Thursday, October 11, 2007

Men and Tea Rooms

Men are in short supply around the typical American tea room, and this is something that I hope changes! My experience in London was that I regularly saw men in the tea rooms. In fact, I had a very nice "cuppa" with Peter, our bus driver, at one of the stops we visited. He and I had a great conversation about soft boiled eggs.

Why don't men visit American tea rooms? Well, some men do. For example, I've convinced the DH (dear hubby) to join me occasionally. But it's a rare thing. I think there are a few reasons.

  1. We haven't raised our children with the idea of tea-time being fun and desirable (or even existent). Tea time doesn't have to mean fussy clothes and clean faces. It can mean playing outside and having a picnic tea, or many other such variations.

  2. Tea rooms in the US, by and large, fall into two categories: "Victorian style" with lots of floral things and lace or "hotel style" in the parlor of a nice hotel. In London, my experience was that I found none of the Victorian style. The non-hotel tea rooms were well-appointed, comfortable and lovely, but they were not super-frilly and lacy. They were places both men and women felt comfortable patronizing.

    Personally, I enjoy the frilly/lacy "Victorian" tea rooms, but I also think there is a whole market out there for men who may prefer something a little less girly.

    I think "hotel style" teas have a head start at getting men to the tea table. Generally, hotel teas occur in an opulent setting, but the setting is more gender-neutral.

  3. Our American culture has spread the story of tea time as a fairy tale. Tea time can be a magical, fairy-tale experience, but it can also be very sexy, romantic, intimate, fun, playful, silly, goofy, [insert your own adjective].

I am hopeful that the trend of tea bars and other such retail outlets will expand our potential target market for the afternoon tea.

I am planning a tea trip to Chicago at the end of the month. I'm making plans to have tea at the Drake Hotel. Here is part of an e-mail I received from the Drake - I love it!

"Gentlemen take note: the tea room welcomes you . . . we have a loyal male following who enjoy our hearty dishes, quiet surroundings and soothing music!"

What are your thoughts on this business about men and tea rooms? What suggestions do you have? I'm looking forward to reading your ideas!


artandtea said...

Perhaps men would be more comfortable with a less "frilly" environment, something with a simpler, cleaner aesthetic, like a Chinese or Japanese tea house. I think I would prefer that, too. -Karen

Anonymous said...

On the other hand, I can personally vouche for the large number of young men who frequent America's new and trendy tea bars, tea shops, etc. We have a large number of these "modern" tea rooms listed at and these guys are definitely okay with their tea shop of choice.

Hopefully, these men (and women) will raise their children to be comfortable with taking tea anywhere.

Anonymous said...

I love the images that you chose to accompany this post.

I don't think my husband would set foot in a tea room unless I took him there myself. He is a coffee drinker and frequents Starbucks. But I agree with what ArtandTea said.

Tea Party Girl said...

I don't have any great brainstorms on this, but I agree, men aren't thrilled with pink lace.

Part of it, though, is that I think some men feel less permission to be relational with each other in our culture then others. I hope this changes. Women seem to more naturally make time for each other. I think it's harder for men to do that unless it's a bigger production or with their women involved. But now that 'Metro' is more in style and not every guy has to like Super Bowl Sunday to be manly...

Just a few ideas off the top of my head. We look forward to hearing about your Drake experience!

Michelle said...

I've just planned a baby shower during tea at the Drake on November 3rd. I'm so excited! I've never been but I've heard great things! Let me know what you think.


Teafan said...

Steph, this is an interesting discussion. I think tea rooms need to know their target markets. If they are after mostly women, then the 'victorian' approach is fine. If they want a more diverse clientele, then perhaps they should rethink the decor. Thanks to all the folks who left comments - interesting!

tongue in cheek said...

Tea salons are big in France; A place to gather, relax, talk and just pass the time away with friends; Men and tea, very common in France. I guess it is because food and drink are consider part of their culture.

Blogging My Life Away said...

interesting observation that men don't really do the "tea" thing. Now MM really likes the "goodies" that come around with the tea but of course he would really care for a Martini. :) A far cry from tea. Maybe it is mostly women because those tea cups are so small and dainty :)

Allison said...

You know, when we were dating, Steve and I went to champaigne brunch, bikram yoga, and various other non-manly things together. Now, I think he would go to a tea room with me if I REALLY wanted him to, but it would have to be at my pleading request. Men are funny that way. :)

Meagan said...

On the subject of tea and American men: I am wondering if their lack of participation (compared with British men) is their upbringing. My BFF is a gal from England and I have seen through her how "tea" is not gender-specific in that country. Her burly, manly stepdad refers to "tea" all the time. It could mean a cup of tea and a sweet or it could mean a large savory meal (what we would call dinner or supper). I get the picture that boys and girls grow up with tea in many different applications (as part of the after school snack, for example).

Also, my husband is from Iran and I believe they don't associate the consumption of tea with romanticized tea rooms at all. It is a social lubricant, like coffee here used to be (Wasn't the offer of coffee among neighbors or acquaintances a given not too long ago? Most of the time when I offer it, folks say no thanks).

It has been my experience that our boys just don't really think about tea until their girlfriends, wives, or mothers get taken with the notion of tea time and then they definitely consider it in the feminine domain.

Great conversation, Stephanie! From Meagan in Portland

sherry borzo said...

My mother and I just wrote a book about our visits to some tearooms here in the state of Iowa. No men could be found and I agree that it is the decor that probably keeps them from odering in. I bet they secretly order "to go" and head back to their office.

One exception is a tea shop located in Des Moines, Iowa called Gung Fu. This is a place that really caters to the art of tea, brewing it, selecting it, sampling, etc. It's a place for both genders and all ages.

VeeTea said...

Great post! You're right about the shortage of male-friendly tearooms. In NYC and SF there are a few great options (Samovar, Imperial Tea Court, Cha An... they're usually Asian in style). Outside of that... Urbana Cityspa & Teabar in Charlotte, NC is the only one that leaps to mind. I'll have to check out that Great Tearooms site Denise mentioned...