Cafés and tea rooms are now part and parcel of many tourist attractions, garden centres and even farm shops – and with a captive audience all seem to be flourishing. It made us wonder how our traditional, independant village tea room is faring in these recessionary times?
We put our heads together and came up with the following list for the High Weald, at least three of the teashops have opened in the last year and only one has closed. They may be few and far between but the independent tearoom lives on – a testimony to their delicious homemade food, location and individual character. So the next time you are out exploring or running errands why not take time out for a lovely cup of tea . . . and try somewhere new for a change.
Balcombe Tea Rooms, run by Christine and Marie, attracts clientele from a wide area and is popular with walkers and cyclists at weekends. Open Tues-Sat 10am-4.30pm, Sun 10.30am-4.30pm. T: 01444 811777
Sharpthorne Organic Café is a social enterprise that sources ingredients locally and trains adults with learning difficulties in cooking and waitressing. It sells a wide range of wheat and gluten-free and dairy-free meals. T: 01342 811321. www.sharpthorneorganiccafe.blogspot.com/2008/02/cream-teas-are-back.html
St Ives Tea Garden, near Hartfield, a flower-filled tea garden has beautiful views and strutting peacocks. Open daily, 11am-6pm, T: 01892 770589.
Piglet's Tearoom and Garden, Hartfield (no savouries) great for a ''a Little Something!" – Smackerels, Tigger's Treats, 100 Aker cakes, Whatnots and Etceteras. The website reminds potential customers that it's "thirsty work hunting for Woozles!" T: 01892 770456 www.pooh-country.co.uk/pigletstearoom.php
Duddleswell Tea Rooms, handily located on the Forest, has been serving tea since 1936 in a building that was extended in the 1800s from a cottage built in 1658; run by siblings John and Tanya. T: 01825 712126 www.duddleswelltearooms.co.uk
The Junction Inn Tearoom, Groombridge, the tearoom adjoins the pub and was built to house the navvies who built the Spa Valley Steam Railway, opposite. Its cheerful decor pays homage to its railway origins. T: 01892 864275 www.thejunctioninngroombridge.co.uk/tearoom.html
Mayfield is awash with tearooms: Peckish has views of the church, T: 01435 873375; April Cottage, at the end of the High Street (limited opening hours), is traditional T: 01435 872160, and the newly opened café above The Flower House, is modern T: 01435 873984 www.theflowerhouse.biz.
Penshurst has two: Quaintways Tea Rooms, T: 01892 870272, and Fir Tree House Tea Rooms T: 01892 870382 , open Wed-Sun 2.30pm-6pm and Bank Holiday Mondays.
Wealden Wholefoods, Wadhurst, is a mid-17th century shop full of nooks and crannies with a small café and garden at the rear. They serve organic, local and Fairtrade foods. Local artwork adds to the ambience. Open Mon-Sat 9am-4.30pm. T: 01892 783065 www.wealdenwholefoods.co.uk
Ticehurst Bookshop, one of the largest antiquarian and secondhand bookshops in the South East of England, serves refreshments – their baguettes are freshly baked – to quell your hunger as you browse. Open Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, Sat 10am-5.30pm. T: 01580 201227 www.picrare.com/bookshop/Ticehurst%20bookshop.htm
Sandhurst Tea Room serves traditional baked goods (no savouries). Tea terrace at the back. T: 01580 850745
Lime Tree Tea Rooms, Burwash is a small family business run by Jane and Ian Tasker, and is open throughout the winter. T: 01435 882221
The Winchelsea Farm Kitchen Tea Room is situated at the back of a new food and wine emporium and has a conservatory and courtyard garden. Their fish pie is made with the freshest of fish caught by the nearby Rye Harbour fleet. Open Mon-Sat 8am-5pm. T: 01797 226287 www.winchelseafarmkitchen.co.uk
The Avocet Tea Room at Rye Harbour is next to the nature reserve. The menu reflects seasonal produce and showcases traditional Sussex recipes. There is also an art gallery. Open Thurs-Sun 10.30am-5pm. T: 01797 223005 www.avocetgalleryandtea.co.uk/gallery.html
Cottage Tea Room is in the High Street, Wadhurst. They specialize in leaf teas (selection of 10) and a choice of coffees. All the cakes are made by Patricia, the owner on the premises using organic flour, free range eggs and unsalted butter. There is always a selection of gluten free cakes available. Where possible all ingredients are locally sourced. T: 01892 784295 www.cottage-tearoom.com