tea so popular? It's a Madhatter's Tea Party! The tea is themed around Alice and Wonderland with sweet treats, eats & china that play off the classic tale. As a devoted Alice fan, I was so excited to go. Here's a look at our day with all the details that you'll need to know for your own Madhatters Afternoon tea at the Sanderson.

Theres a basic menu with one option on food (though all the dietary needs can be accommodated, if requested), but you can choose to add on a glass of champagne or one of the themed signature cocktails to your tea.

The tea comes with traditional tea sandwiches (cucumber, salmon, ham & egg), sweet and savory scones, but the real treat comes with the desserts. I mean.... look at how gorgeous and clever they are.




If you go...

Order as many teas or coffees as you like, as there is no charge for swapping teas or getting coffees. They have all the classics and then a sweet lineup of teas that resemble sweet treats like apple pie, mint chocolate chip and bake well tart. Sounds odd, but they taste really nice.

Also, if you run out of sandwiches, scones or a particular item- feel free to ask for more. They were really kind about bringing us extra sandwiches and scones.

If you bring a child under 4, they can share with you. If they are over, the tea costs £30 per child. The price for the standard adult tea (meaning no champagne or cocktail) is £38.

The seating is outside in the covered courtyard, though inside tables are available if requested or needed.


This tea is very popular during the high tourist season, so you'll need to book in advance. Call 020 7300 5588 to book or email to make your reservation.

Service is kind, but pretty slow... consider yourself warned. 

If you go, I know you'll have a great time. It's a special treat!


Find out more of my favorite places to have tea in London in my To A Tea series:

Fortnum & Mason | The Ampersand Hotel | The Orangery at Kensington Palace 

Cocomaya | The V&A | Bea's of Bloomsbury | BB Bakery Double Deck Bus Tour




*images original to Aspiring Kennedy


How To Drink Tea Like a Brit.

When Americans visit England, most of them are eager to jump into to the tea scene. Whether it is drinking tea instead of their normal coffee or going for afternoon tea. I love the excitement and eagerness to get into the culture.

There's just one problem.

Americans have no clue how to drink tea.

If it's not iced, Earl Grey or herbal- it gets awkward. 

We know Brits drink milk in their tea, but it kind of sounds gross when we imagine it being in the tea we drink. How do you drink loose leaf? Do you wait to let it steep or go straight in? And what do I say when they ask me what type of tea I want? Green? Earl Grey? ... Iced?

I'll make it really easy for you. Unless you really know tea and what you like, don't order Earl Grey. It's NOT the most common tea here, and, despite America's assumption that it is the most British choice, it isn't. (I used to think this, too!)  Also, if you do get Earl Grey- try lemon in it. Adding milk to it is a bit gross, as it is so floral. Don't get me wrong, loads of people still drink it... but, if you're an amateur to tea, follow my lead here.

So what do you do?

When your waiter or server asks you what type of tea you'd like, ask for either English Breakfast or an Afternoon Tea. (These are the most standard black teas.) Or, if you're at a place that isn't overly posh, you can say "Builder's Tea"... or if you get stuck, just simply say, "regular black tea." They'll know what you mean. 

These are the teas that you put a splash of milk into (not too much where it starts looking grey). A cup like this will go great with cakes and sweets. When you taste this, you'll "get" how it all works- the flavors are perfect together. And don't forget to toss in a sugar cube to get the full experience.

Now I know some Brits may chime in here and say that they only drink Earl Grey or that they would prefer herbal teas, etc. I know, I know! I often do, too. But, for the average American trying to get the quintessential tea time experience- you can't deny that the standard cup of tea that is served is a breakfast blend or afternoon tea... or just "normal" builders tea. So just nod your head and don't confuse anyone. As Americans, we are already confused enough about what to do. :)

But actually- if you are a bonafied Brit, please feel free to weigh in with any other thoughts. While I love tea and talking about it, it still is a bit of a "second language" to me. I've learned all I know late in life. 


PS. These photos were taken at Candella- a really sweet tea room off Kensington Church Street, near the Palace and Kensington High Street Tube Station. A great place to spend the afternoon. Walk in on a slow day, or book ahead to guarantee your table to make sure you have one. (There are only 5!)


