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How to Create a Perfect Afternoon Tea Service - A Case Study

Marriott County Hall

London’s Afternoon Tea Scene

Afternoon tea is a quintessential example of English tradition. An indulgence which is not a modern trend, but something that has been around for almost two centuries. Afternoon tea was first introduced to England in 1840 by Anna Maria Russell, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, and has continued to increase in popularity ever since.


In the hospitality sector, particularly in hotels, Afternoon Tea Service is a popular event with customers, for both the locals and tourists. Due to its popularity, competition is fierce amongst the hotels and restaurants who serve it. This has prompted an array of different approaches with interestingly themed offerings, including anything from children’s books, London landmarks to art and science themes. Most venues offer Champagne or Prosecco on arrival, with cakes and pastries intricately designed and exquisitely presented with a selection of finger sandwiches and traditional scones etc. The final part of the experience is offering a selection of teas, usually traditional black tea, Earl Grey and perhaps some herbal or fruit infusions, all of which are served in a teapot.



It is great to see Afternoon Tea becoming a popular event, and indeed a good revenue generator for the hospitality venues. However, working with the hospitality sector for almost 13 years, one aspect that should take the centre stage seem to fall short time and time again, that is to simply offer a great selection of flavourful teas brewed to perfection. Not every venue that hosts Afternoon Tea take their tea offering seriously, in fact for majority of the venues, their tea offering tends to be an afterthought, and it doesn’t get the attention and prominence tea deserves. This is something that sets The Marriott County Hall apart, read on to discover more about their exquisite Afternoon Tea.


About Marriott County Hall

A quintessentially British landmark, County Hall was opened in 1922 by King George V and Queen Mary as the headquarters of the local government in London. A Grade II listed building, the wood panelled chambers have witnessed many important moments in London’s history. Located in the bustling South Bank, Marriott County Hall hotel is only steps away from the famous landmarks such as the London Eye, Big Ben, and the iconic Westminster Bridge. A perfect venue to enjoy Afternoon Tea with an amazing view across to Big Ben.


Our Partnership

The F&B team approached us in early 2019 looking to upgrade their Afternoon Teas, searching for a company to work with who could offer a well thought out tea menu, not just for their Afternoon Tea service but their entire hotel. Very popular with tourists and locals alike, for its ideal location and a great venue for meetings, hosting events and afternoon tea.

When we sat down with the team to discuss their requirements, from the onset it was very clear to us that the Marriott County Hall team were genuinely interested in enhancing the customer experience when it comes to tea. They wanted to create a tea menu that worked well for each service area of the hotel.  We immediately got to work by looking at their clientele, food offering and bringing in our own expertise and experience to propose a tea service for the entire hotel. After testing 100s of teas from our collection across several tasting sessions with the team and the executive chef, we came up with a tailored selection of teas to meet their expectations.


Afternoon Tea set up in The Marriott County Hall in front of Big Ben through window

Bespoke House Blend

First and foremost, we had to come up with a bespoke house blend that met the teams brief, which was a classic black tea with a twist. After trialling a few ideas, searching for something that would link to the great British tea tradition; we came up with an Assam Black tea that is full of brisk and maltiness with hints of delicate natural rose petals and vanilla flavours. This was well received by the team and instantly became a hit with their customers. It was so popular that the customers wanted to buy caddies of the tea to take some home with them. More about that later…


Afternoon Tea Menu for The Library

The Library at Marriott County Hall is an iconic place in London to have Afternoon Tea and boasts one of the best views in London overlooking some of the famous London landmarks. The setting itself is that of the luxury vintage library of the old building, still home to a collection of rare books.

The Tea menu was carefully put together to offer a range that would complement the cakes, pastries, and sandwiches on offer. The selection includes single origin black teas from the tea gardens of Sri Lanka, which are fresh and flavourful, perfect for traditional black tea lovers. We also made sure to include lighter and muscatel Darjeeling tea that works well with a variety of food offerings. Some of the other teas included are green teas, such as jasmine dragon pearls and Japanese sencha, white and oolong teas featuring rare silver needle, as well as herbal teas such as chamomile and peppermint. For those who enjoy fruit infusions, our sublime berry and hibiscus as well as tropical mango work a treat as a warm drink or iced tea on a hot summers day.


