Social tea-drinking (and to a lesser extent, coffee) is one of the most important pastimes in Karolia and also serves to allow the discussion of business. It originated in the sixteenth century with the importing of tea from what is now the Ardisphere, and once the price had settled at a competitive level is quickly developed into a craze amongst Karolians of all social classes. Tea traders realised they could make more profit selling their tea leaves only in establishments owned by themselves rather than on the open market to the public (as well as encouraging the not-unfounded idea that only their 'tea chefs' had the skill to brew the leaves properly), and so tea-houses started to open first in port cities and then further inland. Aside from the chance to drink the teas. which were held to contain medicinal properties, customers would also be enticed by the warm fire in winter, conversation with friends, and music from a pianist or trio. Sometimes public and political meetings were held in the tea houses, others had and continue to have a room available for private hire. Coffee also began to be served from the mid-eighteenth century (although it has never been quite so highly regarded).
Edin Viika was one such tea merchant who opened his first tea house in Samacja in 1604, at the time the centre of the trade. It was passed down through his sons and daughters, who by the nineteenth century also began to open other establishments in other parts of the city and in other towns. In the early twentieth century the company began a programme of concerted expansion, aiming to have 100 shops open by 1930, and introduced a distinctive variety of biscuits (which quickly became popular and were later also sold in supermarkets) to the menu as well as hosting jazz nights.
By 1950 there were over 200 Viika tea-houses in Karolia, and this number had climbed to 350 by 1990 including mini-kiosks at railway stations and airports. Today the chain serve snacks as well as every modern variety of tea and other hot beverages. The company's stated philosophy is 'to remain true to the spirit of Edin Viika's first shop - to serve the finest carefully selected tea, to play a role in the community through art, architecture and social initiatives, and to retain a local touch'.
The first overseas branch opened in Masbar, Meridonia in 1977, followed by Taresses in 1980 and several branches in Villa Constitucion, Gobras City and thereafter other locations in Gobrassanya and the Ardisphere. The most recent countries to open a branch of Viika are Mecyna and Midistland.
The old tradition of having music has long been retained although nowadays one is as likely to hear jazz or acoustic rock as a string quartet or pianist. A few of the larger houses built in the 1920s-1940s have a stage area for performances. Viika hosts a platform for up-and-coming local artists in each city to play to patrons and provides an annual bursary to music college or art school.
Every Viika tea-house has a number pertaining to the order in which they were opened. House no.1 in Samacja and House no.10 in Säntjana are particularly notable as they retain the styles of the period in which they were built - baroque and Art Nouveau respectively.