The Mysteries of Tea

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photograph by Jeffrey Placzek

“Each cup of tea represents an imaginary voyage.”  ~Catherine Douzel

Back in 1995, soon after Jeff and I got married and were still living in our apartment in White Bear Lake, something magical happened that changed me forever.

Jeff had a job at a little coffee shop on Washington Square in White Bear Lake called “The Cupping Room.” One day he heard the news from one of their ‘regulars’ that a tearoom called “The Buckingham Bee” would be opening it’s doors only a block away in a beautiful old tudor building called The Avalon Mall. One fateful Saturday we decided to check it out and it became a favorite, weekly ritual. We became happily addicted to tea.

I’ll never forget my first cup of “real” tea. If you’re a tea lover you know what I’m talking about. I’m talking loose leaf, fragrant, freshly blended and brewed tea. It was a cup of China Rose Petal, and it was heavenly. I remember sitting there in that beautiful, English-style tearoom drinking tea from a thin, bone china cup and eating flaky, buttery scones with lemon curd and Devonshire cream. I somehow knew that after the experience I’d never be the same, and I was right. It wasn’t just the delicious discovery of camellia sinensis and rosepetals in a cup that captured me. It was the romance of the ritual. The memory of sharing tea and conversation with my husband every Saturday morning is so sweet.

One Saturday morning, while visiting what everyone affectionately called “The Bee,” the proprietor, Kathleen, offered me a job and I accepted. After my interview she said she couldn’t wait for me to start learning what she called “the mysteries of tea.”  So my journey into the world of tea began.

Although I only ended up working at “The Bee” for less than a year due to Jeff’s job change, and our move to Red Wing, the experience of working at this particular tearoom changed me forever. Three days a week I got to dress up in traditional English tearoom “valet” costume and step into what felt like the pages of my favorite “Victoria Magazine.”Every day after my daughter Andrea returned home from school we’d share a pot of tea and shortbread and talk about her day. On my days off I felt so inspired by my new life and fun job I decided to begin my book “Chin Deep in Bubbles” and teach myself to paint with watercolors.

When we moved to Red Wing I was excited to start my life in the beautiful river town and to decorate my new home! On a sunny day in August 1999, we moved our lives from our little apartment to our little dream home. A 1901 Victorian with stained glass, a real wrap-around porch, and rose bushes! What I didn’t realize until the day we moved in was that less than a block away was  a TEA ROOM! I’m not kidding! Say you don’t believe in fate? I beg to differ!  🙂

Over the last ten years that I’ve lived in Red Wing the “Tale of Two Sisters” became a second home and sort of oasis for me. I met two of my dearest friends there, one the co-owner and one an employee like me. I learned a lot about tea and cooking and baking being a tearoom “groupie,” and over the few years that I worked there. I’m sort of a tea expert by osmosis. What an experience, and what an education!

Out of this obsession and passion for tea was born a teacup collection (pictured above.) I love encouraging my tea guests to choose their favorite cup when they come to visit! My collection boasts 500+ teacups. Not all of them are pictured here. I’ll freely admit I have a bit of a hoarding addiction when it comes to collecting teacups. Many visitors to my home have raised an eyebrow upon spotting the hutch full of teacups. As if to say, “Um, think ya have enough teacups?” To which I answer no, mind your own business 🙂 hee hee.

To be continued…



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