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 that the term is getting totally overused.

Overusing a term or using it in a way that is very different from what is originally intended is know 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.

Some examples (click on each image for details):

Technically, I suppose these places qualified as tea rooms. 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.”

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3 thoughts on “The Overuse of “Tea Room””

  1. Having spent more than 20 years researching and reviewing tea rooms to recommend to potential visitors, I would agree that the term ‘tea room’ can be used very loosely. This is why I opt to review only tea rooms I consider to be good and worthy of recommendation to my readers. Those that don’t meet my criteria don’t get reviewed – I simply make my own list to remind myself not to return to them!

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