Making A Sensory Experience for Customers

Having a carefully curated range of teas that complement the food selection is only the start; getting customers to try the different teas is another matter. After talking to the F&B team, listening to their experience and feedback we decided to do away with the printed menu, instead offering a sensory box which displays the individual teas for the customer to pick from. Now, each customer is presented with the full tea collection in the sensory box, allowing fully trained service staff to engage with the customers on a deeper level. 


Comprehensive Tea Training

The lack of proper tea training for hospitality staff is something widely known in the industry. To showcase the teas and to be able to recommend the right blend for each customer, the service staff must be fully trained. Our expert tea training staff offer courses covering all areas, including the process from tea field to teacup, giving a comprehensive overview of the whole process. The most important aspect provided is how to prepare each tea, specific water temperature and brewing time etc. We train teams on tea and food pairing and how to engage with each customer in terms of asking the right questions to be able to recommend the right tea for them. Included within our tea training sessions are training manuals that each member of staff can take away and refer to.
We take our training seriously, as we know a good tea could be easily ruined by poor brewing. We can’t stress enough the importance of the quality of the water, brewing temperature and brewing time. We offer as many training sessions as possible, and particularly where there is high staff turnover. 


Restaurants and Bar

The team were keen to start offering loose leaf teas of the highest quality in the rest of the hotel, preferring loose leaf tea to teabags, so we needed to find a way to make this work operationally, to meet the quick and efficient service demand. After several trial and errors, we decided to go with our biodegradable Teabags which are packed with the same single origin loose leaf tea, therefore providing the same loose leaf tea experience, in an easier to manage method for serving staff during a busy breakfast.


In Room Teas

In-room teas are an important part of customer experience, as 80% of the customers tend to prepare a cup of tea or coffee in their room. The hotel offers a selection of biodegradable triangular teabags for customers to enjoy, and more recently due to its popularity, included the Marriott County Hall tea blend as part of the in-room tea offerings.



Retail and Gifting Opportunities

During one of the recent meetings with the Marriott team it came to our attention that there had been a rise in requests from customers who enjoy their bespoke Marriott County Hall blend, wanting to buy this tea to take home and for gifting. As the hotel attracts a large amount of tourism, we realised that there was an opportunity to sell some of the teas in bespoke packaging. Having created an area within the hotel for customers to pick up the teas that they enjoyed, we included a great way to upsell and generate an additional revenue.


Rare Teas for Tea Connoisseurs

As a speciality Tea company, we offer a wide range of sustainable farmed and ethically sourced teas from all over the world. Within the selection, we have some real gems that we classify as Rare & Limited, as these are micro batch highly sought-after seasonal teas. The F&B team was excited to trial these special teas within the venue for those who like a unique tea experience. Showcasing the passion for offering something unique to their clients and to become a venue that is known not just as a great hotel that offers delicious food and luxurious comforting stays, but equally as a place to enjoy the best teas in London.


Supporting Marketing and Blogger Events

Over the past 5 years, we have had a fantastic partnership whereas a supplier we not only offered our products, but also worked closely with the hotel to offer marketing and event support. We were able to successfully support the hotel during the formal launch of the Afternoon Tea at The Library, as well as during Blogger outreach events. Our marketing team continuously works closely to collaborate with the venue to optimise opportunities.


Continuous Service Support

Our dedicated account management support is readily available via phone or email and has been proven to be quite handy. We process and pack all our products at our tea-hub situated just outside of London, with all orders placed by 12 mid-day usually dispatched on the same day, via next day delivery service. 
If you would like to receive a free tea consultation contact us today - +44 (0) 1322 284 923  -