The 8 Best English Tea Sets

Updated October 24, 2017 by Ezra Glenn

8 Best English Tea Sets
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We spent 46 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Whether or not you're British, if you get a hankering for a nice hot cuppa around 4 p.m. every day, one of these English tea sets may be just right to enhance your afternoon. Anyone who values the refreshing pick-me-up qualities of a good cup of char will appreciate the elegant and timeless designs featured in our selection. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best english tea set on Amazon.

8. Royal Albert Old Country Roses

Everything about the Royal Albert Old Country Roses Le Petite 9-Piece Miniature is diminutive, making it a great choice for the refined children's party, for use as decoration, or for enjoying very, very small cups of fresh-brewed tea.
  • authentic 22-carat gold edging
  • classic aesthetic
  • too small even for espresso
Brand Royal Albert
Model 28839013
Weight 4.3 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

7. Ufengke European Bone China

The Ufengke European Bone China makes a great wedding or housewarming gift. Its elegant butterfly and floral-patterned components will dress up any room in which they're displayed or add a touch of class to any meal at which they're used.
  • includes six cups and saucers
  • elegant golden details
  • ceramic doesn't feel high quality
Brand ufengke®-ts
Model pending
Weight 9.9 pounds
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

6. Vanderbilt Porcelain Miniature

The Vanderbilt Porcelain Miniature Biltmore House 1888 is made using materials that are 100% FDA-approved as food-grade and safe, though, in fact, the child-sized cups serve a bit better as decorations than as vessels for actual drinking.
  • royal blue and floral details
  • a large serving tray
  • a bit too delicate for children
Brand G W Vanderbilt Collecti
Model 9710382
Weight 1.8 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

5. Summertime Flowers Porcelain 24-Piece

Each item in the elegantly understated Summertime Flowers Porcelain 24-Piece is gold-trimmed and decorated with a beautiful floral motif. The attention paid to its details shows, considering even the lid of the sugar bowl is emblazoned with a tiny purple blossom.
  • includes a large platter for snacks
  • plates are 8 inches wide
  • design is consistent on all pieces
Brand English Tea Store
Model pending
Weight pending
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

4. Beatrix Potter Rabbit & Friends Set

Kids and adults alike will be thrilled with the Beatrix Potter Rabbit & Friends Set by Reutter Porcelain. The saucers, cups, and teapot feature Peter Rabbit and all of his animal friends, such as Flopsy, Mopsy, Jemima Puddleduck, and Mrs. Rabbit.
  • high quality german construction
  • both functional and decorative
  • includes cloth-covered storage case
Brand Reutter Porcelain
Model 56.562/0
Weight 3.3 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

3. Brew To A Tea Blue Dream

When it comes time to to break out the biscuits and cucumber sandwiches, the Brew To A Tea Blue Dream makes a charming choice for serving. It includes four cups and saucers, a pot for brewing, and a mesh infusion ball for loose leaf varieties.
  • microwave and dishwasher-safe
  • cups have a generous 8-oz capacity
  • comes with a cream and sugar set
Brand Brew To A Tea
Model Blue dream
Weight 8.5 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

2. Gracie China Summer Rose Chintz

For the tea lover who likes to take his or her afternoon cup in private, the Gracie China Summer Rose Chintz For One is a fine choice. It includes one cup, a saucer, and a teapot that holds enough liquid for at least a pour or two.
  • comes in a lovely gift box
  • all three pieces stack for display
  • beautiful victorian-inspired design
Brand Gracie China by Coastli
Model 33712-4
Weight 2 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

1. Lenox Butterfly Meadow 8-Piece

The Lenox Butterfly Meadow 8-Piece is a great choice for the couple that's serious about taking their afternoon cup in style. It has everything two Earl Gray or English Breakfast lovers could need short of hot water, sugar, and, of course, the leaves themselves.
  • generous 48-ounce pot for serving
  • lifetime replacement guarantee
  • attractive scalloped edges
Brand Lenox
Model 6386635
Weight 7.1 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

A Brief History Of Afternoon Tea In England

England has long been a tea drinking nation. The first written mention of tea in English dates back to 1615, when Richard Wickham, the director of an East India Trading Company office in Japan, requested that merchants coming from Macau bring him a pot of their best tea. Another British merchant by the name of Peter Mundy wrote about Chinese Fujian tea in 1637. Tea first appeared in London in the mid 1700s, and within a decade or two it was served at nearly every coffeehouse, though mostly consumed by the upper class and those with means.

