For over 300 years the English have been drinking tea in tearooms. The first known tearoom was opened by Thomas Twining in 1706 at 216 Strand, London. In 1864, the Aerated Bread Company opened the first chain of tearooms called the A.B.C. Tea Shops. Thirty years later, J. Lyons and Co. started a chain of their own more upmarket Lyons Corner Houses. Hotels in cities began serving Afternoon Tea, and traditional English tearooms could be found in almost every town and village in England. Country farms, particularly in Devon and Cornwall, created their own little version of a tearoom, offering cream teas (with homemade clotted cream) to passing tourists.
Although A.B.C. Tea Shops and Lyons Corner Houses no longer survive, the English tearoom has and there are thousands of places across this Land of Hope and Glory and Tea where one can enjoy that most charming of English traditions called Afternoon Tea. But with so many tearooms scattered about England, how exactly do you go about finding a good one? I get asked this question all the time, so I thought I would share with you my ten tips to tracking down a terrific tearoom.
1. Word of mouth
A glowing recommendation by a family member, friend, work colleague, or neighbour is the best and easiest way to find a terrific tearoom. The next time you are at a family gathering, out on the town with your bestie, chatting with the person who sits across from you at work, or having a natter over your garden gate, make, “Been to any good tearooms lately?” one of your first questions.
2. Tea Books
There are a number of excellent tearoom guides in print. My top favourite is Fancy A Cuppa; it not only lists great places for tea, but also the stories behind the tearoom owners, and the building. The AA Afternoon Tea books and Teashop Walks series have stood the test of time and are superb resources when looking for a tearoom. Bruce Richardson’s Great Tearooms of Britain contains some of the country’s most well-known tearooms (and stunning photographs), and Jane Pettigrew’s Tea in the City: London focuses on the best tearooms in the capital. Margaret Thornby’s Guide to Tea Rooms is another classic and chock full of tearoom listings and reviews.
3. Tea Magazines
The magazine Tea & Tea Room Talk regularly features tearoom reviews from all around England. I have also discovered the names of tearooms in the Food and Drink section of my local Lifestyle magazine, so find out the name of yours and check it out.
4. Tea Blogs
Tea bloggers love to talk about tearooms and a tea blog is an excellent place to learn about places for tea. You will also usually find fantastic photographs and detailed tearoom reviews because, well, that’s just the way we are! Tea bloggers can be very opinionated about their tearoom experience, so these blogs are fun to read. Top English tea blogs (besides Tea in England, of course) are Kate and Chelsie and Teasemaid.
5. Tea Directories
Obviously, an online tearoom directory should be near the top of your list when you are searching out that perfect place in England for afternoon tea. Here are three of them that every tea lover should have bookmarked: Afternoon Tea, the UK Tea Council, and Tea at Three.
6. Tea Websites
Many tea company websites display their stocklists, helping their customers find tearooms and tea shops that carry their teas. Teapigs is one of them, as is Tregothnan Tea. Travel websites, such as Trip Advisor, are also a good place to look for a tearoom in the part of England you are interested in.
The Facebook search function makes it easy to do a quick keyword search using the words “tearoom” or “tea room”. Although tearoom owners are very busy people, many of them still find time to update their Facebook pages regularly with menu specials, upcoming events, discount codes, pictures, etc. The Tea Rooms (London) and Bettys Cafe Tea Rooms (York) are two personal Facebook favourites.
When I first set up my Twitter account, I searched the keyword “tearoom” and followed a few of them that showed up in the results. I started re-tweeting their tweets and it wasn’t long before new tearooms were following me back and I was discovering ones all across England that I never knew existed. If you are on Twitter, you could do the same – or simply post a “Looking for tearooms in my area” tweet and see what happens. Here are a few tearooms in England whose Twitter accounts I follow: Peacocks Tearoom (Cambridgeshire), Scrumptious Tearooms and Poppy’s Tea Room (Essex), and Well Walk Tea Room (Gloucestershire).
9. Google search
There’s nothing quite as efficient as a basic Google search. To look for a tearoom, type “tearooms in (insert name of city, state, county, country, etc here)” or “tea rooms in (insert name of city, state, county, country, etc here)” in the Google search box. Don’t give up if you don’t see the name of a tearoom on the first few pages. Keep scrolling through because their website might be ‘buried’ amongst all the other listings.
10. Just ask!
When all else fails, never be afraid to email a tea blogger, tea book author, tea expert, or tea shop owner for the name of their favourite tearoom. Most tea people are happy to “talk tea” and they will consider it a privilege to be of help.
I hope my ten tips to tracking down a terrific tearoom will help you find the tearoom of your dreams. If you have a particular resource that you like to use when on the hunt for a tearoom, please share it with us by leaving a comment below.
Note: As “the only constant in life is change”, I strongly advise that before visiting any tearoom, you first ring to confirm that it is still open for business.
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