Rita's Tea Room in Big Pond is now permanently closed. A smaller scale operation will be locating to 300 Charlotte St in Sydney, NS with an opening of May 28, 2019!
In 1938, in the small village of Big Pond on Cape Breton Island, a one-room schoolhouse opened its doors to 12 students. The property was beautifully landscaped and the quaint school soon became recognized as the “most attractive one-room schoolhouse” by the Nova Scotia Home and School Association. Nearby, Canadian singer-songwriter Rita MacNeil lived with her mother, father and seven brothers and sisters. She often admired the beauty and charm of the little school.
In the late 1950s, the school was closed and was sold to a private party.
Rita purchased the property in the 1980s and lived there with her family for years.
With the success of her music career, Rita began concert touring in Canada and around the world. She always made a point of inviting her audience to drop by for tea (Rita’s favourite beverage) in her hometown of Big Pond. The response was overwhelming and so in the mid-eighties, Rita decided to convert her home into the Tea Room.
“Whenever I extended the invitation for people to come and see me in Cape Breton for a cup of tea, they came. I’d had an idea in the back of my mind for a long time: the dream of opening a tea room in Big Pond…We had nothing to get it started, so I took my Zellers card and went shopping… And we put out the word that we needed teacups and people came by with all kinds of them. Some were delicate, the china so thin we could almost see through it. Others were covered with tiny flowers. Some were painted gold, some pink, some blue. There were real treasures among them, but more precious was the fact that people gave them to us so freely…”
From ‘On a Personal Note’, Rita MacNeil
Renovated and expanded in 1994, tens of thousands of visitors from around the globe drop by each season for a cup of tea and light meal at Rita’s Tea Room. Browse the displays to learn about Rita’s story; view her gold and platinum albums, awards and photos; shop for customized souvenirs, music, Tastes of Cape Breton and of course, Rita’s Tea Room’s famous Oatcakes and Tea. A dinner/concert series runs every Sunday in July and August, hosted by Kim Dunn and featuring special guests - reservations recommended!