Don’t Forget About the Tea Room

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The Beehive Tea Room
12 West Broadway, SLC, Utah
Mon. - Fri. 11 am - 6:30 pm
Sat. 11 am - 8 pm
Sun. 11 am - 5 pm
beehivetearoom.com
Reviewed: Sunday, January 11, 2009


Lisa Brady
photo by David Newkirk

It was October 2003 when Lisa Brady opened The Beehive Tea Room at 12 West and Broadway in the historic Clift Building. This had been a lifelong dream of Brady’s, and as a single mother with almost no money, it had been an uphill battle. However, in those first few weeks business was booming and seemed to bode well for both The Tea Room’s future and that of independent business in downtown Salt Lake. Things were tight, but Brady was optimistic.

Reading The Nancy Drew series as a young woman first inspired Brady to open The Beehive Tea Room. In fact, on the last Wednesday of each month, the Tea Room and Sam Weller’s Bookstore co-sponsor a Nancy Drew Book Club. The Beehive Tea Room is an artistically eclectic vintage space with decor hinting at the 20s, 30s and 40s - the golden era of tearooms. This is not a place to take “high tea” in the stuffy Victorian sense, it’s more of a throw-back to the feminist and bohemian hangouts of the earlier part of the last century - when most of the tearooms in the U.S. were owned by women and frequented by artists and writers.

The lunch menu at The Beehive Tea Room is simple but ample, consisting of sandwiches, salads and soup, as well as a hefty selection of traditional tea pastries including English Scones and Clotted Cream. There is also the option for Tea Sandwiches: three small, tasty sandwiches (spinach and artichoke, cucumber, and cream cheese) on white bread with no crusts. While nothing in particular stands out on the menu, there is also nothing to take exception to. A personal favorite is the Spinach and Feta Quiche, when it’s available. The tea menu is another story, with over 30 varieties ranging from traditional Chinese teas to a Chocolate Mint, this is where The Tea Room shines. A few of my favorites are the Lapsang Souchong (a smoked black tea that tastes like a campfire) the Yunnan Golden Tip (an ancient leaf Chinese black) and the White Peony (a delicate, floral and mild white tea). There is a hefty selection of green teas, a couple of oolongs, a handful of decaf teas, as well as an exceptional selection of herbal infusions ranging from Lemon Myrtle to a few varieties of Roibus and a Yerba Mate. All the teas are whole leaf and served in teapots with china cups. A more recent addition to the menu is a decent selection of beer. It is a nice place to stop for lunch and it’s not difficult to get out for under $10 - unless you are enticed by a slice of Chocolate Cake, a sweet but wonderful Petit Four, or a scoop of Green Tea Ice Cream for dessert before you get up to go.

A lot has changed in the five years since Brady opened up shop, both in the world and downtown. While Brady remains optimistic, it is with caution. Nobody feels the constraints of these bad economic times quite like a small business owner in a teetering downtown business center. After the completion of the first leg of TRAX in 1999, most businesses were confident that life in downtown Salt Lake would get better, and the city would have a thriving retail and business community. Nobody anticipated the land banking that would go down on Main Street and the surrounding areas. Even though it was long over due, the destruction and redesign of the downtown malls and new City Creek development has left a gaping hole in our city that is hard to see around. Salt Lake’s Main Street used to be a thriving place full of shops and people - my mother-in-law often recalls how she used to have to get dressed up and put on her white gloves to go shopping downtown. The last three decades have seen that glory fade and it is only in the last few years that there has been a resurgence of stores on Broadway and around the city, but with a recession looming it’s hard to know what the future has in store for all of those little shops that give Salt Lake its unique look and feel. When money is tight it’s the little indulgences that people give up first––coffee, tea, a lunch out, etc.

Business has been rough at the Tea Room recently. There have been a lot of ups and downs, and sometimes the downs are a little hard to take. In my opinion, it is shops like The Beehive Tea Room that make Salt Lake special and it is our responsibility to help those businesses thrive.