One of the most quintessentially British customs is that of afternoon tea, but this is actually a much more recent development in the English tea drinking culture than some might have expected. Anna Russell, the seventh Dutchess of Bedford, is credited with first introducing the concept of afternoon tea in 1840. She would often get rather hungry between 3 and 4 in the afternoon, but dinner was rarely served in her home until 8 p.m. or later. To tide herself, she began requesting her servants bring her some tea, bread and butter, and cake. Eventually she started to invite friends, and so the afternoon tea party was born.

By the late 1900s, afternoon tea had become a haute event for high society women. They would attend afternoon tea parties between 4 and 5 p.m., dressed in long, elegantly-detailed dresses, gloves, and elaborate hats. At these lavish affairs, they would indulge in a broad selection of delicate canapés, finger sandwiches, and pastries. Servants would pour them tea from silver teapots into fine china cups.

Afternoon tea in the modern English home is much less grand, with the average person consuming a simple mug or two of tea and some basic biscuits, or perhaps a scone and some jam. Many high-end hotels in England and former British colonies in Asia, like Singapore or Malaysia, do still hold luxurious afternoon tea events for their guests.

When To Add The Milk

The concept of adding milk to tea might be a strange and alien idea to the average American tea drinker, but it is actually the preferred method of drinking black tea in England. How this habit came about is under some debate. We know that it started in the 1720s, when black tea overtook green tea in popularity. Some believe that it stems from the fragile porcelain cups the English commoners used to consume their tea. It is said they were so delicate they could crack from excessive heat, hence they would add milk to the cup before adding the tea. This would instantly cool the tea as it entered the cup and prevent the cup from cracking.

Those of the upper class could afford better quality porcelain, and didn't have to worry about their cups cracking, which ties in with the next theory. Due to the high cost of tea at the time, lower class citizens couldn't afford to drink full cups of tea, instead they would fill their cups with milk, and then add just a dash of tea. Upper class citizens, would fill their cups with tea first, and then add a dash of milk. To this day, many English people believe that when you add milk to your tea is an indication of which class your family is from. A third theory states that is was simply a method to reduce the bitterness of black tea and make it more palatable.

It is anybody's guess as to which of the previous theories is true, but even in modern times there is still some debate over the best time to add milk to tea, and it has nothing to do with social class. Some feel the time at which you add tea distinctly alters its flavor. This is due to how temperatures above 167 degrees Fahrenheit cause denaturation in the lactalbumin and lactoglobulin proteins found in milk. Others add milk at a strategic time to help it cool to a drinkable temperature quicker. Surprisingly though, while adding milk to the cup first causes a drastic initial temperature drop, it actually slows down the cooling process, resulting in the tea staying at an enjoyable drinking temperature for longer. This is because lipids in milk slow down evaporation, which is the main process responsible for tea losing its heat.

Choosing Your Next Tea Set

Those who plan on hosting lavish afternoon tea parties with lots of friends will have much different needs from a tea set than someone who just wants to enjoy an afternoon cup by themselves or with their partner. Most high-end tea sets today are made from porcelain, just like they were in days past. Of course, the porcelain found in modern sets is much more resilient to heat, so you won't have to worry about them cracking, no matter whether you add your tea to your milk, or your milk to your tea.

If you are looking to host elaborate afternoon tea events with a lot of guests, you may want to purchase a large set that includes enough cups and saucers to serve six or 10 people. You will probably also want to look for a set that includes snack plates and one or more large serving plates for the scrumptious finger sandwiches and pastries that will no doubt accompany the tea. Since common fashion sensibilities no longer dictate that all of your china must match, another option is to buy a few small sets with patterns or colors that work well together. For a touch of whimsy, try providing each table with their own style of tea set.

If you just want an attractive English tea set to add a touch of sophistication to your daily tea drinking time, a small set will suffice. In this case, you should also look for something with a bit more durability, since you will be using it on a regular basis. Consider dishwasher- and microwave-safe sets that will make prep and clean up time easier.

Whatever type of set you choose to buy, make sure to compliment it with a high-quality English tea.

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Last updated on October 24, 2017 by Ezra Glenn

Ezra is a writer, photographer, creative producer, designer, and record label-operator from New York City. He's traveled around the world and ended up back where he started, though he's constantly threatening to leave again.

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