By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal
When Virginia Chambers and her daughter, Ashley, decided to open His Hers Antiques and Collectibles last September in downtown Tupelo, there was no question that a tea room would soon follow.
The next month, it did.
The ladies, who are business partners, have been pleasantly surprised at how well the Tea for T’Arts has been received.
“We’ve been serving 40 to 50 a day in the tea room most days,” said Virginia. “Saturday is the favorite time for people to come in for afternoon tea.”
And we’re not talking about a glass of iced tea here, although that is certainly available. The ladies serve what’s called a proper English tea, which consists of a pot of tea and a light meal.
“Afternoon tea is really the classic tea, the high tea,” said Virginia. “The British stop what they’re doing in the afternoon and have tea – with two little sandwiches and a tart – just something to tide them over until the evening meal.”
You can also have those sandwiches and tarts during lunch, which is served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Afternoon tea is served from 2 to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and the last seating on Saturday is at 3.
Sandwiches on the lunch and tea menu include roast beef with horseradish, cheddar, caramelized onions and peppers on French bread; cream cheese, pineapple and pecan on raisin bread; cucumber/onion with cream cheese on French bread; black forest ham with a poppy seed/butter/mustard spread on a Hawaiian roll; pimento cheese on oatnut bread; and chicken salad on honey wheat bread.
“We’re very specific about the bread we use for the sandwiches,” said Ashley. “We even tried to phase out three of the sandwiches and people told us if those left the menu, they wouldn’t be back.”
The ladies, along with Charlcy Ray, make all the food and beverages that are served in the restaurant, with the exception of the chicken salad and the cucumber spread, which are made by Borrowed Thyme in Tupelo.
“The sandwiches are finger-sized sandwiches – actually about a quarter of a sandwich,” said Virginia. “We use a lot of old recipes. When we find old recipes, we like to incorporate them into our menu. The English raisin tart is a 1950s recipe from my mother.”
There are also 18 hot teas and two iced teas on the menu.
“My favorite is the Monk’s Blend,” said Ashley.
“My personal favorite are the specialty teas, the Belgian Truffle and the Nutcracker,” said Virginia. “But as a regular tea, I also like the Monk’s Blend. That’s also a favorite with customers.”
Supporting the arts
The beauty of the tea room is that it not only serves tea and light meals but it also supports the arts in the community – hence the name, Tea for T’Arts (Tea for the Arts).
“Each day, volunteers from the arts community are the servers in the tea room,” Virginia said. “They take all the tips for their organization and have an opportunity to tell people what their organization offers.”
Currently, five arts groups are represented in a daily rotation: The Tupelo Symphony, the Gumtree Museum of Art, the Link Centre, Tupelo Community Theatre and the Tupelo Ballet.
“What’s happening is people are leaving $5, $20, $100 tips at their tables,” Virginia said. “This community is very generous, probably the most generous I’ve ever lived in.”
“It’s a win-win for everybody,” Ashley said. “You have to eat, and you support the community and the arts at the same time. Last Tuesday, we had a group from Japan come in and that day the arts group was the Gumtree Museum of Art. We directed them to the museum and they went and toured and even signed up as volunteers to work at the museum.”
Don’t think that just because the tea room has linen tablecloths and napkins and real china tea cups and silver place settings that you have to be all fancied-up to go there.
“The first thing we do is give you a hot, moist towel when you’re seated to wipe your hands,” Virginia said. “That takes people aback. They feel like they’re being treated to elegance. But you don’t have to be dressed to come here. We’ll treat you with elegance whether you’re dressed elegantly or not.”
Give it a Try
WHAT: Tea for T’Arts, located inside His Hers Antiques and Collectibles.
WHERE: 307 W. Main St., across from the old CDF
building in downtown Tupelo.
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, and 11 a.m. to about 3:30 or 4 on Saturdays.
WHAT: Lunch and afternoon tea.
INFO: Call (662) 269-2108.
Tips for Brewing Tea
• Always use filtered or bottled water.
• Water must be boiling for most teas.
• Follow these guidelines for steeping: 3 minutes for green, 5 minutes for black and 7 minutes for herbal.
• Cover the pot or tea cup while tea is steeping.