EAST TROY, Wisc.- For Marge O’Leary, owner of The Tea House in the small rural community of East Troy, Wis., tea is a doorway to community, health and spirituality – her gifts to herself and to others. The Wisconsin Tea House has opened the door for tea lovers.
Eight years ago, O’Leary underwent surgery to remove a colon polyp. When she awoke from surgery, she learned that the polyp was cancerous and that she had undergone a colon resection.
The news was devastating and life altering. O’Leary’s physician wanted her to undergo chemotherapy immediately, but because of some pre-existing medical concerns, she was determined to research alternatives.
With the help of a local physician, O’Leary began to explore holistic approaches to health, including nutrition, massage therapy, acupuncture, meditation and energy healing. A self-described type A personality, who felt as if she needed to take care of everything and everyone, O’Leary learned to let go, to give to herself so she could give freely to others.
Her health improved dramatically, and with new energy she began looking for a medium through which she could express herself and connect with others.
Enter The Tea House
While O’Leary’s interests and motivations were broader than tea per se, she felt that tea, from its health aspects to the rituals surrounding its presentation and consumption, lent itself perfectly to the new life she was creating for herself.
So, when her husband was trying to decide what to do with a rural home that fell into his hands after a family member died, she told him that she would like to use it as a healing space for herself.
This Wisconsin Tea House was appropriately named The Tea House. Over the past five years, O’Leary has created a space open to the community, a place where people can sit down, relax and become present to what is happening around them.
Hosting book and garden clubs, wellness presentations and business meetings, The Tea House, which includes a lending library, has become a community resource, and tea is the communal beverage of choice. O’Leary holds open-house tea-tasting events as well as more formal educational events where she discusses the origins and properties of various teas and pairs them with food items.
“There’s a stillness and peacefulness connected to serving tea,” O’Leary said. “It’s the waiting for it to steep, the sipping, the transparency, the meditative quality where you stare into the cup … and suddenly you find yourself in another space.”
O’Leary also takes tea into the community. On Dec. 13, she presented a tea tasting for a Parkinson’s disease support group in Milwaukee. She discussed and served several different teas matched with various pastries.
O’Leary’s overarching goal for an event such as this is to show caregivers how tea can be used to alleviate stress in their lives; how it can be a way to give to themselves so that they maintain the energy to give to others.
Vicki Conte, Parkinson program coordinator at the Medical College of Wisconsin, said the event was a resounding success.
“As we hoped, the Tea for You event offered caregivers respite from their hectic lives. O’Leary and her daughter Kate presented the unique characteristics of various teas as well as their beneficial properties,” Conte said. “I truly believe that if the caregivers in the room gave themselves the gift of time to brew and quietly sip a cup of tea each day, they would begin to receive the self-care they need and deserve.”
This summer, O’Leary plans to build a tea garden filled with flowers and herbs adjacent to the house so customers can relax in an outdoor setting. She is also planning to add a large, open room for dance and movement presentations, poetry readings and yoga workshops.
Currently, The Tea House is open to the public only one day a week, as well as for special open houses and group events. O’Leary’s goal is to move more fully into the retail world and be open to the public six days a week.
She laughed, “For now, I guess you could say The Tea House is my philanthropic work.”