Dennis and Penelope Woodhouse are each other’s cup of tea. The couple, who own Botanical Tea Room in Augusta, Missouri, met in 2014 and bonded over their love of tea. Penelope is British, and it wasn’t long after she started serving her American friends afternoon tea that she realized it was an experience she wanted to share with others. Dennis and Penelope opened their first tea room on their sustainable farm in St. James, Missouri, in 2017. Dennis’ mother raised him on herbs and natural products, while Penelope has studied herbalism and grown herbs for some time now; their backgrounds inspired the botanical twist to the distinctive afternoon tea service at Botanical Tea Room.
How do you add a botanical twist to traditional afternoon tea? A lot of edible flowers. [Laughs.] We take a recipe and we practice over time with various herbal infusions. [The flavor profile] has to be exquisite; we don’t infuse for the sake of [it]. Like with our scones, we add goji berries, cardamom and rose petal jam, which marry beautifully. Every single menu item, [from tea sandwiches to scones to petite cakes and tarts], is paired with an herbal product: Lavender, chervil, tarragon, lemon verbena, roselle, thyme; we grow too many to name them all. And we usually write a little bit about that herb on the menu just to create more interest in the botanical twist. –Penelope Woodhouse
What do you hope to gain from your new location in Augusta? The farm – though we love being there – is a little bit isolating. We chose Augusta for its quaintness – the fact that there aren’t even any fast-food restaurants, just the things that you would expect in a small town. –Dennis Woodhouse The [specialty] menu that we offer appeals to the bed-and-breakfast-goers in Augusta. People who come here for the wineries are [also] looking for something different than what they usually experience. [Botanical Tea Room] is almost like a tourist [attraction], where visitors can try new things. –Penelope Woodhouse
Describe your sustainability efforts. Operating out of a commercial building rather than a farm for the first time, we’ve had to make a conscious effort to continue our sustainable practices. Part of us choosing this site, part of our sustainable model, is having natural lighting, reusable china and minimal food waste. That’s the biggest thing – being able to control food waste. [For example], we call our pesto “No Waste-O” because we use edible scraps of herbs and leaves, along with sunflower and pumpkin seeds, to make it. We [also] plan our menu in advance and make everything from scratch, so we really don’t [even use] plastic containers, bags and anything like that. –Penelope Woodhouse
Botanical Tea Room 5350 Hackmann Road, Augusta, Missouri, 314.229.2496, botanicaltearoom.com