Time for lace, hats, gloves, and scones as tea-time enjoys a resurgence –
By Patricia Beech –
Sitting down to high tea at the Ramblin’ Rose Cottage Tea Room in West Union is a magical experience that takes visitors back to days gone by.
Delicate antique chairs and lace-covered tables give customers a feeling they’re once again sitting at their grandmother’s dining room table.
That is exactly the image and the experience that owners Judy Bennington and Janie Kirker want to give their customers.
“We’re both attracted to those yesteryear qualities,” says Kirker. “Today, there are so many people who love all things vintage because they remember them from their own earlier lives, and we really enjoy giving them the opportunity to experience those things again in a real tea room setting.”
It isn’t only about nostalgia for the past, however.
Seated for tea in the Ramblin’ Rose customers will discover everything they’d expect to find at a traditional “English” tea, down to the sugar lumps and crumpets.
“We want our customers to feel that they’re having a unique experience,” says Bennington. “Tea time comes from an earlier era when most men and women knew how to hold a tea cup – it’s becoming a lost art and we want to make sure it isn’t completely lost.”
Kirker and Bennington, or “Partners in Tea”, as they refer to themselves, discovered their mutual love of all things “tea time” when their children were students together in West Union High School’s fine arts program.
“We began spending our weekends shopping for antiques and vintage dishes, and we researched B & B’s and Tea Rooms that we could visit,” says Kirker. “We went to both good and not so good tea rooms, and we would observe how the rooms were set up, what foods they were serving, and what prices they charged. It was a learning process.”
Bennington says her love for serving tea began soon after she graduated from high school.
“I had an elderly landlady and she would invite me over for afternoon tea,” she says. “It was just her daily thing everyday at 3:30, but it was the best time for me, and I became very interested in how to do it properly.”
They served their first official tea in 1996 at the Lewis Mountain Herb Farm Festival. In the years following they hosted Tea Times in Kirker’s home and at Fern Wilson’s Dogwood Farm Bed & Breakfast on State Rte. 125.
When Bennington purchased a West Union home in 2009 she realized it was the perfect brick and mortar location for their fledgling business.
She told Kirker, “I think we have the perfect place for our Tea Room.”
Located at 114 W. North Street, the home, a 1930’s Sears & Roebuck cottage with a white picket fence surrounding a beautifully landscaped flower garden, was indeed ideal for their gracious-living enterprise.
In the years since, the Ramblin’ Rose Cottage has become a popular place for birthday parties, bridal showers, baby showers, anniversaries, church and professional group meetings, and simple everyday tea-times hosted for the sake of the experience itself.
Kirker and Bennington, along with occasional help from close friend Sherry Hill, hosts 12 -15 teas per year by reservation only. While prices vary according to customer’s needs, a High Tea complete with a three-tiered tray of scones and sandwiches, a soup or salad, fruit and cookies, and a desert is available at $25 per person.
“We do work with our clients to provide our service at an affordable rate,” says Kirker. “Some people want less and we work to accommodate them because it may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for them and we want it to be unforgettable.”