If only walls can speak, Babingtons has more than a century of stories to relay. Babingtons Tea Room is still proudly standing just as what its English founders, Anna Maria Babington and Isabel Cargill have established in 1893. Because tea was only available in pharmacies, finding a place to drink tea at the capital was impossible when Anna Maria and Isabel visited Rome together so they put their money together, all 100 pounds, to open a little corner of England in Rome – a tea and reading room for the Anglo-Saxon community.
The Second World War had been harsh and to keep Babingtons Tea Room moving, the staff managed to keep the business running alone while they brought their own rations to prepare the scones and cakes. And despite Mussolini’s anti-British law, Babingtons remained open where Fascist hierarchs and politicians met while the Intellighenzia AntiFascista (the higher-ups of the anti-Fascists) stayed in a third room where they could easily slip in and out inconspicuously through the kitchen. During the golden years of the Dolce Vita, Babingtons Tea Room shone along with its celebrity clientele like Federico Fellini who would order his favorite Muffin al Formaggio e Prosciutto (Ham and Cheese Muffin) while Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were secretly meeting in the tea room while they were filming Cleopatra.
Fast forward to 2018, cousins Rory Bruce and Chiara Bedini, fourth generation descendants of Isabel Cargill, continue the family business with a non-wavering passion as their great-grandmother and Anna Maria Babington had one hundred and twenty four years ago. Babingtons Tea Room continues to attract royal families, politicians, celebrities, writers and of course all tea lovers just as they had for the past years.
Babingtons Tea Room is every tea lover’s dream place where one can escape to a little English corner and sip a cup of hot tea from its selection of rich and unique blends that are fitting in every moment of the day. There are dynamic blends that will excite your senses, there are the teas with relaxing tones to calm you down after a harrowing day and there are some with therapeutic qualities to purify your body. A selection of scones, tea sandwiches, biscuits, salty and sweet cakes can accompany your drink. In addition to that, if ever you find yourself outside the usual English tea time, don’t stop, just go in and have your breakfast, lunch or dinner inside. They have sandwiches, soups, pilafs, salads, ice creams and lots of sweet cakes for dessert! It’s always open from 10:00 until 21:15, nonstop.
How you drink your tea and what you mix it with is always a personal choice but to best enjoy its aromas and flavors, it’s better to leave it unadulterated, leaving it to its pure state. The English add milk in their tea which is a practice that stems from an old fact – a drop of milk prevents the hot tea from cracking or staining the porcelain.
I like it pure, most of the time unsweetened, especially when I know that the blends that I am drinking are of good quality. Like wine, it’s best to start with the lightest to the strongest. Babingtons has a lot of selected blends to choose from and taking a tea tasting is a good way to discover what kind of tea fits you. The Babingtons White Passion Tea is incredibly aromatic and refreshing white Pai Mu Tan tea with peach and pear. Afterwards, a good step forward is the Babingtons Lovers Blend, a delightful refreshing blend of green Chinese tea with petals of flowers and oriental fruits. To conclude my tea tasting, the strong smoky taste of Lapsang Souchong Superior Tea was perfect. It’s a smoky Chinese black tea with a particular aroma that is produced by drying the tea leaves over a pine tree fire.
Along with the cups of tea, snacks are taken around by the waitresses, starting with the salty ones. The warm little English muffins with ham cheese are very good as well as the selection of finger sandwiches. The round of sweet snacks are then taken around. Freshly-baked Scottish scones and tea cakes served with butter, jam and whipped cream, the cream-filled orange scented brandy snaps, slices of tea loaf and finally, the Victorian traditional cake.