Tearoom (UK and US)

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Old Twinings Shop on The Strand, London
The gallery in The Willow Tearooms
The Willow Tearooms
Tea room at he Wallace Collection
Tea room at Glen Eyrie castle in Colorado Springs

A tearoom or tea shop is a small restaurant where beverages and light meals are served, having a sedate or subdued atmosphere. The term may also refer to a room dedicated to the serving of tea in a private house.[citation needed]

A customer may eat a cream tea (also known as Devonshire tea), consisting of a scone with jam and clotted cream, or a full afternoon tea of sandwiches, scones, and cake. Alternatively a high tea may be served, of hot savoury food as the final meal of the day. In Scotland teas are usually served with a variety of scones, pancakes, crumpets and other cakes.

In a related usage, a tearoom may be a room set aside in a workplace for workers to relax and specifically to take refreshment during work-breaks. Traditionally, a staff member serving food and beverages at work was called a tea lady.

Historical development[edit]

Tea first arrived in England during Cromwell's protectorate and soon became the national drink. Tea drinking became a national pastime for the English. As early as 1784 La Rochefoucauld noted that "Throughout the whole of England the drinking of tea is general". Nevertheless, Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford is credited with the invention in 1840 of afternoon tea.[1]

Thomas Twining opened the first known tea room in 1706, at 216 Strand, London, England, where tea is still sold today. In 1787 the company created what is thought to be the world's oldest commercial logo that has been in continuous use since its inception.[2] Under Associated British Foods since 1964, Stephen Twining now represents the company's ten generations. In 2006, Twinings celebrated its 300th anniversary, with a special tea, and associated tea caddies. Twining's is a Royal Warrant holder (appointed by HM The Queen).

In the 18th century tea was an expensive (and heavily taxed) luxury for the rich, also available in Coffee houses. After doubts and arguments about possible health risks and the suitability of the beverage for "persons of an inferior rank", the increasing reaction to working class drunkenness in the temperance movement led to tea being promoted as an alternative, and from the 1830s many new cafes and coffee houses opened up as a temperance alternative to pubs and inns.

There is a long tradition of tea rooms within London's hotels. For example, Brown's Hotel has been serving tea in its tea room for over 170 years [3] The author Charles Dickens makes numerous references to tea rooms in his books set in Victorian England.

In 1864, the Aerated Bread Company opened the first of what would grow to be known as the A.B.C. Tea Shops. The idea for opening the tearoom is attributed to a London-based manageress of the Aerated Bread Company "who'd been serving gratis tea and snacks to customers of all classes, [and] got permission to put a commercial public tearoom on the premises."[4] The tearooms were significant since they provided a place where women of the Victorian era could take a meal — sans male escort — without risk to their reputations. By 1923, the A.B.C. tea shops would number 250,[5] second only to J. Lyons and Co. that opened thirty years after A.B.C.

In 1878 Catherine Cranston opened the first of what became a chain of Miss Cranston's Tea Rooms in Glasgow, Scotland, providing elegant well designed social venues which for the first time provided for well-to-do women socialising without male company and which proved widely popular. She engaged up and coming designers, becoming a patron of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who designed several interiors, and the complete building of The Willow Tearooms, which provided a strikingly modern exterior as well as a series of interesting interior designs. Similar establishments became popular throughout Scotland.

However, from the 1880s fine hotels in both the United States and England began to offer tea service in tea rooms and tea courts, and by 1910 they had begun to host afternoon tea dances as dance crazes swept both the U.S. and the UK Tea rooms were established catering for all classes of British society, most notably the chain set up by J. Lyons and Co. who opened their first teashop in 1894 at 213 Piccadilly, London, and set up a series of tea rooms known as Lyons Corner Houses. Tea rooms of all kinds were widespread in Britain by the 1950s, but in the following decades cafés became more fashionable, and tea rooms became less common. Country tea rooms offering cream teas are still a tourist attraction in many areas, particularly in Devon and Cornwall, and tea rooms can be found in most towns and villages. In Glasgow, The Willow Tearooms have been restored after years of having been absorbed into a department store, and now run a recreation of other Mackintosh interiors in another establishment in Buchanan Street near the site of one of her original tea rooms.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Helen Simpson The Ritz London Book of Afternoon Tea. Ebury Press, 2006
  2. ^ Standage, T. (2005). A History of the World in Six Glasses. New York: Walker. p. 202.
  3. ^ "Luxury Hotels - 5 Star Hotels and Resorts - Rocco Forte". Browns Hotel. 
  4. ^ Brandt, Pamela Robin. “Tea for View, View for Tea,” Miami New Times. October 17, 2002. (Retrieved 2009-05-08). See also: “英格兰饮茶风俗由何而来? (二),” British Council China. August 8, 2007. (Retrieved 2009-05-08).
  5. ^ "Aerated Bread Company (ABC)", London Metropolitan Archives. National Archives. ACC/2910, 1869-1885. (Retrieved 2009-05-08).

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