At Destination Tea, it’s our mission to help you discover and explore the unique charms of the variety of tea rooms, tea houses, tea shops, tea cafes and tea bars offering afternoon tea. While some of these terms are used interchangeably, here’s how we define them at Destination Tea.
Tea rooms are typically housed within a larger establishment, such as a hotel, department store, country club, bed & breakfast, inn or historic site like an estate or castle. These will reflect the style of their hosts and usually have a set teatime in the afternoons. Oftentimes in-town hotel tea rooms offer a grand, classical setting and prepare their afternoon tea trays in the British tradition.
Tea houses, tea cafes, tea shops and tea bars are locally owned businesses whose decor and afternoon tea offerings vary widely and reflect their proprietor’s creativity. Most offer a combination of breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea menus (walk-in and/or by reservation) throughout the late morning and afternoon. **Note that the teatimes we provide in our directories tell you solely when that venue serves afternoon tea. (To find general open hours, click through to the establishment’s website).**
A tea house is often a renovated historic home with several themed rooms, while a tea cafe or tea shop may be tucked into a town square or plaza. The decor can be feminine, whimsical, or may transport you to the early days of afternoon tea, featuring antiques, unique tea collections, Victorian pieces or even a vintage hat and boa collection. In her decorating, the owner is sharing with her guests what it is she loves about the tradition of taking tea. Many also sell loose leaf teas and include a gift shop worth exploring. Some tea shops are purely retailing teas, gifts and beverages, while others may also offer baked goods and light fare. Whenever a tea shop serves a full afternoon tea menu, you will find them in our directories.
A Japanese tea house or tea room — which in the United States is often part of a museum, cultural center, botanical garden or university — is dedicated to the choreographed art form of the Japanese tea ceremony (“the way of tea”), in which host and guest practice graceful, meditative rituals in the serving and partaking of tea. Japanese tea houses traditionally have a waiting area, tatami floors, a low ceiling, screens, an alcove for scrolls, a hearth built into the floor, and several entrances for guests and host. Though our directories mainly include tea venues that offer a British-style afternoon tea, we will include Japanese tea houses or tea rooms when their tea ceremony includes a meal.
Tea bars are the latest in tea purveyors, usually designed with clean lines and modern or Asian-themed decor. While some do offer the traditional three-tiered afternoon tea, they also offer tea tastings and encourage à la carte teas, for which you go to the counter to order your tea along with some of their displayed baked goods. Tea bars emphasize tea education and exploration. While more traditionalist afternoon tea-goers can very much enjoy a tea bar, so too can the typical coffee shop patron, who sips tea over a business meeting or a good book. Tea bars also keep hours more like a coffee shop, staying open into the evenings and hosting local workshops, classes or music.
Destination Tea Tip: Patronize the places that you want to be there for you in future. Using our directories, you can find the perfect tea venue for any of these occasions:
- Showers (Baby, Bridal),
- Holiday Celebrations (Seasonal Afternoon Tea Events),
- Mother-Daughter Outing,
- Multi-Generational Family Get-Together,
- Children’s Tea,
- Tea Society, Book Club, Red Hat or other Group Meetings,
- Tea Education,
- Locally-Made Lunch,
- Relaxed Mini-Getaway.