In 1903, The Builder’s Journal and Architecture Record reported: “Glasgow is a very Tokio for tea-rooms. Nowhere can one have so much for so little, and nowhere are such places more popular or frequented.” The central figures in the tea movement in Glasgow at the time were the Cranston family. Stuart Cranston, a true tea aficionado, opened his tea retail shop at 2 Queen Street in 1871.
Eager to educate customers about the different types, Cranston brewed tea for customers to sample, and in 1875 he came up with the idea of charging a small fee for this service. He installed a few tables and chairs for visitors’ comfort, charged two pence for a cup of tea with sugar and cream, and added an additional small price for bread and cakes. The tea room concept was now underway.
Stuart’s sister Kate decided that she too would like to be involved in the tea business, and in 1878, with a little financial help from her uncle Robert, she opened the Crown Tea Rooms on the ground floor of a temperance hotel in Argyle Street. She opened another at 205 Ingram Street in 1886, and both tea rooms catered mainly to the needs of working men, providing light lunches, suppers and afternoon teas. The atmosphere was respectable and offered a calmer, quieter ambiance than the rowdy businesses frequented by men who liked a drink or two during the working day. A very astute businesswoman, Kate recognized that her male and female customers expected different styles and facilities: the Ingram Street tea room had a large room and a separate smoking room for gentlemen, and a smaller quieter room for ladies.