BETTYS CAFÉ TEA ROOMS
Locations in Harrogate, 44-1423-814070;
RHS Gardens at Harlow Carr, 44-1423-505604;
York, 44-1904-659142; Stonegate York, 44-1904-622865;
Ilkley, 44-1943-608029; and Northallerton, 44-1609-775154
Mention tea and Yorkshire in the same sentence and someone will inevitably ask, “Have you been to Bettys?” Bettys has been a much-loved part of Yorkshire life since 1919. The company is famous not just for its tearooms, but also for its specialty teas; home-baked breads, biscuits, and cakes; fine chocolates; and cookery school that teaches an impressive annual program of bakery, pâtisserie, chocolate making, and “Teatime Temptations”!
Bettys was founded in Harrogate by Fritz Bützer, a young Swiss orphan and qualified baker who left the Emmental Valley for the northern English city of Bradford in 1907 and found work with a Swiss confectioner there. He renamed himself Frederick Belmont (more sophisticated, he thought), and in 1912 was hired by Farrah’s—famous Harrogate toffee manufacturers since 1840—to teach them how to make continental chocolates. On July 17, 1919, he opened his first tearoom in Harrogate and wrote to his sister in Switzerland, “Here I now had a shop exquisitely fitted out, the showcases in precious wood, mirrors and glass on the walls, the café furnished in grey, with muted pink panels with old-silver borders, with silver electric candleholders in the centres. . . . Harrogate is a spa of the first order, and during the summer we had many well-known visitors as customers . . .”
In 1936, Belmont and his wife, Claire, took a luxury cruise on Cunard’s ocean liner, the Queen Mary. He was so taken with the style of the décor that in March 1937, he acquired premises in York and hired Cunard’s interior designers and fitters to create a similarly opulent art-deco interior at his second tearoom. In 1922, he opened a bakery; in 1924, a third tearoom in Bradford; and then a fourth in Leeds in 1930. But World War II brought bombs, as well as food and staff shortages, and by 1945, Bettys’ financial situation was so bad that Belmont was forced to sell the York tearoom. In 1948, Belmont’s Swiss nephew Victor Wild came to live in the UK, persuaded Frederick to buy back the York tearoom, and then joined the company as trainee manager of the York store. Bettys continued to thrive.
In 1952, Frederick died, and Victor took control. Ten years later, Bettys acquired a rival teashop company, C E Taylor & Co., which also owned a small tea- and coffee-import business, and the now-famous company, Bettys & Taylors of Harrogate, was born. Over the years, some tearooms closed and new ones opened. Today, the six Bettys Café Tea Rooms in Harrogate, York, Ilkley, and Northallerton impress with their clever fusion of comfortable English tearoom, fine Swiss chocolates, traditional Yorkshire bakery, and hearty regional lunchtime specialties. And Champagne Afternoon Tea in the Imperial Suite in Harrogate or the Belmont Room in York is a wonderfully luxurious indulgence in rooms that evoke the streamlined elegance of the 1930s. The food is sensational, and all the teas are from Taylors. Expect to be tempted by the array of luxury fruit cakes, fondant fancies, brightly colored macaroons, teas, and coffees at the front counter—many are available by mail order.
But who was Betty? Actually, no one knows, and this unsolved mystery inspired the publication of a little book entitled Who Was Betty?, which is full of enchanting, whimsical suggestions from famous authors as to her true identity.