The Rise of the Vintage Tearoom Did you know that 165,000,000 cups of tea are drunk in the UK every day? Sales of tea in the UK rose last year for the first time in four decades as economically depressed consumers remembered just how comforting a cuppa can be. Tea experts believe young women are driving sales – up 3 per cent in 2009 – as they reject purse-emptying lattes and smoothies in favour of the beverages their grandmas relished. It’s almost as if, even with our modern day, high flying jobs, disposable incomes, we think for some reason that we are missing out on the cake stands, china cups and plastic table cloths. The nation’s drink? Surprisingly for a country that considers tea their national drink, the recent surge in vintage tea rooms has caused quite a stir. You’d think it would be a natural trend, after all, we are renowned for our tea. After years of coffee shops springing up on high streets across the country, the humble brew is fighting back! In fact, afternoon tea has become such big business for leading hotels in the capital that some are having to offer more and more packages of tea due to increased demand. Many tourists and out-of-town shoppers are listing stopping for afternoon tea as high priority on their to do list when visiting new areas, both rural and urban. Not only are the locals enjoying the presence of tea rooms but business leaders in all industries are more often than not choosing to hold meetings over tea as a stylish and relaxed alternative to the power breakfast, or even worse the lengthy dinner. It isn’t just tea that the tea rooms sell. They also commonly offer multiple varieties of herbal teas, scones, toast, homemade cakes and fresh sandwiches. The market analyst Mintel put together a report showing that the sales of standard tea bags have dropped by over 16% since 2011, however, the report has also shown that the sale of fruit and herbal teas has risen by over 30% and speciality teas, for example green tea have experienced a 50% surge. The Origin Most of us regularly drink it, but how many of us actually know its background? Tea has become part of everyday life here in Britain and we might never stop to think about how a unique plant could become the nation’s favourite drink. The history of tea is captivating, and in this section we can follow its story from the earliest times in Imperial China right up to its present place at the heart of British life. There are various legends surrounding the origins of tea – perhaps there is one that you may have heard of; the most famous is the Chinese story of Shen Nung, the emperor and renowned herbalist, who was boiling his drinking water when leaves from a nearby tea blew into the cauldron, he then tasted the water, liked it and resulted in tea being born. So why not step back into the charming world of vintage tea rooms, decorated in authentic 1930/40s style, from the quaint china sets to the embroidered tablecloths and wartime posters – they offer a blissful step back in time away from all of the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Fancy opening up one yourself? Are you suited? We think of tea shops as a haven of relaxation – which they are! But if you are considering opening up your very own then be prepared for the demands of many hours of hard work, pouring countless hours into preparing your core products, menus, fresh cake recipes, and remembering to decorate your vintage tea shop in a way that makes you stand out from your competitors whilst retaining the warm and welcoming traditional feel. Select your furniture carefully, it doesn’t have to match! You want to create a homely and completely unique visitor experience. Tips for success As we all know, you can only have a successful business if you have happy customers. Running such a public business it is crucial that you enjoy serving people, having customer contact and enjoy making everything as hospitable as possible – not only will you then enjoy working, you will also find that by word of mouth you will become a hit with the locals. Locals are your bread and butter income, so give off good vibes and these customers will return again and again. Customer satisfaction is the most important thing! Top tips Always, always, always smile. People won’t linger in miserable places – and they certainly won’t come back. However if you are buying/renting a commercial property then be prepared to do some work on the interior when you move in – although not too much because you want the shabby chic look after all, it’s meant to be a vintage tea room! Make sure you have a running theme, whether that’s a colour, logo, catchphrase etc., as you want to be able to make your tea room stand out compared to your competitors. It’s got to be inviting, warm and cosy as weary walkers will want somewhere comfortable and relaxing to chill out with a good cuppa. Always check out the local competition – and make yourself stand out from the rest! Fancy Afternoon Tea in the Capital? From the Guardian’s list of top 50 tea rooms they have stated that the top traditional tea room in UK is; The Milestone Hotel, located at 1 Kensington Court in London. The park lounge is perfect for that luxurious country home atmosphere, even in the heart of the city, and the view across Kensington garden is simply stunning. So sit back, relax and enjoy the cosy atmosphere and hearty cake on offer. Afternoon tea is £31.50, and there is a Little Prince and Princess afternoon tea for children under 12 at £12.50. The guardian voted the best value tea room is Kingsway Hall Hotel, again located in the heart of London (I can see the theme here!), this popular modern hotel in Covent Garden keeps it simple, but does it well, serving all the classic afternoon-tea elements with a good selection of Twining’s leaf teas, including Jasmine Pearls and a Flush Darjeeling – it’s an absolute bargain at only £16.95. However if you are after that little piece of luxury then you don’t want to miss out on the Brown’s Hotel, it has fascinating heritage – even Queen Victoria was a regular! Nowadays afternoon tea is priced at £39.50 for two, but you not only get sandwiches, scones, cakes and a choice of an array of
teas, but you also get to listen to the soft sound of the baby grand piano – for that truly magnificent feel! Fancy a little Russian twist? Don’t worry if you’ve never experienced Russian tea before, this tea room is the perfect place to start, with a perfect mixture of modern flooring with a touch of the old with steel sash weighted windows – you really do get the best of both worlds. The Alice in wonderland sensation oozes from the Mari Vanna’s walls, the food is rich and delicious, the tea is served in a glass and can be sweetened with jam instead of sugar, come and explore your taste buds in Wellington Court! Bio: Karen loves spending time with her children and grandchildren, and the rise in vintage tea rooms has offered another opportunity to get the girls together for the afternoon for something a little different. As a homeowner, landlord of a listed building, and business owner, Karen loves all things vintage, traditional, and historical, and is always keen to find products that allow listed buildings to be updated and restored without losing any of their old fashioned beauty, the latest of which was from Mighton Products Heritage Range for authentically refurbishing sash windows.
Have you noticed vintage tea rooms popping up in your town? Have you wondered what the craze of going to the Ritz for afternoon tea is?