If you're looking for great places for tea in London, read about some of my favorite teas in London here.


*images by Sara Kerens


Somedays I dream of the days when I would wander Oxford and Paris without an agenda. I wasn't rushed, I could savor the idea of a new project and take a few days to play with the idea in my head before spending hours executing it, I'd meet anyone at anyone, I could shop the sales racks judiciously to craft a perfect outfit for pennies, and I'd always get a milkshake from Moo Moo's.

So my free time is shorter these days, but, in many ways, sweeter. Here are a few ways that I relax.

1. Walking around Portobello Road Market on Saturday mornings before everyone else gets up. I get a cup of coffee, a pastry from some posh bakery and wander around like a tourist.

2. On Wednesdays, I have the entire day free from class and work. Tyler graciously gives me half the day to meet up with friends, have people over for lunch or ...  whatever.

3. I will stay (read: hide) in the bathtub for a solid hour. By the time I finally get in there, I just can't find the will to make the experience any shorter. I don't even wash my hair all that often. I have no clue what I'm doing in there. Staring at the ceiling, I think. Smelling good soap that makes me feel less spastic. Shaving the back of my legs which are always alarming hairier than I think they should be.

4. And at night when Viola goes to bed, I plop open my laptop, click on The Good Wife and do mindless nonsense. We flick on the kettle and make cups of tea for ourselves... without the worry of giving our toddler third-degree burns. 

The past few weeks, I've been upping the luxury of the moment with a pot of JING flowering tea. Not only does it taste great, but it looks and feels so pretty. Since I've been enjoying their flowering teas that have green tea buds, it especially feels like the perfect cleanser for the end of the day. (Green tea was the first tea I ever liked, so it's such a comfort drink for me.) 

The quality of the tea is hard to beat  (JING is served in 50+ Michelin starred restaurants around the world- it is fancy!). Even though the company has a mighty distribution, the company is still really small and hands on... and the price makes it a daily treat I don't have to feel guilty for enjoying.

Happy Friday- JING is giving away this killer set worth over £200 that has everything you need for the complete tea time experience. You'll have to invite me over to have a cup of this class. 

Enter below for your chance to win a JING tea-iere, four double walled glasses, a tea timer, two varieties of flowering jasmine tea, Assam Breakfast Tea (50 grams) and Earl Grey Tea (50 grams).


*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

*open to UK residents only. Void where prohibited.


Posted on February 19, 2015 and filed under afternoon tea.

Little London | The Diana Memorial Playground by Kensington Palace

I get so many emails from parents asking where they can take their kids in London. Truth be told, I'm not the best at seeking these places out. I just kinda take Viola wherever we go... but I thought I'd try to jot down a few places as I uncover them. And you know, maybe you can share some places you love, too, because... it never hurts to have a spot like that in your back pocket.

Today I met some friends at the Diana Memorial Playground near Kensington Palace. It was an empty day at the park- just the occasional nanny + baby pushing their way into the gates every few minutes... but for the most part, the place was ours for the having. After all, it is a Wednesday in January. May not get more remote than that!

After we had all we could handle of the cold weather, we wanted to go grab coffee or tea somewhere nearby. Amber had never been to the Orangery before, so we were more than happy to oblige her and go!

Now I know what you're thinking: Kensington Palace Orangery is the place to take toddlers? True. It's a beautiful space with china on the tables where people come to splurge on a beautiful afternoon tea. Yes, yes, you're right. But here's the thing: nobody really goes in the mornings.

If you go during their breakfast, the place is relatively empty. Literally, there were two other tables when we walked in with people. And while the tea menu is a bit steep, the breakfast menu is completely reasonable. (I think my yoghurt, granola + berries were £5.95 and juice £2.75?)  Plus, the menu has some really yummy treats on it for Breakfast like waffles with caramel apples and cinnamon cream, eggs benedict, and fresh croissants stuffed with ham and cheddar.

It's a really gorgeous space to go, warm up and not worry that you're baby is bothering anyone when they realize that their spoon can also double as a drumstick. 

