Mighty Is Rich: Is there such a thing as a teashop (restaurant) in England?

Possibly I should have put this in CS, because the question is inspired by a very funny novel I’m reading, A Year In The Merde by Stephen Clarke. The first person narrator, Paul, is a twenty-seven year old food company consultant who spends a year in Paris (well, he’s supposed to anyway, so don’t tell me if it doesn’t work out).

His job in Paris is to help a local food processing company to launch a chain of English-style tea shops (where you would sit down and be served tea, not buy it in bulk and take it home). But I’m beginning to wonder if that, in itself, isn’t the big underlying joke of the novel. In the UK, isn’t tea something you have wherever you happen to be? Paul makes the point that it’s a very basic component of English culture, saying at one point that nothing would get built if the builders didn’t have tea, soldiers won’t fight if they don’t get it, and so on. It seems so basic that the idea of going to a special place to have it isn’t something that wouldn’t occur to you. In the U.S., high tea is often served in hotels and cruise ships waiting to depart in the evening. You can sit in the ship’s salon and accept more hot water and another cucumber sandwich from the stewards while you look out at your car in the parking lot ashore, and notice that you’ve left your lights on. To us it’s somewhat exotic. But I would have thought that any open restaurant, pub, or hotel in England will serve you a high tea in the afternoon if you walk in and order it.

Would such a tea-shop make any kind of sense in the real world?

The first part of my thread title comes from the book. When Paul is introduced to his French team, it turns out they already have a name for the enterprise in mind: My Tea Is Rich. Or, that’s the best we can figure out from their pronunciation, “Mah Tee Is Rich”. I’m expecting that, on the last page, I’ll learn that this was a regrettable misunderstanding, and it was meant to be something else that got entirely lost in “translation”. Paul tries heroically to explain that My Tea Is Rich makes very little sense in any variety of English, but is assured that it does make sense to the French.

I highly recommend the book.

Well, I have not lived in England for 20 years, but I grew up there, and there were teashops all over the place. You should understand that, as American Coffee Shops do not only serve coffee, English teashops do not only serve tea. Indeed, they are much the same sort of thing, and you can probably get either tea or coffee in either.

They are particularly prevalent in quaint tourist areas , they usually serve tea with buttered scones and jam . Old ladies love them .

As the other respondents have noted, there are plenty of tea shops in England.

Also, it’s worth noting that “high tea” in England is NOT the same as the sort of afternoon tea that you describe here. High tea isn’t just a pot of tea and cucumber sandwiches; it is actually a term for a relatively light, early evening meal. While the term “high tea” has become common in the US to refer to posh afternoon tea in fancy hotels, this is not how the English use the term.

I worked at an upscale country house hotel in England for a couple of years, and we would sometimes serve high tea at about 5.00 or 6.00 to children, who would then be left in their rooms to watch TV while their parents came down to the dining room later for a formal meal.

Concerning that brand name, something that would be known to an English reader…

Rich Tea is a brand of biscuit in the U.K.

They are most often called ‘Tea Rooms’, at least everywhere I have seen them (typically villages popular with tourists)

Betty’s tea room in York were always packed when I was at Uni there, but then, York is awash in tourists.

Our local tea shop is pretty much the quintessential english olde worlde tea shoppe:


Typical order is a pot of tea with a piece of cake or a scone and jam - very genteel and lovely.

Builders and labourers etc would more likely have their tea break in a more rough-n-ready cafe, perhaps with a bacon sandwich or fried all-day breakfast (hence the name “greasy spoon” for this type of establishment).

Joe average isnt going into a tea shop at all. Although he may drink a lot of cups of tea during the day. Old ladies may frequent such an establishment, but i wouldn’t call it common.

You can go into most food establishments and get a cuppa, but you arnt going to get ‘high tea’.

When I was a kid, all cafes were called “tea rooms” and had all sorts of snacks available alongside the tea.

But these days they are all very different, and aren’t even slightly appealing to me anymore. The “improvements” in food quality and variety have taken all the charm out of them.

True Guanolad. My idea of tea room is the one in Withnail. ’ I want cake and fine wine’ !

Yes. The strict definition of high tea is (from the Oxford English Dictionary), “a tea at which meat is served.”

There’s plenty of tea rooms in Edinburgh.

Maybe they studied English from the same book as my mother, who, fifty years later, remembers only the first line:

My father is rich and my taylor in the kitchen.
Why did the book’s writers think that made sense, I have no idea, but I have seen the book and that really is its first sentence.

This entry explains the difference between afternoon tea and high tea. (Look at the section labeled “United Kingdom”):

As it explains, the term “afternoon tea” is the one that applies to the mid-afternoon meal, the one that you would expect old ladies to eat in a tea shop on a day when they had been out shopping as a break before going back out for another couple of hours. It’s not a full meal in general. Later that evening they might expect to eat a full meal at home.

The term “high tea” refers to something completely different. A high tea is a full meal. It’s roughly an early supper. I presume that the reason that Americans tend to confuse these two meals is the use of the term “high.” They assume that a high tea must be something high-minded and elegant. It’s actually just the opposite. A high tea is more of a working-class thing, while an afternoon tea is more of an upper-class thing.

(If any Brits want to correct me on this, go ahead. I haven’t lived in the U.K. for nineteen years and haven’t been back on vacation for four years, so my memories might not be correct.)

Mon thé est riche does indeed make sense in French. Plug the words into an online translator if you want to be spoiled.

I’ve never seen a tea room in London. If there are any they’re hiding themselves very well. However, I do often see them in villages and small tourist towns. They seem to be run and frequented by little old ladies.

It’s more a regional thing now than a class one. In Northern England and parts of Scotland “tea” is the evening meal and “dinner” is what you eat at midday. In the rest of the country the two meals are called “dinner” and “lunch”. Nobody calls it “high tea”, just “tea”.

Judith Martin, aka Miss Manners, says that the “high” in “high tea” means that “It’s high time we had something to eat.”

There are some businesses named ‘tea room’ in London, but I expect a lot of them are actually general-purpose cafe/coffee shop establishments, simply because restricting themselves to traditional tea room fare would just be turning away a big chunk of the potential trade (and I imagine that’s business suicide in a big city)