Tea Room Vs Tea House Vs Tea Shop – What’s the difference?

tea room vs tea house vs tea shop – what’s the difference?
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One sure thing about most nouns used to describe tea accessories, equipment and establishments is their confusing meaning. A specific name may mean different or the same thing depending on the place of origin, scope and location of use. For example, Starbucks is a renowned teahouse in the western world. In China, a room of the ilk only relates to a tearoom.

You will often meet several people use terms such as steep and brew interchangeably. Some even go-ahead to add infusion in this bracket of confusion. This leaves us with one question. Which is which? Let us roll as we are going to shed some light on the differences between tearoom, teahouse and tea shop.

1. A tea house

A teahouse is a building or a distinct place in an establishment where tea is served. These establishments are common to countries such as China, Vietnam and Japan. A Japanese teahouse is called Chashitsu. Whereas in China, it is called Chaguan.

Teahouses feature two distinct purposes. They are ideal places where different people meet for their fair share of either morning or afternoon drink. Secondly, they are social places. Often, you will meet several people freely conversing, chatting and socializing in these houses with or without cups of tea.

Teahouses take different design patterns. In China, Guangdong (Cantonese) style is more prominent. A teahouse of such style is called Chalou. On the other hand, in Japan, Sukiya-Zukuri style is the most preferred for most Chashitsus. This style features wide Shoji windows with a sliding door made of wooden lattice. For flooring, the house features a tatami mat measuring approximately 4.5 tatami mats.

It is not very clear when teahouses found their routes in China, Vietnam and Japan. However, according to popular tea books authored by different tea masters, the houses have deep histories.

Japanese teahouse

Japanese tea houses are primarily designed using private structures. This is mainly to guarantee comfort in the context of proper aeration and adequate space during a popular Japanese tea ceremony.

Chatishus came into existence around 1600 just at the beginning of the Edo period. During this moment, adept tea lovers who were well conversant with the pre-existing way of tea had several terms to describe these special establishments. Chanoyu Zashiki was the term used to describe a sitting space for Chanoyu. Sukiya was the term used for a place for poetically-inclined aesthetic wares. Lastly, Kakoi was the term for a portioned space mainly for discreet tea practices. Otherwise, most people enjoyed their herbal brews and infusions in special houses called Shoin-zukuru.

However, it was not until the mid 15th to early 17th century (Sengoku period) when the ideal tea houses that are popular in Japan now came into existence. During this time, the country was at the brink of war. The Samurai tried hand and tooth to reclaim and defend their territories that were originally acquired by the central government.

In the verge to protect two important tenets of the way of tea (simplicity and tranquillity), Zen monks initiated the construction of teahouses. In the 16th century, the first house named Golden tea house was constructed out of portable gilds. The house was to see other modern advances in Japanese teahouse constructions as evident during this century.

Related Article: The Top 10 Most Famous Tea Houses in Japan

Chinese teahouses

In China, teahouses are so common. They are as old as the inception of tea in Japanese culture. A teahouse in China is an adept tea drinker’s paradise. It is a place to have a break from the normal life business and meet friends for a fair share of the herbal drink.

Popular tea houses such as the Heming House in Chengdu feature a Cantonese style of building. They are fully packed with bamboo chairs, pewter teacups, coffee tables and special teacups, some of which date back to centuries.

Teahouses in China has been a vivid epitome of the Chinese tea culture for centuries. They first found their routes into the system during the Song Dynasty where you could find as many teahouses in different cities than even restaurants. In the Ming and Qing dynasties, teahouses became even more popular.

Different owners of such special establishments planted rare and prestigious plants in the houses for beautification. Additionally, calligraphy on the walls of tea houses became more prominent with Qing dynasty adding some western acculturation for a modern look. As we speak, westernization has posed great effects on the design of most tea houses as seen in cities such as Hangzhou, Beijing, Guangdong, Tianjin and Chengdu.

