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The iconic Bettys cafe: a little corner of Switzerland in Yorkshire

By guest blogger SIMON EYLES

Simon Eyles, MD of Bettys and Collaborative CEO of Bettys and Taylors Group, explains how Bettys tea rooms have become a global icon, combining the very best of Swiss and British culture in Yorkshire.

Man is having a tea at Bettys cafe

A very British beverage

You would be hard-pressed to find something that captures the essence of ‘Britishness’ quite as perfectly as the cup of tea. In the UK alone, some 165 million cups are consumed every day, equating to around 60 billion cups per year. Indeed, it was in Britain that the concept of Afternoon Tea originated back in the 1840s. The Duchess of Bedford, noticing a ‘sinking feeling’ at around 4 p.m., took to having a cup of tea accompanied by a light snack around this time, sparking a teatime tradition that has captured the imagination of tea fanatics across the globe.

A world-renowned institution

The importance of tea to British culture is perhaps understood nowhere better than at Yorkshire’s most iconic tea rooms, Bettys. With branches across the county, Bettys’ world-renowned Afternoon Tea has been refined to perfection over the past 101 years, combining exquisite handmade cakes, freshly baked scones, and thick clotted cream. But while Bettys is synonymous with Yorkshire, the company’s story actually begins far from the rolling hills of the Yorkshire Dales in the snowy mountain tops of Switzerland.

Teapots, cups, selection of sandwiches, scones with butter and jam and cakes on the table

Yorkshire tradition, born in Switzerland

Bettys founder Fritz Bützer was born in 1885 near the Swiss capital of Bern. As a young man, he travelled around Switzerland and France learning the ropes as a confectioner and chocolatier before heading to England to seek his fortune in 1907. He spent his first night in the waiting room of Bradford station, penniless, jobless and unable to speak a word of English. By 1919, he had opened the first of his café tea rooms in the elegant North Yorkshire spa town of Harrogate, and Bettys – now a much-loved British institution – was born.

Bettys cafe in 1919, North Yorkshire

It was not long before Bettys became known across Yorkshire for its excellent service, lavish window displays and delicate cakes, all of which referenced the stylish continental cafés of Europe at the time. To reach international teatime enthusiasts, Fritz also established a mail order service in the 1920s, which is still going strong today, delivering Bettys favourites to all corners of the globe, including Australia, Japan, America and China.

Bettys today

Last year, while celebrating the company’s 100th anniversary, we at Bettys asked ourselves what Fritz Bützer would think if he were to walk into one of our six Bettys cafés today. The dainty fancies, smart interiors, and continental-inspired menus would reassure him that our Swiss heritage continues to shape our approach, as would our award-winning Craft Bakery in Harrogate – a little corner of Switzerland in Yorkshire.

Although Fritz was Swiss, it was Yorkshire where he made his home, and it is here that visitors from far and wide still flock today. The tea rooms still play host to prestigious patrons, including The Swiss Ambassador to the UK in 2019, and our Craft Bakery welcomed Their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall in 2016 to demonstrate our preparations for Easter. And on the subject of royal patronage, Bettys was also commissioned to make four-tier celebration cakes for Buckingham Palace for both the Silver and Gold Jubilees, bringing a touch of Yorkshire charm to these historic celebrations.

Woman stands by the display of cakes and biscuits

It is this unique blend of the Dales and the Alps that continues to capture the hearts of Bettys customers all around the world today, perfectly combining Swiss and British café culture. We are sure that Fritz would be proud.


All views expressed in this blog are the views of the guest blogger and do not represent the views of the GREAT campaign.

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