The magic of tea rooms (1905)

Original publication: The Colfax Gazette (Colfax, Wash.) Date: April 07, 1905
Categories: 1900s, Culture & lifestyle, For women, Money & work
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Tea rooms

They yield good returns when they are properly managed

A profitable occupation for woman will be found in conducting a tea room in the right way. These pleasant meeting and gossiping places for friends are already extremely popular, and are becoming more so as women emerge from domestic seclusion.

Whether out for business or pleasure, a lady feels hungry after several hours. To find near at hand a clean, cozy place of refreshment, not so public us a restaurant, not rendered so formidable by imperial and princely waiters as a hotel table — this is something that appeals to the soul of every woman. At a tea room, too, she can get just what women like — cake, ices, sweets of all kinds, tea biscuit, tea, coffee and chocolate. This menu is far more pleasing to the average feminine palate than are the greasy meats and fiery drinks which the woman sex at least appears to be evolving away from.

Tea rooms began in Britain

The tea room is a British institution. In England, until recently, it was not considered the proper thing for a woman to go into a public restaurant and eat. Why it is hard to say. So the tea room was started, first in London, then in other towns. Tea is as dear as kings and bacon are to the British soul, so tea was the first thing thought of when a room where women might eat was suggested. The idea spread rapidly, for the new woman was stirring very uneasily under the hampering conventionality which shackled her. Paris caught it, too, although it never became so fashionable there as in London, for French women are freer than English ones so far as social customs go.

Meantime, the tea room idea reached the United Suites. In Washington, it is naturally popular. Both men and women friends meet to chat and imbibe Russian tea or whatever is their particular variety.

At least one or two tea rooms would prosper in any American city containing as many as 100,000 inhabitants, or less than that number if the people were of a well to do, leisure class. At the summer resorts, these pleasant establishments would be as popular as in the cities.

Both baking and banking skills required

A woman desiring to embark in the business should herself understand making all kinds of cakes in the best homemade way. There is a demand for all, from the slice of pound cake to the crisp cookies. The woman must also have a business head and know how to count up profit and loss. If she is able to make candy, too, so much the better. Homemade sweets are more dainty than those of the average confectioner.

Several ladies might go into partnership in the tea room enterprise, one understanding the business management of the place, the others knowing how to prepare the confections. High coloring and cheap flavors are especially to be avoided in tea room confections.

The furniture should be very simple and of the bamboo or wicker variety. Heavy effects in upholstery or anything else are to be avoided. All must be light, cheerful and pretty. The front windows should be made particularly in viting to the outside glimpse. Tables large enough, some for a tete-a-tete of two, others for three and four persons, are requisite. A tea room could be very successfully conducted in connection with a woman’s exchange, where the business experience necessary to operate it is already attained.

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Starting a tea room business

The owner of a large tea room business in London calculates that the gross profit on all cakes sold amounts to 48 percent; on candies, or “sweets,” as the British call them, 70 percent, and on tea, 75 percent. Out of these profits must come the wages of employees, the rent and all other expenses.

Of course some capital is necessary in the beginning — at least $500 even for a very small tea room. The china and linen must be dainty. In leading tea rooms of Paris, Japanese paper napkins are used.

The best preparatory experience for running a tea room, outside of actual service in such an establishment, is a certain amount of familiarity with the manufacturing confectioner’s trade. In addition to the regular tea room service, it would be easy to conduct a catering business. Women’s clubs in many cases simply order their afternoon tea refreshments from caterers, and a tea room conducted by women would be well patronized on such occasions. Then, too, there are many of homes and afternoons and even evening receptions where the woman caterer would be very welcome.

 

Top tea and cake photo thanks to GraphicsFairy


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Source publication: The Colfax Gazette (Colfax, Wash.)

Publication date: April 07, 1905


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