TEA ROOMS: A shop infused with classic tradition

A TRULY English and totally enchanting experience is open to Peterborough people as the doors open at the 1940s-style tea-room, Harriets.

A TRULY English and totally enchanting experience is open to Peterborough people as the doors open at the 1940s-style tea-room, Harriets.Celebrating one of England's greatest traditions – the perfect cuppa – the family-run tea-room specialises in re-creating the golden era of tea drinking at the beautiful 17th century Grade II listed building, in Cumbergate, in the city centre.

Complete with a pianist to provide a musical backdrop, staff scurry to-and-fro wearing the old-fashioned black dresses and white pinnies of yesteryear, as they serve an impressive variety of favourite teas, cream cakes and more.

The superb ambience at the venue was tangible as the Mayor and Mayoress of Peterborough arrived to officially open Harriets yesterday.

Set up by husband and wife team, Roger and Tiffany Courtenay-Barrow, along with Tiffany's mother, Irene Courtenay-Luck, the venture was inspired by the original linchpin of the tea-room dynasty, the Lyons tea shops of the 1890s.

And the traditional values of good manners and customer service are central to their approach to serving the residents of Peterborough with a flawless cup of tea.

Mr Courtenay-Barrow said: "Whether people want to have a quick lunch or enjoy an afternoon in the tea-room, we want to tailor our service to their individual needs.

"There is nothing better than the chatter of a full tea-room, with piano in the background, to create a fantastic atmosphere.

Mrs Courtenay-Barrow added: "We believe in good manners and customer service to create an enjoyable atmosphere for everyone to enjoy and savour."

The history of afternoon tea

ANNA, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, is often credited with the invention of the tradition of afternoon tea.

It was 1840 when Her Grace decided that eight hours was more than one woman should reasonably be expected to wait for her dinner, and instructed her butler to bring tea, bread and butter to her boudoir at 5pm.

Finding this repast just the ticket, she began to invite her friends to join her for tea.

Her guests would gossip and chat about the latest fashions and scandals while sipping tea and nibbling daintily on a slice of bread and butter – and a new social institution was born, afternoon tea.

The Duchess' guests started holding parties of their own, and tea became all the rage among the upper crust.

Hostesses were judged not only on the spread they proffered, but also on their paraphernalia, and a successful party needed this season's china, as well as strainers, sugar tongs and napkins. Enterprising tailors even developed a new style of garment, the smock-like tea gown, which was de rigueur for Victorian ladies.

In 1864, London bakery the Aerated Bread Company opened the UK's first tea-room. Soon, tea-rooms were springing up all over. The biggest name in the business was Joe Lyons, who opened his first tea shop, on London's Piccadilly, in 1894.

These establishments not only offered afternoon tea, but provided, for the first time, a place that an unchaperoned young lady could visit with her friends and maintain her reputation.