Harney & Sons Tea in London – an Exclusive Look at British Tea and Royal Culture
Inspired by the Historic Royal Palaces Tea Collection by Harney & Sons Tea
We are so delighted to announce our newest partnership with one of our favorite businesses: Harney & Sons Tea! Headquartered in the Hudson Valley, with a tearoom in Soho, Harney & Sons Tea is a leader in the global fine tea market. They source a mind-boggling variety of the best teas from across the globe and Harney & Sons products are on the menus of many excellent restaurants and cafes around the world. Their mail order business also has a large and loyal following, and their teas can be found on the shelves of gourmet markets. We first got to know the Harney family when Molly met John Harney, the founder of the business, at a Cornell event while she was an undergraduate. John Harney and his son Mike, his successor in running this fabulous family business, are, like Molly, proud Cornell Hotel School graduates. Onward Travel couldn’t be more thrilled to begin offering tea-centric travel experiences around the globe with Harney & Sons Tea!
Join Mike & Brigitte Harney this September for a one of a kind tea-centered tour of greater London. Harney & Sons Tea is served at some of the most iconic tea drinking destinations in the British capital, including the famous Dorchester Hotel and the Historic Royal Palaces, for whom Harney & Sons has produced a signature line of fine teas.
Speaking about Britain, George Orwell once said, “Tea is one of the mainstays of the civilization of this country!” And Orwell was right: nobody drinks tea like the Brits! They average at least three cups per day, encouraged by a wonderful tea drinking culture that has flourished there since the national beverage was made fashionable by King Charles in the 17th century. Today tea is a part of local custom, vernacular, way of life and pop culture at every level of society.
In London with the Harneys you’ll take a day-long Tea Infusiast Masterclass at the UK Tea Academy, set out on a historic walking tour including visits to Royal residences, and enjoy the traditional British tea service everywhere from the posh Dorchester Hotel to below the copper hull of The Cutty Sark. We’ll trace the history of tea and the tea industry from China to India to the British dining room. It’s difficult to seek out tea history in the UK without taking some time to explore another quintessentially British pursuit of pleasure: the garden, so we’ll visit some delightful gardens as well. In this adventure packed week our small group will dive in to explore London and her fascinating tea history from all angles.
Our home base for this adventure will be a four-star hotel in the heart of London, The Chesterfield Mayfair. It’s a boutique hotel boasting style and charm galore (think dark wood, antique furniture, original paintings), a top-hatted doorman to make sure you know you’re in London, and rooftop beehives making honey for our tea.
Day 1: Welcome to England!
Upon arrival at London Heathrow Airport your Onward Travel guide (Kat) and a professional driver will collect the group and we’re off to brunch at historic Newen’s, located in the London suburb of Richmond, where “Maids of Honour”cakes are a 300 year old tradition, reportedly named for Anne Boleyn. The Maid of Honour cake is a cheese filled puff pastry tart, and we’ll nosh on those along with a delicious and restorative hot breakfast.
Then let’s head to the world’s largest collection of living plants, Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, for a guided tour. Officially listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, these gardens were founded in 1840 and contain tens of thousands of plants as well as an Arboretum, a lake, and plant houses spanning from the Victorian era to the contemporary. It’s the perfect place to stretch legs and jump right into Britain’s outstanding garden tradition.
In the afternoon we’ll check into The Chesterfield Mayfair. Take a little time to freshen up and then we are off to an early evening Champagne High Tea at the legendary Dorchester Hotel. As we sit in the opulent setting of The Promenade in the heart of the hotel, we’ll toast to our week of adventure ahead as we enjoy the elegant spread and welcoming service that makes this one of the world’s most famous places to drink tea. A proud member of the prestigious Tea Guild, The Dorchester is an official partner of Harney & Sons Tea and we’ll enjoy some Harney tea there today.
Day 2- London Immersion
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel as you will each morning of your stay. Let’s get acquainted with London today! A friendly and knowledgeable local guide will meet us after breakfast and we’ll set out for a historic London walking tour. Our hotel is in the posh neighborhood of Mayfair, just adjacent to the royal district of Westminster which has one of the highest concentrations of famous landmarks in the world. From triumph to tragedy, splendor to squalor, the area has cradled royalty and witnessed revolt. Laws have been made and kings have been crowned – and one even lost his head! We’ll learn all about it this morning as we follow royal footsteps along the Mall, stroll the hustle and bustle of Whitehall, pass Downing Street (home to Britain’s Prime Minister), and enjoy the relative tranquillity of Horse Guard’s Parade where two of England’s most ancient ceremonies take place. We’ll visit Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and The Houses of Parliament.
As we wrap up our tour by the shores of the River Thames, continue your exploration and walk across Westminster Bridge to take in the vibrant South Bank and bustling Borough Market, or transfer back to the hotel to relax. Either way, the rest of the afternoon and evening is yours. Onward is happy to help you arrange tickets to see a show in London’s fantastic theater district, book a tour of London Tower, or point you in the direction of the city’s best shopping. This is a great night to make reservations at one of our recommended London restaurants to enjoy some of the world’s best cuisine.
Day 3 – A Very British Sunday
This morning we will set out to visit Kensington Palace, a royal residence set in the Kensington Gardens, and one of the officially designated Historic Royal Palaces, with whom Harney & Sons Tea has an official partnership. Members of the British Royal Family have resided here since the 17th century and today it is the official London residence of a number of royals, including The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (William and Catherine) and Prince Harry. The historic State Rooms are open to the public, and we’ll enjoy a tour of them today before we visit the gardens – formerly private for the inhabitants of the palace, but today one of the Royal Parks of London, designated Grade I and listed on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. After our visit to the gardens we’ll retire to a high tea lunch at The Orangery, an elegant structure set amid the gardens and long a location for royal entertaining. Sip Harney tea in a London palace as you enjoy a selection of dainty tea sandwiches, cakes and fresh scones with Cornish clotted cream.
