What Is A Tea Room? Explained

Many drinkers who enjoy a cuppa wonder what is a tea room? In this article, we explore the concept of tea rooms

two people in tea room enjoying their cup of tea
Tea rooms are a place to serve or enjoy tea

In the simplest sense, a tea room is a room where you serve or enjoy tea. However, that straightforward definition does not provide a full picture of what a tea room is. 

Tea is an essential aspect of several cultures. As such, these cultures have also developed some norms surrounding how they enjoy their tea. Those customs include the establishment of tea rooms and other similar tea-related spaces. 

In this article, we’ll give you a brief explanation of what a tea room is. Read on to learn about tea rooms and the important role they play in tea culture.

Definition of a Tea Room 

Setting a single definition of tea rooms is difficult. But we’ll begin with a general description of what a tea room is like. 

Tea rooms are often small rooms where individuals enjoy tea. At times, there will be some small dishes that accompany that tea. Beyond that, tea room specifics will vary based on the cultural customs of the region. Here are a few of the countries that have the strongest tea-drinking traditions:

  • The United Kingdom
  • China
  • Japan
  • Vietnam
  • France
  • Czech Republic

Tea rooms in those countries may look incredibly different from one another. Sometimes they may include a gift shop. In other cases, they may be ideal for ceremonial practices.

In the following sections, we will look at a few examples of tea rooms throughout the world.

English Tea Rooms

English tea rooms typically serve light lunches as a part of afternoon tea. Those light meals often include finger sandwiches or pastries such as scones. 

Essentially, an English tea room acts as a small restaurant where visitors can enjoy a small afternoon meal with a cup of tea. Sometimes, these establishments will offer several varieties of loose leaf teas

Japanese Tea Rooms

chinese style, the tea room, antique
A Japanese tea room is not a place for casual meals

Japan is another country in which tea plays an important role in daily life and in some unique cultural practices. In Japan, a traditional tea room is called a Chashitsu. These rooms tend to follow a specific architectural style that has been in existence for hundreds of years. 

Unlike an English tea room, a Japanese tea room is not a place for casual meals. Instead, it is a place where people can carry out a Japanese tea ceremony. This is just one example of how tea rooms can take on different meanings depending on where they exist. 

Tea Rooms vs. Tea Houses, Tea Shops, and More

tea, tea time, from above
Tea houses typically do not serve food alongside their teas

One of the reasons why people have a hard time understanding what a tea room is because there are some other tea places that seem to serve the same function. However, if you are an avid tea drinker, you should know some of the difference between tea rooms and these separate spaces:

  • Tea houses
  • Tea shops
  • Tea bars


What Does it Mean if You Say “I’m Going to Have Tea”?

This phrase is most common in England, where it carries a specific connotation. It may seem like drinking tea and having tea would imply the same activity. However, there is a subtle difference you should know if you ever find yourself in England. 

If someone says that they are going to have tea, they mean that they are going to enjoy a typical English teatime, such as elevenses, high tea, or afternoon tea. Drinking tea is a bit more general and could happen at any time of day. 

Why Are Some Tea Rooms So Small?

Some people are surprised to find that tea rooms are relatively small. This is especially true in Japanese Chashitus. In that culture, there is a reason for the limited size. 

The small space entry to a Chashitu encourages visitors to bow upon entry as an act of humility and respect for any ceremony that may take place. The minimal interior space creates an intimate feeling for all guests.

What Is A Tea Shop?

A tea shop is different from a tea house in that they do not usually offer tea to drink on the premises. The focus of a tea shop is to sell teaware and a wide array of loose tea options. 

What Is A Tea Bar?

Compared to the other tea places we have described, tea bars are relatively new. Tea bars have come into existence in the past few decades, and they operate much like a typical bar. At a tea bar, patrons will order their tea by the cup and enjoy it on the spot. 

What Is A Tea House?

In some cultures, the terms tea house and tea room are somewhat interchangeable. For instance, in China and Japan, those two terms often act as synonyms. 
Still, there are some characteristics that set a tea house apart from a tea room. Most notably, tea houses typically do not serve food alongside their teas. 


  • Aisling O'Connor

    Aisling is an Irish food and drinks writer and journalist fueled by coffee and herbal tea. She followed up her journalism degree with nutrition studies. Find Aisling on LinkedIn.