2. A tearoom

Tearoom simply means a room where tea is served. It can be in a teahouse, hotel or any other type of building that can accommodate a special room dedicated for just tea alone, mostly cream tea. However, tearooms should not be confused with cafes. It may be at a special corner of a hotel but specifically deals with serving of tea.

The function of a tearoom may sometimes vary depending on the place of establishment. Sometimes, they serve a purpose similar to that of a teahouse. For example, in Japan, China, Vietnam and those big tea nations, they can be used as venues for tea ceremonies. Therefore, they are often confused with teahouses.

In Britain, a tearoom can be a place where beverages are served. Sometimes, the service may include light meals more so after lunch for sedation. Popular foods and drinks served in British tearooms range from cream tea, also called Devonshire tea, to a more elaborate tea served with small cakes and sandwiches; and even to a high tea.

Scottish tea rooms feature drinks such as high tea served with a variety of pastries such as crumpets, pancakes, scones and small cakes. These baked goods are also common in Commonwealth countries such as Canada where winters come with extremely cold weather hence necessitating the need for tea drinking.

Elsewhere, tearooms have an established and long-standing history. In France, Tearooms such as Salon De Che that is popular for outstanding pastries in the land was built hundreds of years ago. In the Czech Republic, most tearooms found their routes in the land during Velvet Revolutions in 1989. The country hoards more than 400 tearooms spread across its towns. The largest numbers are found across Europe’s Capital. 

3. Teashops

Just as the name goes, a tea shop is an establishment where tea, teaware and tea books are sold. However, contemporary tea shops include tea service. This is common in luxurious tea shops found in different localities in the world.

Most luxurious tea shop comes with a tea store, tearoom and even teahouse under one room. For example, Alice’s Tea Cup (NYC, NY) is a teahouse that combines both a tearoom and teashop. It not only offers quality infusions in the city but also cocktail to suit its customer’s wide range of needs.

On the other hand, ‘t Zonnetje teahouse in Amsterdam prides its extensive collection of new antique, devices and presses. The shop that has been running since 1642, features an additional saloon in the upstairs that offers a relaxing sipping atmosphere as you have a full glimpse of the Dutch Streets. 

From these two examples, you can see that a tea shop can be customized according to fit sundry of preferences. You can decide whether to include even alcoholic drinks in the store to increase sales and it remains a tea shop.

Unlike teahouses and tearooms, most of which follow tenets of tea culture, tea shops are as a result of modernization. They are aimed at replacing the almost out-dated coffee shops found in different parts of the world. With a tea shop, you can easily become your amateur or tea sommelier by integrating personal blends that meet your needs. You can start-up with piecing your flavours together before deciding on the accessories to offer for sale. The more your shop expands so is its scope of services.

In a country such as China, you can shop tea almost anywhere along popular streets. There are the specialist outlet shops and shops in supermalls that guarantee the required taste and specs. In the country, the place you buy tea matters a lot. This is because the way of tea is given such close attention since it is an integral part of Chinese tea culture.

However, China and Japan have different types of tea. You will find that a specific flavour may taste dull on your tongue. Therefore, without the correct specifications, you may end up with something that does not necessarily meet your needs.

The best way to know your taste and preference is through paying a visit to any restaurant. Such places also serve tea as basic in their menu. Once you are impressed with a specific taste, you can jot the name down and use it in the tea shop. Be sure to get just the taste you want. For visitors, it is a matter of trial and error in the first place. However, once you are done with one successful attempt, you will not shed too much energy in your next shopping journey.


The names tearooms and teahouse confuse a lot of people. Sometimes, you will see them feature in several articles concurrently. It all depends on what one establishment offers which the other one does not.

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Mary L

When you discover something you love you want to share it with the world, that’s only natural. My passion had become my way of life, and I am finally able to share a cup of the good stuff with the ones I love. Proof that dreams really do come true when you can share your favorite brew.

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