In the heart of the London, near St James’s Park, Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey, there’s a gorgeous, historic 4-star hotel bringing a bit of buzz to the city. St. Ermin’s was converted into a hotel in 1899, but previous lives saw this property as a chapel in the 15th century and a mansion in the 1800s. In 1940, Winston Churchill chose this hotel as a meeting place and during WWII, the Special Operations Executive and MI6 used St. Ermin’s as a base.
While the hotel’s history is fascinating and may draw you through the door as you look for an original piece of code, it’s the steps the hotel is taking toward sustainability that ensures its place in the future. St. Ermin’s is home to the very first honey bee hotel in London. The third floor roof is home to 350,000 Buckfast bees who, thanks to a specially curated garden and home, produce amazingly delicious honey.
The JuBEElee: St. Ermin’s Afternoon Tea
That’s where I come in. I visited the St. Ermin’s JuBEElee Afternoon Tea to celebrate those bees and the honey they’ve produced. As it’s been an unseasonably warm October (please, don’t change!!), we opted to sit outside on the terrace, protected by sun umbrellas equipped with heaters, just in case the weather changed. At £29 per person, this is one of the best deals on afternoon tea in London. And for only £6 more, an add on of free flowing Prosecco ensures that the bees aren’t the only ones who are buzzed.
After perusing the selection of tea, I went with a safe bet and chose Earl Grey tea. My friend Claire, from The Curious Explorers, chose Jasmine Blossom. In typical American style, I know very little about brew times and the appropriate way to take my tea. Luckily, St. Ermin’s provides a tea timer with individual hourglasses for each tea type.
The three-tiered tea stand arrived, met with oohs and ahhs, because the presentation was on point. Oftentimes, afternoon tea is strong in either the sweet or the savory, but it’s rare to have an amazing experience with both. This is one of those rare unicorns of an afternoon tea, where everything tasted and looked amazing.
Savory finger sandwiches
The honey bee theme was evident throughout and produce from the rooftop garden made the tea even more special. From the savory level, my favorites were the salt beef with honey-mustard slaw and goat cheese with apricot chutney finger sandwiches.
Sweets infused with honey
It’s hard to choose a favorite on the sweet tiers. The banana and honey mousse with milk chocolate, shaped into a beehive was almost too cute to eat. I took that treat upstairs on an origins trip, so we could photoshoot with the bees whose honey made this dessert possible.
As a child, I loved eating a ‘cup of dirt’ as a dessert. In the US, that’s made with chocolate pudding, crumbled Oreos and a gummy worm. St. Ermin’s offers a far more sophisticated version. Their white chocolate mousse with honey sponge and honey caramel presented in a tiny pot is classy and fun. I also loved the honey bee gin and tonic jelly with blackberry pannacotta and the ginger and honey macaron. Oh, and then there’s the sloe gin baba with cinnamon cream that reminded me of a rum cake I tried years ago in the Cayman Islands. Like I said, it’s so hard to choose a favorite, because everything was amazing!
Scones with homemade jam and clotted cream
And then, just when we thought we were full to bursting, the scones showed up! When I have to leave the UK, scones with real clotted cream and homemade jam will be one of the things I miss the most.
The Honey Bee Hotel
As we emptied the last of our three tiers, our 90 minutes of free-flowing Prosecco came to an end. We agreed that this was one of the nicest afternoon teas in London. Ascending the stairs one more time, we bid the bees adieu and sent them a bit of gratitude for the honey they produced.
Note: We visited St. Ermin’s afternoon tea as a guest of the hotel. As always, all opinions are my own and I’d never recommend anything to you that’s not awesome!
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