A SPECIALIST tea room in Teesside has been voted the nation’s favourite independent business.

The Olde Young Tea House on Grange Road, Middlesbrough was entered into the national final after winning a regional heat.

One of 26 finalists it was also up against Darlington’s Retro Sweet Shop which made it the last four.

But The Olde Young Tea House was eventually declared the overall winner causing owner Carli McNaught, 27, to declare: “We are the proudest tea ladies in the world.”

Ms McNaught, who opened the tea shop four years ago and sells over 80 teas, said: “It’s a tea house, we never call it a cafe. It’s not about grabbing a bite to eat or getting a quick coffee hit. It’s about being sociable, savouring the tea, bringing people together.

“We’ve had people coming here from Australia and Germany and have American ladies who come every year”

The competition was organised by Kerching Retail and nearly 25,000 votes were cast.

Corin Birchall, from Kerching Retail, said: “The Olde Young Tea House represents everything that is great about independent businesses and we look forward to visiting for a cuppa and a slice of cake soon.”

The most expensive teas for sale in the tea shop are white teas China Silver Needles and a more dense, powdery tea called White Macha which is sold at £7.50 for just 25g. The most popular is the cream Earl Grey with vanilla.

Ms McNaught, originally from Saltburn and who employs four staff, has discovered that tea is actually grown in this country, in Cornwall, and plans to head south to taste it.

Despite all the exotic array of teas at her disposal, Carli’s own favourite is Yorkshire Tea, blended a few miles away in Harrogate.