English tea rooms provide a step out of the everyday world into a pleasant haven of peacefulness and gentility. Some of the largest, most prestigious hotels in the world have fancy, upscale tea rooms. Many small towns have tea rooms as well, and it's not uncommon to find a tea room, or a corner set off as a tea room, inside a person's home. Tea rooms come in all shapes and sizes and styles. Designing an English tea room can be a happy adventure.
Determine location. If this is to be a public, commercial tea room, find a location that will be convenient to customers. If this is to be a private tea room in the home, find a room or corner that will suffice.
Decide on the desired level of formality. Tea rooms can be very formal with antique furniture and imported linens. Brocade curtains are common in formal tea rooms. Other tea rooms are cosy, chintzy affairs with cafe curtains. These are filled with lace and lots of frilly, pastel touches.
Determine the type of tea. No, not what's in the box of tea leaves but what is on the menu. Low tea is traditionally served at 4 p.m. on a low table such as a coffee table. It consists of tea, small sweet cakes, and sometimes crustless sandwiches. High tea is traditionally served at 6 p.m. and requires a taller table such as a standard dining table. This tea is more like a supper meal. Break with tradition if necessary. Most tea rooms that serve low tea do so on high tea tables. Adapt the tea room idea to personal preferences.
Pick out the appropriate china and flatware. Very formal tea rooms have high-end matching china and flatware so that everyone is served with identical pieces. Smaller tea rooms have a variety of china and flatware styles, often of a lesser grade but charming in their eclectic appeal.
Provide a glass-front cabinet so that tea cups, saucers and teapots can be displayed. For regular customers or for friends at home, designate a spot for their favourite items so that they feel at home in the tea room.
- Arrange for extra touches that create the ambience you desire. Soft lighting is nice, but natural lighting is good as well. A formal tea room might have Mozart, Debussy or Bach playing in the background. For a more casual tea room, consider contemporary easy listening.
- Place small vases of fresh flowers on each table.
- Remember, you are creating a state of mind as much as a literal room for drinking tea. Display a lovely hat or two reminiscent of those worn at the races at Ascot, and add a pair of lace gloves.