Are you the kind of person who uses the word ‘quintessential’? You’ll be looking for afternoon tea in Leeds then – and you’re in luck as there are plenty of options in the city, from traditional haunts that insist on bone china and a stiff upper lip, to more far-out options.
In point of fact, the earliest evidence for the drinking of tea in England comes from Yorkshire. Back in the seventeenth century, an order was placed by a member of the Ingrams family of Temple Newsam House – beating London diarist Samuel Pepys by a good ten years. The purchase order remained in storage until it was discovered by, fittingly, a National Trust employee. In the seventeenth century it was known as ‘China drink’ and was deemed to hold medicinal qualities. The Dutch merchants who brought the infusion to England were on to a good thing, and Yorkshire folk ever since have delighted in tea.
Fashionable tea-houses have been an institution in Leeds since the later nineteenth century, and for generations, respectable Yorkshire ladies have met up in these establishments for tea and cakes. The combination of mild stimulant and well-appointed surroundings make a visit to a tea-house its own particular thing – somewhere you can be sure of a certain quality of conversation sometimes hard to find in rowdier establishments. Today a new generation of enthusiasts go in for the China drink. The tradition is continued and renewed, but the basics remain the same: a nice cup of chai, an airy, beautifully furnished room, and a selection of biscuits, scones, and jam.
Or indeed Baklava. The traditional tea-house continues into the twenty-first century, and alongside stalwarts such as Patisserie Valerie and Harewood House, you’ll find Oranaise, a North African tea-room specialising in Algerian and Moroccan blends.
Pinkies aloft, here are our favourite afternoon teas in Leeds!