Let Them Eat Cake (and sip tea): Albion Afternoon Tea in Barcelona

albion afternoon tea

Quaint. /ˈkweɪnt/ adj. The most important English word, in my book—and one with no direct Spanish translation. Maybe that’s why Spain has no tea tradition; there’d be no words to describe it! 

It’s my third year in Spain, and I’ve begun to accept what I first saw as flaws.

Pork products and I had a rocky relationship my first year, but now I’m committed. I can’t get enough chorizo, and a sandwich isn’t a sandwich without a slice of jamón. I once scoffed at tiny coffees, but I’ve learned to sip slower. I used to lament siesta hour (shops closed for three hours mid-day!), but these days I’m too busy napping myself to even notice. Why, exactly, did I ever complain about that one?

Anyway, all this to say that I used to resist many aspects of Spanish culture, but I think Spain and I have finally come to terms. I accept the country, and daresay, I mostly love it. But if I had to bring up one little flaw in our next counseling session, might I suggest to you, dear Spain . . .

Tea culture. You could use a shot of tea culture.

And by tea culture, I don’t mean the option to order tea at a café. That’s elementary. I’m talking about an established afternoon practice that Spaniards adopt from their northern neighbors, in which they delight in steaming beverages, assorted miniature cakes, and frilly floral china. I’m talking quaint, charming, candle-lit tables with little rose bouquets in the center. Sugar cubes and tiny spoons and all that.

Albion Afternoon Tea

Let’s Talk Tea (and cake)

Luckily for Spain and me, Claire Gledhill moved from England to Barcelona five years ago. She appreciated all that draws people to this Catalonian capital—sun and beach and ham, I’m guessing—but didn’t want to sweep all of her own heritage under the rug. Namely, the British Bakery.

So today, Claire is filling a major quaintness gap in Barcelona. She’s created a monthly pop-up British Tea in which she celebrates the sweet and savory of her home country. She stacks homemade scones and cucumber finger sandwiches and treacle tarts on perfect two-tiered trays; she steeps bottomless pots of Earl Grey; she pops bottles of cava (sparkling white wine) for that added touch of class. And we can all be grateful that Claire has introduced Barcelona (and me) to real clotted cream. Was I really living before? 

“I never would have said I felt British until I moved somewhere else,” Claire says, as she explains a phenomenon she noticed after moving abroad. There seemed to be no awareness of English food, and if there was, it generally took on a negative light. So in part, she created Albion Afternoon Tea as a way to spotlight the delectable of her country’s fare. “People know about Italian food. People know about Chinese food. But most people have no idea what English cuisine really is.”

Claire scours the markets here for essential ingredients—proper cake flour and real brown sugar present a world of difficulties. Friends and family bring other hard-to-find ingredients when they visit. She collects quaint cutlery and china at vintage shops around the city. And for seven months now, she’s hosted a pop-up celebration that authentically reflects her upbringings. Albion Afternoon Tea is affordable and accessible (unlike its original aristocratic roots), because as Claire says, she didn’t want to create something in which only tourists or foreigners could partake. It was important to her that people on any budget could experience a classic English tradition.

As for me, I cleaned my two-tiered platter and then some. I may have tried and failed to sneak away a few extra scones in my pockets. (Damn skinny jeans). I was properly hydrated for two days straight after downing all of Britain’s tea supply.

Spain, I can continue to accept you and your (diminishing list of) flaws, as long as Claire sticks around and fills my cup.

Albion Afternoon Tea details

Albion Afternoon Tea is one Saturday a month at 3 pm. It takes place in a secret location in Barcelona’s Gothic quarter. (You’ll be informed exactly where once you sign up!). 20 euros gets you a mouth-watering assortment of sweet and savory snacks, bottomless tea, a half bottle of cava, and an adult beverage on arrival. (We had Pimm’s. Again, where has Pimm’s been all my life?) It also gets you the quaintest afternoon you may spend in Barcelona, and some great company to boot. If you’re a resident of this wonderful city, or if your visit coincides with the selected date, I can’t recommend Albion Afternoon Tea enough. Follow Albion Food and Events on Facebook or shoot Claire an email at albionfoodandevents@gmail.com.

Now let’s all raise our mugs to Barcelona’s sweetest new tradition.

albion afternoon tea menu

Here was November’s menu, though it changes!

Claire graciously invited me to sip and munch free of charge, but all opinions are my own. 

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  • Yum! You had me ay cucumber sandwiches…!

  • That is a wonderful idea! I love how Claire brings the British tea culture into Barcelona, and I hope that on my next trip back to Barca I can experience this lovely event! :D

  • Anne

    “Where has Pimm’s been all my life?”

  • Jonathan Marshall

    Another mouthwatering post to get my saliva glands going. But I have one reservation: Almost as important as the cakes and tea is the setting. Barcelona deserves as much quainter tea room than the one shown here–or are these photos deceiving?

    • The Afternoon Tea isn’t in a fixed location; it’s an underground movement that sets up camp in a hidden pop-up location, so she finds the tables and chairs to accommodate the guests who sign up. It’s not the fancy-pants Afternoon Tea one can find at Harrods, but it keeps it affordable and accessible to all who want to partake! Plus, I actually loved the feel of the place–really personable and homey, like we were having tea with Claire in her living room.