This afternoon you’ll have time to relax at the Chesterfield Mayfair, pop in to one of the many museums and galleries near our hotel, or cross a sightseeing destination off your list. We’ll reconvene in the late afternoon to partake in one of England’s greatest traditions together: The Sunday Roast. We’ll head to a favorite neighborhood butcher restaurant, the Blacklock, where you’ll enjoy your choice of juicy charcoal roasted meat – lamb, pork or beef – accompanied by duck fat roasted potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, veggies and a rich gravy. It doesn’t get much better – or much more British – than that!
Day 4 – Back to School with Jane Pettigrew
Time to do a little learning! Today we will attend a private Tea Infusiast Masterclass with tea expert Jane Pettigrew at the UK Tea Academy. Ms. Pettigrew, the author of sixteen books on tea, has worked in the industry for over 30 years and she teaches tea masterclasses all over the world. In 2014 she was voted Best Tea Educator at the World Tea Awards and in January 2016 she was awarded the British Empire Medal for services to Tea Production and Tea History in the UK’s New Year Honours list. We’ll spend an entire day with Jane and her team, tasting, learning and talking tea together.
After this delightful and informative day enjoy the evening in London as you like.
Day 5 – History & Smuggled Tea
This morning we’ll travel to the west of Central London to visit Hampton Court Palace, built by Kings Henry VIII and William III in the 16th and 17th centuries, it is one of the most spectacular buildings in all of England and has been a favorite of generations of royalty. The Palace boasts an unusual, yet somehow cohesive, blend of Tudor and Baroque styles, with magnificently maintained interiors full of rich furnishings and a splendid art collection. The grounds and gardens may make you feel like you’re Alice and you’ve found your way to Wonderland. Other points of interest include the huge maze of hedgerows, with over 800 meters of trails, which was planted in the late 17th century for William III of Orange, the “real tennis” court (one of 43 surviving globally), and the world’s largest grapevine. We’ll tour this unusual and magical place with a fun and knowledgeable local guide before we enjoy a casual lunch in the on-site cafe, a purveyor of Harney & Sons Tea.
In the afternoon, we’ll enjoy a special behind the scenes visit to Chelsea Physic House, an important location in the history of tea in the west. Robert Fortune, a botanist, plant hunter, and traveler, was curator here for a time in the mid-19th century, and under his supervision these gardens flourished. Mr. Fortune also played a gigantic role in shaping the modern tea industry. In 1848 he left Chelsea at the request of the East India Company and traveled to China where, after the Chinese government had banned the export of tea plants, he spent three years undercover. Mr. Fortune then transported 20,000 seedlings of tea from China to India, using cases like miniature greenhouses, along with a group of trained Chinese tea workers. A highlight of our visit today will be seeing one of these little greenhouses, known as a “Wardian Case,” used by Robert Fortune. You can read about his exciting exploits in this article from the Smithsonian!
Tonight, back in Mayfair, we’ll enjoy a casual dinner together at a trendy local gastropub.
Day 6 – Exploring Greenwich
This morning we’ll ride a ferry down the Thames to enjoy a lovely day in Greenwich, a London district bursting with history. The Cutty Sark tea clipper, built in 1869 and now moored there on the Thames, was one of the last and fastest tea clippers, as she was built in the era just before sailing technology gave way to steam propulsion. Retired for public display after 85 years on the high seas, the Cutty Sark is an important relic of the trading industry of the past. This morning we’ll arrive at Cutty Sark before the ship opens to the public and the Curator of Cutty Sark will provide a Curator Tour of the ship with an emphasis on its role in the Tea Trade.
After the tour our group will enjoy a delicious “Cream Tea” which means tea accompanied by scones with jam and clotted cream. Then we’ll walk through historic Greenwich to the National Maritime Museum, the largest Maritime Museum in the world, where we’ll be met by the curator for a private curator’s tour of the current exhibition which couldn’t be more appropriate for our group. As the curator leads us through Traders: the East India Company we’ll learn all about the East India Company’s pivotal and fascinating role in British maritime trade. Lunch today will be as a group in The Brasserie in the National Maritime Museum, overlooking beautiful Greenwich Royal Park.
After lunch we’ll walk through the park and up to the Royal Observatory, the home of The Prime Meridian and Greenwich Mean Time, and important location in the history of navigation and astronomy. An audio tour is offered for those who’d like to learn more, and everyone will enjoy the panoramic views of London. Our last stop in Greenwich today will be the Queen’s House, an architectural masterpiece and once a Royal house of delights. Today the Queen’s House is home to the Royal Museums Greenwich art collection which includes works by European and British masters.
We’ll return to the Chesterfield Mayfair in the late afternoon. Our farewell dinner together tonight will be a quintessentially British dining experience, with a nod to the tea history we’ve been taking in throughout the week. Enjoy a seven course tasting menu, accompanied by fine wines, at a Michelin-starred fine dining Indian restaurant near the hotel. Whether Indian cuisine is new to you, or already a favorite, this meal will be an unforgettable experience and we’ll laugh and toast our wonderful week together as we enjoy a menagerie of flavors and beautiful, stylish presentation.
Day 7 – Farewell!
Our wonderful time together has come to an end. Book a private car to the airport through the concierge, or take an easy tube ride there. Head home with fantastic memories, new friends, and lots of knowledge about tea history and British culture!