Sunday, January 26, 2020

Tea at the Blue Lantern Inn

Tea at the Blue Lantern Inn: A Social History of the Tea Room Craze in America
By Jan Whitaker
St. Martin’s Press, 2002

I am a bit late to the game in reading and reviewing Jan Whitaker’s Tea at the Blue Lantern Inn: A Social History of the Tea Room Craze in America.  The book has been languishing on my bookshelf for a number of years now.  But I recently got the urge to pull it out and read it.

I enjoyed this book. But, Tea at the Blue Lantern Inn has very little to do with tea. In fact, as I read along in the book it slowly dawned on me that American tea rooms of that period (1890’s – 1950’s) were not much like what I call “tea rooms of today.”   The tea rooms of this early twentieth century “Tea Room Craze” were more vessels for bringing women out of the home into the public sphere than they were institutions dedicated to the ceremony of afternoon tea or to the enjoyment of fine specialty teas.  I nodded in agreement upon reaching page 134 of Whitaker’s book and reading this quote by early twentieth century essayist, Agnes Repplier:

“The only thing which doesn’t seem to count in a tea-room is tea.”

I enjoyed reading Tea at the Blue Lantern Inn because I am interested in Whitaker’s point that tea rooms “did play a role in bringing women out into society and into the business world.” (page 1) It was interesting to read about the various ways in which the “Tea Room Craze” left its mark on twentieth century America.  But if you want to read more specifically about tea (the beverage or the event) and its place in American history, I would look elsewhere.

For a couple of reviews by fellow tea bloggers, go here
and here

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Maira Gall