When it’s cold and the snow is falling, nothing warms your hands and heart like a steaming cup of tea. Black, green, white, herbal, sweetened or straight, tea brings the weight of history and time itself to any gathering. Historians place the discovery of tea as a beverage in China, somewhere around the 10th century BC. It spread throughout Asia as a medicinal drink, then made its way to Europe with traveling priests and merchants around the 16th century AD. The addition of cane sugar in the early 17th century exploded its popularity as a daily beverage in England. Tea has been used as currency, medicine, a religious experience and a status symbol. Mostly, though, it is consumed for its physical and emotional warmth.
When good friends sit down together with a pot of tea, they commit to the time it takes for tea to steep, for the boiling water to cool, for the steam to rise and conjure memories of a slower, more deliberate world. Sharing tea means sharing time. It’s not the grab-and-go rush of coffee. It’s visiting an old friend, sharing stories of family and loved ones, putting away the screens and devices for a face-to-face connection.
Tea rooms are likewise very different from coffee shops. From unique décor that changes with the seasons, to special finger foods designed to accompany tea and dress-up rooms for the little ones, a tea room is as special as the moments shared over a steaming china pot of oolong. The idea of a tea room might seem old-fashioned, but four of them are doing brisk business this snowy season. Each one offers something a little different, so put on your fancy hat, gather your friends, and visit one of The 330’s cozy tea rooms.
Miss Molly’s Tea Room and Gift Shop
Through the years, Ed and Dinah Wright traveled a lot through East Asia, but they could never find a green tea that they really liked. Once they acquired Miss Molly’s Tea Room 18 years ago, Ed set about having a special blend made for the shop. The result, called Temple of Heaven, combines classic green tea with apricot and peach flavors for a mild, refreshing beverage that has become their number two seller, a close second to the best-seller, cinnamon-orange spice.
The Wrights have expanded Miss Molly’s quite a bit in their almost two decades of ownership, adding a toy store, a gift shop and a high-end ladies’ fashion boutique. The business now occupies the entire first floor of the Park Exchange Building, just west of the square in Medina. “We’ve got a wonderful following,” Wright says. “And we work really hard to maintain the quality and consistency of the food and the service and everything we do.”
Having an executive chef in the kitchen means excellent quality food, so customers to Miss Molly’s can expect a consistently great experience, season after season, year after year. The most popular item on the menu is the chicken salad, made in-house, and served on puff pastry, croissant, or combined into a sampler with strawberry-pretzel salad, cucumber salad, or broccoli salad. And always with a pot of tea, of course.
“We try to create a warm and welcoming environment,” Wright says. “We want people to feel like they’re stepping out of the hustle and bustle of the crazy world we live in, and into a relaxing environment where they can actually decompress a little bit and sit back and let us pamper them a little and make them feel special.”
Visit Miss Molly’s at 140 W. Washington St., Medina: 330-725-6830.
Susie K’s Café and Tea Room
When Susie Kohl moved back to her hometown of Ravenna from Columbus 24 years ago, she wasn’t looking to start her own business. She’d been in the catering business for a long time, at hotels and convention centers, and knew how the business can swallow a person’s life. But when a Main Street location right next to her brother’s insurance company opened up, she decided to try her own tea room for a year. Before she knew it, Susie K’s Café and Tea Room had been going strong for more than two decades.
Kohl grew up drinking tea with her sisters, mother and grandmother. She still has a teapot that belonged to her grandmother, along with teapots and sets from lots of customers’ loved ones. She’s not sure exactly how many she has, but each place in the café is set with a different cup. Many times, customers will request a particular pot or choose their seat according to which cup they like best.
What makes Kohl’s shop unique? “My customers,” she says. “As a new customer, hopefully you’ll feel just as welcome as my regulars. We form friendships here.”
Authentic Key Lime pie sets Kohl’s menu apart from other tea houses. She goes to Key West once a year to get the eponymous limes, then makes the confection herself from scratch.
Being the owner, shopper, menu planner and baker doesn’t leave Kohl a lot of time to herself. But when she can, she still likes to sit down with a warm cup and her memories of her grandmother. “I feel so fortunate because I enjoy going to work every day,” she says. Find Susie K’s at 145 E. Main St., Ravenna: 330-296-3779.
Piccadilly Parlour Victorian Tea Room
As a little girl, Claudia Zacharko had tea parties with her Ukrainian father, sipping strong tea with sugar and nibbling Schwebel’s bread slathered in butter. But they had to hide these parties from her Mexican mother. “She would yell at him ‘don’t give my girls tea!’ Because the sugar and caffeine weren’t good for us,” Zacharko recalls, laughing.
Her mix of heritage led Zacharko to the idea of opening a Mexican restaurant, not a tea room. But when a friend saw the Piccadilly Parlour up for sale, she urged Zacharko to take a look. Other women had run the tea room for a dozen years, but were selling to move on to other concerns. Zacharko fell in love with the site and its potential; she owned it within five days of viewing it.
Piccadilly Parlour is a getaway from the modern world, Zacharko says. There’s no TV and no Wi-Fi, just a little background music and face-to-face conversations. On weekends, a harpist plays.
Zacharko serves her mostly female guests over 40 teas from England along with homemade pierogis, tea breads and cheese cakes. One of her loviest creations is the Rosamunde salad, a vision of spring with strawberries, onions and chicken breast in a raspberry vinaigrette.
When she gets a moment to relax with her favorite cinnamon spice tea, Zacharko reflects on what makes her shop special. “I want people to come and talk,” she says. “Ladies feel comfortable here. They love looking around at china their mothers or grandmothers had. And even the kids act nice when they’re treated like grown-ups.”
Piccadilly Parlour is located at 114 S, Broad Street, Canfield: 330-533-4749.
Dragonfly Tea Room and Gift Shop
Tiffany Craney and her sister used to visit tea rooms together while they were growing up. When her sister got engaged, Craney found it the most natural thing in the world to throw her a tea party for her wedding shower. One of the friends at that party loved it so much, she requested that Craney throw her a tea party of her own. Then another friend wanted one. And another. So when she was looking for a full-time job, Craney’s husband suggested she open a tea room. She got some funding and found a location she loved—the Dragonfly Tea Room was born.
“My husband is my biggest supporter,” Craney says. “Even when I say, oh my gosh, what am I doing? He says, it’s okay; you can do this!”
All the soups, salads and sweets at Dragonfly are hand-made in-house by the owner herself. Craney’s newest specialty is a Hummingbird Cake, her personal take on a spice cake with sweet cream cheese frosting. If you’re dreaming of spring already, you might want to try it with a pot of Blooming Tea, a special hand-sewn bag of tea leaves with a flower in the middle that “blooms” in the hot water. Craney serves it in a glass pot, so the pretty posy can be fully enjoyed during the meal.
As busy as she is, Craney still enjoys a cup of tea now and then. Her favorite is called Grandma’s Garden. It’s fruity and light, needs no sweetener, and is liked by non-tea-drinkers, as well.
“When I share a pot of tea with a friend, it’s a time to sit down and reflect,” she says. “I want my guests to feel like that. Come in, sit down and get that time to catch up.”
Dragonfly is located at 116 Canal St. S., Canal Fulton: 330-854-4832.