Tea Rooms, Tea Courts, and Tea Dances

In the late 1800s the best hotels in the U.S. and the U.K. began to host tea rooms and tea courts. The tea service served in the late afternoon gave the genteel Victorians a place to meet for a sip of tea and conversation. Many of these tea courts became the epitome of elegance like the Plaza in New York.

The Victorians took the ritual of the tea dance very seriously, and there were even books written on the etiquette of hosting such an affair. Frequently a live orchestra would perform light classical music while guests danced Waltzes, two steps and Tangos.

By 1910 the tea rooms were popping up in major cities. Frowned on by their elders, young working men and women used the afternoon tea dances as a place to meet. Over the next decade this dancing trend evolved from refined Tango teas to cocktails and the Charleston.

However, the tea dances did continue at Britain’s Waldorf until a German bomb shattered the glass roof of the Palm Court in 1939. At that point in the war, the frivolity of tea dances was suspended. Not until over forty years had passed did the Waldorf reinstate the tea dance tradition. Held in the hotel’s grand event room, Palm Court, the tea dances include an open dance floor, a live band and professional dance shows. Of course along with all of this merriment the hotel serves finger sandwiches, baked scones and clotted cream, cakes, champagne and of course exquisite tea.

So today, even though young working men and women have many other opportunities to meet each other when they are far from home making a living in the big city, it might be a fun afternoon adventure to attend a tea dance for some light refreshment, conversation, dancing, and, of course, some tea.

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