Beehive Tea Room
12 W. Broadway (300 South), Salt Lake City ; 801-328-4700
A fun, casual but cozy place to sip tea and eat biscuits or even plan a wedding.
Cuisine: Tea House
Hours: M-S, 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m.; Su, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Reservations: Not accepted/necessary
Recommended Dishes: Teas of all varieties: black, green, oolong, herbal; hot chocolate, chai; cakes, tarts.
January 9, 2004
By Nancy Hobbs
From the time Lisa Brady was a young girl reading the mysteries of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie, she has been intrigued by the custom of afternoon tea, and for years vowed to help spread the practice on this side of the Atlantic. But she realized Salt Lakers might not embrace tea in numbers to sustain a business.
So when a time for touting tea recently presented itself, she added a lure. In addition to antique-cup service in quaint rooms furnished with velvet chairs, cut crystal and tuffets, she offers wedding help.
Welcome to the Beehive Tea Room and Wedding Library, in the heart of downtown at 12 W. Broadway (300 South).
"I was trying to think of a way I could survive in Salt Lake, being a tea room," Brady said in explaining the dichotomy. "It would take a lot of $3.50 pots of tea to pay the rent . . . I used to do flowers for weddings, and so know there are lots of brides here."
It was during the florist career that she saw the frustration of brides forced to traverse the valley in order to compare florists, gowns, portrait packages and the like. Though her "library" is still growing with planning guides, etiquette books and fashion publications, she also is working with area businesses to provide portfolios of their wedding services so she can offer a central bridal resource site -- with or without a spot of tea.
As helpful as the library might be for the betrothed, the shop's dozens of teas are elixirs for anyone in need of a respite, be it from shopping or deposing.
Choose from black teas, green teas, oolong or herbal teas, all served in two-cup pots to be poured into beautiful china cups after several minutes of steeping ($3.50 per pot). The green tea with jasmine is "sweetened" with the perfume of flowers; likewise the chocolate mint tea exudes a luscious scent that provides much of its flavor.
With a several-page menu of teas, each with a helpful description, it would take numerous visits to try each one.
Some customers are loyal to one and only; others have discovered new favorites in the three months that Beehive has been open. For the growing number of chai drinkers -- a popular East Indian treat made of hot milk with black tea and spices, most noticeably the aromatic cardamom -- the Beehive Tea House makes the best I have tasted. It is served in a oversized cup for $2.50.
Even the hot chocolate at Beehive is worth buzzing about, especially the European cocoa, made with melted dark chocolate so it's super-rich but not too sweet. If you like sweeter -- and a small mountain of whipping cream to go with it -- order the American traditional.
Though tea is the main attraction, tea time wouldn't be complete without biscuits and jam, or English scones, or even a tart. Beehive Tea House's food menu is small, but adequate, relying on the good works of other local businesses, namely Urban Bistro an Carlucci's Bakery.
"I always thought, 'When I open my tea room, Ricc [Esparza, the chef at Urban Bistro] is making the seafood chowder for me,' " Brady says with a laugh. He also makes the tea room's picture-perfect baking powder biscuits ($3.25) and other leavened breads to serve with the chowder, which is delicious and abundantly stocked with shrimp and lobster. Served with a mixed green salad, it's lunch for less than $6.
Carlucci's makes the sweet stuff: beautiful layered chocolate cakes, jam tarts (made especially for Beehive), tasty cinnamon rolls, biscotti and scones, ranging in price from less than $1 to $4.25.
Brady is willing to try whatever it takes to introduce tea to the public. She offers a "personal tea party" for children, which is a silver tea service -- a small pot of tea, cup, milk and sugar and a sweet treat on an individual tray -- for $3.50. Decaffeinated chai, topped with marshmallows, is a kids' favorite, as are choices like "very berry" herbal tea. And in Beehive's elegantly appointed Willow Room, there are several upholstered tuffets around a low table for children.
In fact, the Willow Room is a favorite spot for adult tea parties, with its brocade and velvet furnishings, cut crystal, antique mirrors and a two walls painted with a moonlit landscape in the style of Maxfield Parrish. It can be reserved for small parties and showers, and was even used recently for an evening of tea-leaf reading -- an idea that may blossom, especially in conjunction with the wedding business!
The front room also has a dated green couch and chair, which fit the ambience perfectly, as well as several café-style tables and chairs for those who aren't interested in lounging. Chess, tic-tac-toe and dominoes wait to be played.
Brady's impetus for decorating the tea room came largely from nine years as a set designer for the television series "Touched by An Angel," which was filmed in Utah. When the series was canceled more than a year ago, she bought some of the furnishings used on the set and scoured antique, consignment and thrift shops for other pieces.
The result is a fun, casual but cozy place to sip tea and eat biscuits while visiting with friends, reading the newspaper -- or even planning a wedding.