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Tearoom Delights

Somehow there's nothing quite like it; the chink of delicate china, the aroma of freshly brewed Earl Grey and the exquisite taste of a warm scone buried under a mountain of fresh cream and jam. Naturally it's a fine summer's day; a background hum of a buzzing bee, a passing scent of flowers and a gentle cooling breeze to take the edge off the scorching sun. We all know what a tearoom means to us, but whatever senses are evoked for you, there's something unmistakable about the great British Tearoom.

A Brief History of Tea

The origins of tea date back nearly 5,000 years to its discovery as a drink by the Chinese. It has been drunk extensively in China and Japan for millennia but didn't reach Europe until the seventeenth century, even then it was so expensive that only the upper classes could afford it. Typical of these tea-drinking classes was the 7th Duchess of Bedford who, in the early nineteenth century, instigated the great British tradition of 'Afternoon Tea' (apparently to 'fill the gap' before the evening meal).

By this time however, tea was slowly increasingly in popularity amongst the masses and was even promoted as an alternative to alcohol by the temperance movement. Cafes and coffee houses were advocated as an alternative to that other great British establishment – the pub. Tea drinking was increasing, but mass popularity didn't really take off until the late nineteenth century with the advent of the first true modern tearoom.

The Modern Tearoom

We have Miss Catherine Cranston to thank for inventing the tearoom as we know and love it today. In 1878 she opened the first of her tearooms on Argyll Street in Glasgow, Scotland. More tearooms were added over the following years and all had that defining high quality which has set the standards for British tearooms ever since.

Tearooms Today

Popularity of tearooms increased during the following decades reaching a peak around the 1950's before cafes once again began to reassert their dominance. However tearooms not only survive but will always have a firm place in the culture and tradition of Britain – because there's simply nothing quite like them!

So next time you're passing a tearoom...

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China Tea Set

I am so fond of tea that I could write a whole dissertation on its virtues. It comforts and enlivens without the risks attendant on spirituous liquors. Gentle herb! Let the florid grape yield to thee. Thy soft influence is a more safe inspirer of social joy.

- James Boswell