Two years ago, Danielle Beaudette was operating her tea shop from a retail space connected to her home. Deep in a residential section of her southern New Hampshire community, her outstanding collection of teas, deep tea knowledge and customer loyalty kept people coming through the door for eight years, stocking up on their favorites. She decided it was time to take the next step with a new home for The Cozy Tea Cart.
In June 2013 she opened her new shop on Route 13 in Brookline, New Hampshire. As is inevitably the case, there were many surprises along the way. The space was in tough shape, requiring Beaudette to put up new walls, rip up carpets and lay new floors. She had plenty of moments where she didn’t think they’d make the opening date. But she did. And the customers hadn’t stopped, some stepping through the construction to see if they could still buy tea.
Beaudette had a specific vision for the shop. She had a large number of male customers and didn’t want to introduce a heavily Victorian style which might turn some of them away. Instead she designed a cafe that would feel more like a living room, with large furniture pieces including couches facing a fireplace and a dining room table in addition to the traditional cafe two-top and four-top tables. The walls are a soft green and brown, introducing tea-like notes and colors. The ultimate goal was a relaxed atmosphere where people could come to enjoy their tea or, like many of her customers, bring a laptop and work using the wi-fi connection. “People consistently tell us how much they love sitting there and how peaceful it is,” says Beaudette.
The food is prepared by Sabine Berke, a chef who trained in Europe and who had been a long time customer. When Beaudette mentioned her plans for the new cafe, Berke asked to be considered as chef. Beaudette was thrilled. They share a similar food vision, with a heavy emphasis on food made from scratch, with fresh, local ingredients. “We started with a small menu and it’s really grown. We did it slowly and purposefully to hear what customers wanted,” said Beaudette. “We wanted to respond to what they wanted. Now we are selling lots of soups and stews for customers to take home for dinner.”
Tea preparation utilizes three Zojirushi water boilers in the kitchen, each set at different temperatures. The tea is scooped with Perfect Cup tea measuring spoons steeped in natural tea bags. She had intended to use china in the shop when she ran into a challenge. The septic system for the space is small and she was told by inspectors that if she wanted to use china she would have to cut her seating in half. She opted to use paper and offer a full china tea service once per month. She has the capacity to seat 35 inside and 15 additional customers in the side garden.
In addition to the cafe, Beaudette operates a full retail shop with an impressive array of teas, tea accessories, tea-infused chocolates and other products for tea enthusiasts. Beaudette estimates that 52-55% of her business comes from the retail shop with an additional 7-10% from online sales. The cafe generates approximately 33% of the business. The remaining business comes from events and lectures.
Beaudette’s lectures and special events like bridal showers have become an important part of promoting her business. “Ever since we opened, about 90% of business has been word of mouth. We’ve been doing bridal showers every Sunday and we’re booked through November. Those events expose new people to the shop who haven’t been there. Everyone says they’ll come back.” The same has been true of the lectures. She’s doing a five class series at Fitchburg State University and she said that by the time she’s done, the students become regular customers.
The next steps are to focus on the new website which recently launched and to expand wholesale efforts. She also definitely wants to continue teaching and spreading the word of tea.