The service isn't slow, so you don't have to be stuck there for ages if you don't want to be... and there is some good space between the tables and the walls for the kids to crawl around in after they get tired of sitting while you ignore them and catch up with friends. 

If you can't tell from my repeat visits on Instagram this week, I'm obviously a big fan of the playground + Orangery combination... so don't be surprised if you see us there, too!






*images orignal to Aspiring Kennedy

A Dork's Guide To Tea.

This week, my students are learning all about the tea trade. We've seen the Cutty Sark (amazingly restored tea clipper that is in Greenwich), we've talked about the expansion of the British Empire, later this week we'll have a cooking class on how to make scones... and today we are having afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason to discuss the introduction of tea to British culture and the impact it has on culture today. (Yes, I love my job.)

Since I've taught this before a few times, let me toss out some random tea facts for you: 

- Did you know that regardless of what type of tea it is (green, white or black), all tea comes from the same plant. The difference in type comes from which part of the plant they use and how long it is "fermented."

-Tea is fermented! Though not for as long as wine or beer.... just a few hours in hot drying trays does the trick.

-The average Brit drinks eight cups of tea per day. That's a national average and it is astounding to me. Eight cups a day!

-The tradition of putting milk with your tea started years ago. The upper class started putting a bit of milk into their tea cups before pouring the hot tea in. This cooled it down and prevented the thin china from cracking.

- As a result, putting your milk in first is a trait more aligned with the upper class. 

There you go. You all get A for today's lesson.

Oh, speaking of tea- have you seen the London Tea Club? Each month you get fancy vials of tea delivered to your door of cool new blends. It looks like an amazing way to try out teas you may never knew existed... or even better, make the coolest gift to give a friend.

*image via pinterest


Posted on November 4, 2014 and filed under england, afternoon tea, london.

To A Tea | BB Bakery Double Decker Tea Tour

The day my students first arrive in London, we typically take them on a private coach tour around the city with a guide. It's a tradition that is expensive and (slightly) boring, but we do it so that they can see all the famous places they've been thinking about for so long and to get them familiar with the city. 

Earlier this summer my friend, Stephanie, sent me a tweet about BB Bakery's Afternoon Tea Bus Tour. (She always finds the best stuff and sends it to me.) Afternoon tea served on a vintage route-master while cruising around London? Brilliant.

So instead of doing our normal tour, I swapped the plans and we all did this as a group. It ended up costing almost the same and was considerably more awesome. Totally touristy, but if you can get over feeling a little dorky, it is really fun! 

photo 2-1.JPG

The food was really good, too. Going into it, I wasn't sure if the "tea" would just be an afterthought, but everything was really delicious. While I wouldn't say this is a place to meet up with a friend to catch up (because the price tag is a bit hefty at £45pp), it is a great way to celebrate. Save it for visitors to London, birthdays and hen parties- it's worth the splurge for special occasions of that caliber. 

They can also accommodate (in a yummy way!) vegetarians and those in need of GF alternatives.


Sound like fun? Visit the BB Bakery Afternoon Tea Bus Tour page here for more information.

Not your cup of tea? Check out the other tearooms I've tried in London in my To A Tea series.




*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Winter Wonder | Fresh Mint Tea

When we were living in Paris in the spring of 2012, it was one of the coldest winters in Europe in a hundred years...

The freezing temps meant we were ducking into cafes as often as we possibly could in hopes of warming up. The thing is, if I drank coffee every time I needed to warm up, I'd be spazzing out from the constant caffeine buzz.You would see me jittering down the Champs Elysees a hundred miles an hour. Eventually, I opted for fresh mint tea- or "the a la menthe." And thank goodness I did.

I stumbled upon a guilt-free treat that I can enjoy without any sugar intake or unwanted caffeine. And, man, it is so flipping good. When the weather turns chilly, I turn on the kettle and pluck a few leaves to make my own brew. (You can drizzle a bit of honey or a spoon of sugar in, if you prefer it a bit sweeter.) It's such a simple & elegant way to warm up…



* tea 


Posted on December 4, 2013 and filed under "Paris", "hot tea", paris, hot tea, afternoon tea.