We've already taken a tea-led foray into Kent, and now we're back, dipping our dessert spoons into the best tea rooms Essex has to offer, including a couple in rather quirky locations. We've also provided suggestions for attractions nearby for each venue — well, you might as well make a day of it.
Tiptree tea rooms, various locations
If you've been to a tea room in Essex, chances are it was a Tiptree tea room. The jam producer opened its first cafe at its preserve factory, in the village that gives the company its name. Since then, Tiptree tea rooms have spread all over Essex — and into Suffolk beyond — like jam spread across a scone. At time of writing, there are 10 permanent tea rooms, plus a roaming bus.
Chelsmford is the branch to head to if you're reliant on public transport, as it's right in the town centre. Osea and Heybridge Basin are both notable for their views over the water, but for our money, it's got to be the Tiptree original. You can combine your snacking and slurping with a trip to the Tiptree Jam Museum, take a tour of the farm (in summer months), and stock on the goods at the Jam Shop before you leave.
As you'd expect, that jam forms the centre of the menu, so there's plenty of focus on cream tea and afternoon tea. That said, sandwiches and jacket potatoes are available for anyone without a sweet tooth, or you can just pop in for a cup of tea and a slice of cake. Booking requirements vary between branches so check before you travel, as they can get very busy.
Tiptree Jam Factory & Tea Room, Factory Hill, Tiptree, Essex, CO5 0RF.
Getting there: Nearest railway station is Kelvedon, about four miles away. It's fairly remote, so your best option is to drive — there's free parking on site.
Things to do nearby: Tiptree Jam Museum | Layer Marney Tower | Colchester Zoo | Mersea Island
Tea at The George, Colchester
If you're all about doing it for the 'gram, Tea at The George is the one. In summer 2021, 500-year old The George hotel unveiled its new tea room, right next door and it's something of a pink pastel paradise.
Look out for the pink flowers above the Victorian-style lanterns on the High Street. Once inside, it's a light, rose-tinted affair — padded pink chairs and benches, pink flowers cascading down the walls, and plenty of mirrors to help you get the perfect photo.
Foodwise, it's the place to head for a full afternoon tea, and you'll need to book in advance. The menu changes regularly, with themed afternoon teas often available for occasions such as Christmas, spring, and the Royal Jubilee. Vegan, veggie, gluten-free and kids' options are available if requested at time of booking.
Tea at The George, 116 Colchester High Street, CO1 1TD.
Getting there: It's under 10 minutes walk to Colchester Town station, where you can travel to Liverpool Street, but it normally requires at least one change. If you can bear to walk a bit further, Colchester station is about a 20 minute walk in the opposite direction, with direct trains to Liverpool Street taking around 50 minutes. There are plenty of pay and display car parks in Colchester, and a Park and Ride.
Things to do nearby: Colchester Castle | Natural History Museum | Hollytrees Museum
Mrs Salisbury's Tea Room, Maldon
Blink and you could miss Mrs Salisbury's 'Famous Tea Rooms' on Maldon High Street, despite it being located in a big, pink building — you'll need to venture down the Bright's Path alleyway to get in.
Inside, each of the six rooms is decorated to a different theme, including the Circus Room with hot air balloons floating above your head as you dine, and the Jungle Room, with the most fabulously kitsch glass parrot chandelier. Weather on your side? There are two outdoor seating areas, including a suntrap of a passageway with an Embankment tube station roundel mounted on a brick wall, because... well, why not?
Food goes from breakfast through to afternoon tea. If you're there early doors, fill up a full English or a pancake stack — washed down with a brunch cocktail, naturally. Lunch ranges from sandwiches and toasties to jacket potatoes and omelettes, with an impressive choice of toppings and fillings, and a decent kids' menu too. Really though, for the full tea room experience, you'll want to tuck into afternoon tea. You'll need to book in advance, and the exact menu changes daily, as chosen by the chef, but you'll get the traditional three-tiered stand with finger sandwiches, scones, cakes and unlimited tea or coffee.
They also go big on Christmas decorations around these parts too, with foliage around the doors, ski gondolas in the outside area, and a whole forest of Christmas trees.
Mrs Salisbury's Tea Room, 63 High Street, Maldon, CM9 5EP. There's currently a second pop-up venue at Maldon Promenade Park. Bookings taken for afternoon tea only.
Getting there: The nearest railway station is Hatfield Peverel (though that could change one day), but that's a good five miles away. If you are without wheels, your best bet is to get the train to Chelmsford (about 345 minutes to Liverpool Street) and take a bus (routes 31 or 33) to Maldon, which takes about half an hour. For drivers, there are several small pay and display car parks dotted around Maldon.
Things to do nearby: Northey Island (you'll need a permit to visit) | The Museum of Power (more on which below)| The Moot Hall
The Steam Pump Tea Room, Maldon
For its unique location, The Steam Pump Tea Room is worth a mention — you'll find it a five-minute drive or 25-minute walk from the centre of Maldon, inside the fascinating Museum of Power, an exhibition of industrial machinery in a former pumping station.
