THE tea room, which was once seen as a socialite’s destination of choice, is on its way back and is hoping to rival the grab-and-go coffee culture being offered by the big chains.

The sound of clinking china tea cups being served alongside a freshly baked scone with cream and jam will bring back memories for many English traditionalists.

But the arrival of the big coffee chains like Costa and Starbucks moved people away from previous traditions and introduced words such as latte and espresso to overshadow those asking for Earl Grey.

Now traditional tea rooms, with their homely feel, homemade food, loose tea and waiter service, could be set for a comeback with rooms in Rayleigh and Billericay offering their customers something different.

Set in historic, often listed, buildings, the owners try to capture the essence of tea rooms first created by Thomas Twining in London in 1706.

Louis & Oscar’s Patisserie in Chapel Street, Billericay, opened in June inside a grade two listed building.

Owner Ruth Scally, 44, decided to name the business, which is based next to her Spa Cottage, after her two dogs.

She said: “The idea to name the shop came about after reflecting on France and how women got to have lunch with their dogs.

“I wanted to bring the French feel and ambiance for both women and men.

“I conducted some research in 2009 and spoke to more than 12,000 clients of men and women who visit my spa.

“What they felt lacking were traditional shops and tea rooms.

“People both young and old wanted to see a return to a shop which had a waiter service, fresh food, tea, coffee and tea cakes on cake stands.”

Customers have told how the tea room has taken them back in time. John Thomson, 72, of Noak Hill Road, Billericay, said: “This tea room reminds me of 50 years ago, with the stylish decor and peaceful atmosphere.

“It is a place for both women and men who just want to socialise in a quiet environment. Last week, I came into Louis & Oscar’s and saw about 20 young women in small groups.

“They were not together and spoke so quietly, in about groups of three. It was interesting to see them experience the old traditional tea room and what it offers customers.

“You get what you pay for here, fresh food and good proportions.”

Suzanne Piphers 36, of Whitesmith Drive, Billericay, said: “I’ve seen the tea room open for sometime, and finally decided to come in with a friend. I was pleasantly surprised because the atmosphere made me calm and so relaxed.

“The decor to match in a tea room offers the customer a great ambient experience. Over the years, I’ve been to lots of tea rooms across the country, such as Devon and Somerset, and the waiter service and fresh food has always been great.

“Tea rooms are not noisy places, like most large chain coffee shops, where you have to wait in queues to place your order.

“It is definitely not a place for a builder.”

The draw of tea rooms can also be traced back to Anna Russell, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, who invented the notion of afternoon tea in 1840.

Since then, sharing a cuppa has become a social event for the British, who are renowned for being a nation of tea and coffee drinkers, with the average person drinking at least 25 cups a week.

Carl Watson, 46, owns Squires Cafe Bar, a tea room housed in a 300-plus-year-old listed building in Rayleigh High Street.

He said tea rooms had an important role on an ever-changing high street.

He added: “What we want to see is more traditional tea rooms. Tea rooms are about the individual service and taste without the branding ethic of larger high street chains; same food, and shop layout.

“Our tea room opened 14 years ago and offers individual customers variety.

“Our traditional retail high streets like Rayleigh are slipping away and have become focused on the service industry, such as late-night take-outs like bars, pubs and hairdressers.

“People have become accustomed to the grab-and-go culture, but we are not about that here.”