In the heart of London, we'd expect no busier establishment than the tea house—a precious space wherein busy students can press pause and enjoy a quality brew (and maybe a cheeky cake). Yet we're far more likely to grab a takeout cup from any of the pervasive chains scattered across the city.

We see a trip to the tea rooms as a fancy and overpriced ordeal, reserved for special occasions and celebrations. But London is teeming with both hidden and not-so-hidden tea rooms that don't have to break the bank. Here are four quaint and decadent tea rooms that serve as a welcome break from your Starbucks fix.

1) Tea House Theatre

Based five minutes from Vauxhall station, Tea House Theatre is a quirky and cosy tea room with a spacious interior. With a stash of board games, an area devoted to cakes, and the cutest cosies for your teapot, this converted Victorian house will have you feeling right at home.

What to order: Their menu boasts an array of loose leaf teas, along with some recognisable favourites. Try the Rose Congou—a Chinese black tea layered with rose petals—or create your own blend from a choice of infusions.

2) B Bakery

Brigit's Bakery (informally known as 'B')  is known for providing an Instagram-worthy afternoon tea on a bus. But for those whose seminar breaks aren't quite long enough, B Bakery also occupies a snug corner en route to Covent Garden. The decor is pleasantly chic with a splash of vintage, and its fashionable wall art and flower arrangements provide ample photo opportunities.

What to order: B's menu offers a mixture of black, red, and green teas, all of which come with recommended cakes! Unique among the choices is the Rooibush Colada—a tempting mixture of redbush and pina colada infusions. Or, for something even creamier, try bending the rules with the Matcha-Sencha latte.

3) Tea & Tattle

Rebecca Salter

Part-tea room, part-book store, Tea & Tattle is a delightful retreat from the hectic museum centre and offers a tucked-away drinking experience. Fortunately for us, it's also one of the most affordable places for afternoon tea in the city. With a set menu under £20, it's definitely the place to impress your parents and secure a new afternoon favourite.

What to order: Tea & Tattle's menu is far simpler than others mentioned on this list, and most, if not all, teas will be familiar. Their Jasmine tea is a recommend pick for its calming qualities, or revisit a classic with their English Breakfast for a truly British experience.

4) LÁNG at Shangri-La

Undoubtedly the most high-end tea room on this list, LÁNG at Shangri-La is a well-earned treat. At the base of The Shard, it provides a luxurious experience for a fraction of its upper level price. It also sells an assortment of fresh artisan cakes to complement your equally opulent brew. 

What to order: LÁNG's White Apricot tea is a personal favourite. Its flavour is light and subtle, and it even comes with a sweet cake peppered with apricot pieces. An additional gold-flaked cake is purely optional.

All in all, London provides an admixture of tea room styles—from cheap and cheerful to gorgeously grand—and it's hard to resist trying each at least once. Whether as a pre-lecture lunch or a post-essay splurge, these rooms offer a unique and irresistible experience not to be missed during your time in the bustling capital.