For Victorian and Edwardian women tearooms were a freedom from the old expectations of family and chaperones, and simply going from being someone’s daughter to someone’s wife.
We might have gained many – and more – freedoms those early tearoom ladies could only dream of, but tearooms are still a special place to go. Going out for afternoon tea is not like giving a dinner party, or Christmas, with all the stresses of getting it right, and making sure friends and family have a good time and (especially with family) the old resentments don’t come sneaking out once the wine begins to flow. Even being taken out to dinner tends to mean making sure you look right and behave, and don’t trip over your shoes.
Going out for afternoon tea with friends is a true luxury. It’s not even about nutrition – and you certainly can’t afford to think of the waistline! It’s an indulgence, a relaxation, a bit of time out from your five-a-day, and the rush and bustle of everyday life. It’s a time to sit and chat, either in comfortably familiar, or excitingly new, surroundings. And for women, it’s still a place to escape from the responsibility of feeding the family, and expectations that nothing more than a lettuce leaf should pass our lips, and simply chat, gossip, or discuss with friends, while giving our taste-buds a night at the opera in broad daylight. Whether it’s the Ritz, the grounds of a castle or gardens, or a local tearoom tucked away in a side street, going out for afternoon tea is a pleasure, and a delight.
One of my favourite tearooms is Anna’s Tearooms in the walled medieval town of Conwy, on the North Wales coast. It’s on the main road through the town, above a shop between the castle and the quay, and is a proper traditional tearoom with tea and coffee and a wide selection of delicious homemade cakes.
Because I work from home, it feels like a holiday to sneak out for afternoon tea with writer friends, who are also escaping from their keyboards. We usually sit at the big table, with a view over the comings of going in the street below. There are flowers and lacy tablecloths, and a warm, relaxed atmosphere.
We may not do it often, but the full cream tea is an experience!