As the name suggests, the tea room too is located in that former pumping station, making the most of architectural features such as high ceilings and exposed brick walls, with bunting and hanging baskets outside making it all feel rather bucolic. Seating is a mixture of dining tables, and lower tables alongside squishy leather sofas, and the menu focuses more on lunch and light snacks — so if it's a full afternoon tea you're after, you'd be better choosing somewhere else on this list.
Otherwise tuck into full English breakfasts, bagels and dishes such as eggs benedict and eggs royale, as well as sandwiches, toasties and soups, and a rotating selection of cakes, brownies, tiffins, teacakes and other sweet treats. Ice creams are also available, if you need a cooling snack on a hot day.
The Steam Pump Tea Room, Museum of Power, Hatfield Road, Maldon, CM9 6QA.
Getting there: It's a 25-minute walk from Maldon town centre — directions under Mrs Salisbury's above, but really, driving is your best option. There's a car park on site.
Nearby: The Museum of Power, obviously | Beeleigh Falls and Steam Mill
Starlight Tea Chapel, near Colchester
If you're a fan of London's coffee shops inside churches, the Starlight Tea Chapel takes things up a notch — but if you find that sort of thing a bit morbid, probably best to skip this one.
First things first, it's located slap bang in the middle of Colchester Cemetery & Crematorium, in a chapel. Its main business is as a venue for wakes, but at all other times, it's open to anyone — just drop in for a cup of tea and slice of cake, a sandwich or toastie. Afternoon tea is available via advance booking only. Dine among the chapel architecture, including the original church windows.
If you're making a special journey, you may wish to contact them in advance to check there won't be a wake going on.
Starlight Tea Chapel, Colchester Crematorium, Mersea Road, Colchester, CO2 8RU.
Getting there: It's a 20 minute walk to Colchester Town station (details under Tea at The George, above). Otherwise, it's a 50-minute drive from Junction 28 of the M25. The crematorium has a car park, plus various other laybys and parking spots dotted around.
Nearby: Bourne Mill | St Botolph's Priory | Colchester Castle
The Old Ram and Hoggett Tea Room, Manningtree
Numerous cake domes crowd the wooden counter, all vying for your attention, at The Old Ram and Hoggett Tea Room, and though the exact details vary every day (black forest, chocolate orange, and raspberry and white chocolate are regulars), it's not uncommon to see towering sponges laden with fruit or sweet toppings. Sure, sandwiches, toasties and the like are available, but when the cakes are this good, why would you?
There's a real homely vibe throughout and many customers are local regulars. But if you're not from around these parts, you'll be made to feel equally as welcome by the small team of local staff. Seating is predominantly indoors, though during summer months, some tables are put up alongside one side of the car park.
Oh, and the name? The tea room building used to be a pub called the Ram & Hoggett — hence the handily large car park out front.
The Old Ram and Hoggett Tea Room, Heath Road, Bradfield, Manningtree, CO11 2XH.
Getting there: Nearest station is Mistley, about a 45-minute walk away, though for trains to Liverpool Street, you'd have to change at Manningtree. It's about an hour's drive from Junction 28 of the M25.
Nearby: This is a very pretty part of Essex. Mistley Towers | Old Knobbley | Grayson Perry's A House For Essex
The Potting Shed at Hanging Gardens, Chelmsford
Garden centre cafes aren't usually anything special, but the team at The Potting Shed go all out to make your post-shopping pitstop an experience in its own right. There's seating inside the wooden barn, or if the weather's behaving head outside on the patio, and either enjoy the sun, or sit beneath the wooden gazebo. Beautiful blooms from the garden centre usually surround the courtyard area in hanging baskets and troughs, adding a splash of colour as you tuck into traditional breakfasts or lunches. Well worth leaving room for a slice of cake though — they're homemade, so flavours vary day to day, but even the most resolute diner would struggle not to be tempted by their beautiful decoration.
The Potting Shed at Hanging Gardens, Ongar Road West, Writtle, Chelmsford, CM1 ENT.
Getting there: Nearest station is Chelmsford. It's an hour's walk away, but public buses run to Writtle. Otherwise you're about a 15 minute drive from Junction 28 of the M25.
Nearby: Writtle Maize Maze | Hylands House
Also worth a mention:
- The Hyacinth Tea Room in Greenstead Green is located in one of several barns around a farmyard on the main road through Greenstead Green. Decor is a nod to the vintage, with white wooden furniture and dotty tablecloths, though the menu is heavier than most tea rooms, with burgers, curries and dishes such as scampi and chips, though toasties, sandwiches, baguettes and cakes are also available.
- The Vintage Tea Room at Fobbing Road is a small, cafe-style venue where the walls are plastered with famous faces from bygone decades, serving drinks, cakes and sandwiches. Small garden around the side too.