#04

Autumn2015

In praise of tea rooms

There’s no better pastime for a British lass than wiling away the time sipping from a china tea cup and nibbling a jam scone. Am I right? Gentlemen too, of course!
Now, this seems to be a phenomenon that us Brits do particularly well. The Italians and Turks have their coffee shops, the French their patisseries and us? We luxuriate in flipping open a carefully crafted menu, pouring over the wide variety of locally produced (yes indeed!) and locally sourced teas; loose leaf? Flowering lotus? Yorkshire or Earl Grey? Never-the-less if you’re anything like me, you’ll have a wee peep then plump for the good ol’ Americano.

 

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Not quite a British institution, but if this was 1943 I’d be blimmin lucky to get my hands on some!

Then there’s the question of brown or white sugar? And do you like it in lumps or loose? Personally, I like lifting the china lid off an antique sugar bowl and using some of those delicate silver tongs to pluck two (or three) nice uneven brown sugar cubes into my coffee. Sometimes my fellow gives me a stern look over his own (black, sugarless) cup of coffee, and I have to try and fish the third one out without dissolving it further. Sugar isn’t good for you apparently.

Then as you’re tentatively sipping your beverage of choice, there’s a menu of delicious food items to chose from. I know a gorgeous little tea room in Wellingborough, Northampton, called Ria’s Rosy Lee, which does crumpet bread with cheese on! (And marmite if you want it, but I won’t mention that for fear of alienating half you readers!) It’s a slice of bread, from a small loaf maybe a palm-span across (glove size 7), which has the consistency and flavour of a crumpet!

Or there is something sweet- scones, homemade cakes (try the Victorian Tea Room at Milton Keynes Museum, the cook’s own cakes are heaven!), Sponges, gingerbread… I could
go on.

The delicate little cake forks, the fine china plates decorated with an assortment of floral designs. Lots of tea rooms now favour mismatched items which if you’re a fan of shabby chic you will certainly enjoy. In my view, the furniture and accessories complete the look- dark wood furniture (just visit the Edwardian Tea Rooms at Avoncroft Museum) and the lace table cloths, sometimes if you get lucky you get traditional napkins! Everything combines to bring a little bit of peace to a rushed Saturday, or a spot of relaxation to the middle of a working week.

Now if you really want to treat yourself head to York, and join the queue for Bettys – a high-end tea room founded in 1936.

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Featuring a remarkable mirror downstairs, which immortalises the WWII era of the area:

“A few years after Bettys opened its doors in York war broke out, and Bettys – in particular the basement ‘Bettys Bar’ – became a favourite haunt of thousands of airmen stationed around York.
‘Bettys Mirror’, on which many of them engraved their signatures with a diamond pen, remains on display today as a fitting tribute to their bravery.”

Then there’s Miss Havisham’s Tearoom in Stony Stratford (complete with ancient wedding cake and historical photographs of the local area), or the Abbey Steps Tea Room in Whitby. Pretty much any English town you care to visit will be able to accommodate you in some kind of tea room or other, unfortunately I can’t name them all. However if you have a particular favourite, or can recommend somewhere good, be sure to let us know!

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Ava Aviación is an English vintage model and historian living in the 1940s!  She is  interested in social history, specifically women’s lives during the Second World War.