It's time for tea with Tea Room Treasures!

 A cup of tea

W

hat better way to experience Great Britain than to participate in “afternoon tea”, a British tradition replete with pomp and ceremony, classic and specialty teas, and scrumptious cakes and sandwiches.  As Henry James so eloquently stated:  "There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea".

Afternoon tea began in the early nineteenth century when only two main meals--breakfast and a late dinner--were served.   Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, complained of a “sinking feeling” in the late afternoon and was served a pot of tea and a light snack of cakes and sandwiches.  The light snack in the afternoon became standard as other royal families took up the tradition.  Cover Issue

Much like every village has at least one pub, the same almost holds true for tea rooms, and one can enjoy formal afternoon tea at high society establishments in London such as The Ritz, The Waldorf, or The Savoy (check out my article-- The best tea rooms in London at the Escapist Traveller Magazine), or relax in a rural countryside atmosphere of local villages throughout England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.  There is a style and ambiance to suit all tastes, and you don't have to wait until afternoon to enjoy afternoon tea as most tea rooms serve some form of the tradition throughout the day.   

There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.--Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady (1843-1916)

For all of its pleasantries and tradition, afternoon tea is also big business.  And for many tea rooms, recognition by The Tea Guild is a year-round goal.  According to the UK Tea Council's website: "The Tea Guild is a prestigious and unique organisation that represents and encourages those outlets who are dedicated to both brewing and serving tea to the high standards desired by the United Kingdom Tea Council."  Competition is stiff as tea rooms across the United Kingdom go teacup-to-teacup for one of the coveted Top Tea Places awards. Tea Guild experts covertly visit establishments and score them using sixteen categories such as décor, cleanliness, staff attitudes, and of course a variety of tea-related tests

such as flavor, appearance, and staff knowledge.  Establishments that use porcelain, bone china, or other glazed stoneware—better for retaining heat—score higher than those using pots made from aluminum, pewter, or enamel.  The type, shape, and size of cups are also important.  For more information on The Tea Guild or to a review of the criteria, please visit The Tea Guild’s membership page.   

I am not a Tea Guild expert, nor an expert of any kind.  When it comes to tea and cakes, the set of judging criteria I use are far less sophisticated.  I look for lightly top-toasted scones with the finest clotted cream, a unique selection of rich homemade tea cakes, and farm-fresh finger sandwiches made with locally sourced ingredients all served with a smile and in a warm, relaxing, and charming setting--and without breaking the bank!   

 
Archive issues: Tea Room Treasures of East Anglia                                                       

 
 Spring 2014 Cover
 Cover Summer 2014
 Cover Fall 2014
 Cover Special Edition 2014
 
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