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Exploring Life & Business with Jackie James of The London Tea Room and Merchant

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jackie James.

Hi Jackie, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
My family moved from England to Saint Louis in 1988. They started a furniture company in 1995 that imported English antiques and reproduction furniture, and in 2007 they moved this business to downtown Saint Louis. My parents, my sister and myself decided that we should open up a small tea room so that customers shopping for furniture could enjoy a cup of tea and a pastry.

Up to this point, we had been very dismayed that we could not find a good cup of tea anywhere and thought it would be a win/win situation to have a place where we could sell really good tea. In 2012, the furniture store closed, but we continued to grow the tea room, and in 2014, we relocated the tea room to where we are now in Tower Grove South. The last several years have been amazing, and we have grown all aspects of our business, including our afternoon tea service, retail and online sales.

We all face challenges, but looking back, would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
It hasn’t always been a smooth road. Opening a cafe/restaurant is always hard, and there are always peaks and valleys. Some of our biggest challenges have been the recession back in 2007/2008, which hit soon after we opened and of course this past year with covid. Probably one of our biggest challenges is staffing. We have been very lucky to find amazing staff, but the restaurant business is a fickle one and is often an in-between job for staff until they find their career path or they complete a college education.

As you know, we’re big fans of The London Tea Room and Merchant. For our readers who might not be as familiar, what can you tell them about the brand?
We are an authentic British tea room based on the tea rooms in England that we grew up with and enjoyed. We offer over 70 different loose leaf teas that are available to purchase in-store, online, or as a pot of tea in the cafe. We have a selection of retail/gift items in the cafe as well. Anything from teapots, mugs, teaware and unique gifts and tableware from the U.K. We ship our tea and many of our retail items all over the world!

I am a certified tea sommelier with the World Tea Academy, and we offer classes such as “Tea 101”, “The History of Tea”, “Tea Rarities” and “Tea Blending.” We also offer a very popular class where we teach people to make our scones. Our British Afternoon teas are tremendously popular for both individual bookings and group bookings (up to 40 people). Our guests celebrate birthdays, graduations, showers and more. Our Afternoon tea consists of small sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, desserts, and pots of tea. We are very proud to offer gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options for this. Reservations can be made online or through calling or emailing us.

Our cafe is open every day and allows people to come in and enjoy a pot of tea and one of our delicious sweet or savory pastries. We do have several of our own propriety blends, with the most popular being our Naughty Vicar tea (a black tea blend with vanilla and blackcurrant). We are just beginning to grow our wholesale operation as well, so we keep busy!

So, before we go, how can our readers or others connect or collaborate with you? How can they support you?
Our customers are amazing. This past year with covid we have seen our customers step up and support us in a way we couldn’t have imagined and we are so grateful. Now that we have fully re-opened, we still see the support with people booking afternoon teas, visiting the cafe, purchasing retail items in-store and online, and so much more. We are always looking to collaborate with other businesses, and we now have a full-time event planner who is looking to do more of that.

Pricing:

  • $32.50 per person for afternoon tea ($5 uncharge for gluten free and vegan)

Contact Info:

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