People say Sherri Davey's tea parlor feels a bit like a speakeasy.
And truly, Heavenly Special Teas is a bit like a speakeasy. Judging from its unassuming exterior alone, you may never guess the extravagance or beauty of the high tea room that's hidden away inside what was until very recently a bar on North Division Street. But for those who know where to look, Heavenly Special Teas is not only decked out in gorgeous chandeliers, vintage furniture and fine china — it's also a warm, inviting place.
Each item on the menu is made from scratch or purchased from local bakeries. Pie crust is rolled out by hand, waffles and scones are mixed from scratch, frosting is house-made — the list goes on.
Heavenly Special Teas serves homemade waffles, pancakes, omelets, scrambles, biscuits and gravy, breakfast platters, and a plethora of pastries and desserts, along with lunch items like its signature chicken croissant sandwich, plus wraps, salads and homemade soups.
Perhaps the most popular item on the menu is Davey's special blueberry cheesecake French toast, layered with a creamy cheesecake mousse and topped with house-made blueberry compote, whipped cream and a warm salted-caramel drizzle.
Here is what I can tell you about the blueberry cheesecake French toast, from firsthand experience: If you bite into a warm, melty concoction like that, you can't help but feel that maybe the world is a benevolent place, after all. And like nearly everything else served at Heavenly Special Teas, that warm, melty concoction was Davey's invention.
"I have been baking pretty much my whole life, and pretty much everything here is my own recipe," Davey says. "I adapt recipes; I've been adapting recipes since I was a girl. Probably about 10 years ago, I began to love to serve people, too. And then about six years ago I told my husband, 'If I won the lottery and could do anything, I would start a café.'"
Breakfast and pastries are both served all day. On Wednesdays, senior customers can get a free cup of tea, coffee or soda with a meal purchase.
Visitors to the intricately decorated tea room can choose from a variety of traditional tea services ($11-$30 per person), like the "Queen's High Tea," and options include fresh fruit, unlimited tea, scones, soup, salad and finger sandwiches. The adjoining café also has a retail area stocked with teapots, teacups and flavorful loose leaf teas.
Davey got her start in the food and restaurant industry selling loose leaf teas via multilevel marketing parties. Loose leaf teas, of course, remain a hallmark component of the Heavenly Special Teas dining experience.
When the popularity of multilevel marketing selling parties declined, however, Davey knew if Heavenly Special Teas was going to survive, she'd need to take her business to the next level in order to afford a brick-and-mortar store. So, with the help of family, she started cooking and baking, eventually opening Heavenly Special Teas in Hillyard four-and-a-half years ago, and where the business became a community staple.
"We treat everybody like family when you walk through the door. I have to say that so many of my customers have become my friends," Davey says. "They encourage me, I encourage them. We develop a relationship. That's what we do. We're a community."
"I have my regulars, I have a couple of widowers who are regulars, and I invited them to Thanksgiving," she adds.
Earlier this year, however, Davey learned that the Heavenly Special Teas community as she knew it would have to be uprooted. When the cafe's building in Hillyard sold to new owners, Davey quickly had to find a new location.
She found the Division Street spot, yet it required an expansive, high-cost renovation to convert what had last been a dive bar into her upscale tea parlor and café. Davey thought about quitting then, because the remodel would take every dime she had.
"That's when one of my customers called me," she says.
The next day, that customer showed up with a crew, ready to completely re-floor the new space, and at no cost to Davey.
"If it wasn't for loyal customers coming to my aid and helping me, I wouldn't be open," she says, adding, "I named some sandwiches after them."
Over the next two-and-a-half months with the assistance of both customers and family, Davey successfully pulled off both the location change and a major renovation.
Much is different: The café is three times bigger than its old spot. But the new space is as cozy and quaint as that former spot ever was. The food remains well-loved by newcomers and regulars alike.
And through it all, Davey has maintained her love for hospitality. "I love food and everything," she says, "but I love people more." ♦
Heavenly Special Teas • 1817 N. Division St. • Open Tue-Fri 9 am-4 pm, Sat 8 am-4 pm, Sun 8 am-3 pm • heavenlyspecialteas.com • 509-487-2111