The Overuse of “Tea Room”

You know your inner “tea princess” is in full swing when you’re starving and parched so you stop in a place called “tea room,” are shown the tea selection (consisting of bagged teas from a couple of fairly well-known but not necessarily high-grade tea companies) and leave, still starving and parched. And disgusted. Since when did “tea room” apply to such a place? Seems to me like the name is getting totally overused.

Is it or isn’t it? Sometimes you never know until you step inside. (Yahoo! Images)
Is it or isn’t it? Sometimes you never know until you step inside. (Yahoo! Images)

Overusing a term or using it in a way that is very different from what is originally intended is known in philosophical circles as “diluting.” Something that used to be applied to a specific thing now seems to apply to just about anything. Thus its meaning is diluted.

Technically, I suppose this place qualified as a tea room. After all, tea was served there. But then, tea of that quality (or lack thereof) was also served at plenty of places that don’t call themselves “tea rooms.” If the quality of tea in the tea room is the same as the quality of tea in a non-tea room, then why call this place a tea room?

Okay, sounds like we need to establish some criteria for something qualifying to bear the moniker “tea room.” I propose, for one thing, that tea served there be of better quality than is readily available at such eateries as Denny’s or Perkins (fine places but hardly forthcoming with anything but the most basic of black and green teas and those herbal things that are often called “tea”). You may want to include a certain style of serving the tea, certain foods available to enjoy with the tea, a certain atmosphere in which to enjoy both tea and foods, etc. These items only make a place a better or worse tea room. Since tea is the main thing, then the chief criteria should be the tea itself, at least to my philosophically inclined brain.

Even if this so-called “tea room” (that I had entered with such great hope of an experience befitting a Tea Princess) had served better teas steeped loose in the pot or at least in a T-sac or drawstring tea filter, they would have, at best, qualified as a very poor tea room. The menu was lackluster and had none of the more traditional tea time foods except possibly the quiche. The décor could best be described as “cheesy café” with no tablecloths, wobbly tables, paper napkin dispensers, sticky feeling salt and pepper shakers, not even artificial flowers on the tables, and a lot of kitchen clatter noise. Locally, the “tea room” is rather popular. I am surmising that women (except for hubby, all the customers were female) are sucked in by the name “tea room” and thus go there. They have probably never experienced a real tea room.

It seems important, therefore, to know what a tea room is and, more importantly, what a good tea room is. Thus, you will be assured of a tea time worthy of your expenditure of hard-earned money. And above all, don’t be taken in by a place merely calling itself a “tea room.”

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

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7 thoughts on “The Overuse of “Tea Room”

  1. Pingback: The Best of the English Tea Store Tea Blog in 2013 | Tea Blog

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  3. If you are ever in Bellingham, WA, we have a lovely, proper tea room. I go there quite often. The tea is made with loose tea. The menu is filled with absolutely delicious tea sandwiches, cornish pasties, home made soups, and wonderful British desserts. It is not to be missed. It’s called the Abbey Garden Tea Room.

    1. A.C. Cargill

      Have made a note of it! Yes, I am sure there are proper tea rooms aplenty. Sadly, the ‘fake’ ones make it harder to find the ‘real’ ones.

  4. Amen, sister. I recently had tea at a local “tearoom”, calling first to see if they used loose leaf tea. On being assured this was true, off we went, only to get tea bags. Oh, they said, we thought you meant for sale. Don’t they sell pots of tea? Don’t in house customers deserve the best? I won’t return and I quietly told them why, in a corner.

  5. Bless you! I couldn’t have said it better. And afternoon tea at hotels should also get a wave of your Tea Princess wand! I was at a £40/$60 per head afternoon tea at the Corinthea Hotel in London, and the sencha they served was disgraceful! They left the bag (not loose leaves even) in the hot (!) water with no way of getting the bag out so it didn’t over-steep. It was a gallon-sized teapot too.

    1. A.C. Cargill

      OH MY GOSH! That’s horrid! And in London! I will definitely need to put that tea princess wand into high gear! 🙂

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