‘‘Nobody else is doing what we’re doing,” said Leslie Allicks, owner of The Tea Experience, a traditional English tea catering company and online tea retailer. “Everyone wants an experience. That’s why paint and sip became popular,” said Allicks. The Tea Experience is a popular choice in the area for everything from bridal showers to princess themed birthday parties to fundraising events. The Tea Experience events come complete with the traditional accoutrement such as scones served on three tiered trays.
“People will remember your event,” said Allicks. And they’re easy too. “We bring everything from the tea, to wait-staff, to food, to china,” said Allicks. She admits that the catering side of her business is mainly patronized by women (of all ages), but she’s had great success when male clients have come knocking.
Allicks recently put together an event for an all-male book club who were used to drinking bourbon and smoking cigars in meetings – certainly not having tea. When a member of the club approached Allicks and asked if she could put together a more macho event than she might be used to, she said, “Easy peasy.” She made gift baskets with miniature cigar cutters and miniature bottles of bourbon, pens in the shape of golf clubs for the golfers in the group, and Earl Grey tea – “The strong, manly man tea,” said Allicks. When the club got together for their tea, the members were absolutely blown away – much like a man getting a pedicure for the first time.
Though The Tea Experience’s catering wing is in full swing now, that was not the case three years ago, when like every business in the world, Allicks had to suspend operations indefinitely. “Covid has taught us how to be resilient in a very daunting and unexpected environment,” said Allicks. “Everyone had to do the most with the least.” Allicks always had TheTeaExperienceNY.com, but the bulk of the company’s income had been coming from events up until that point.
Then what caused the problem ended up being the solution. “My friend has Covid. Can you send them some chamomile tea from me?” “Can I have the same order delivered to me or my friend every month?” And thus her popular SimpliciTEA subscription service was born.
Community plays a significant role in the Tea Experience. Allick’s first incarnation of the business was Lola’s Tea House, a brick and mortar shop that was named after her mother. Many of Allick’s clients are carry-overs from Lola’s. One of them works for The Cerebral Palsy Foundation, where The Tea Experience is scheduled to host a “Tea 101” event with the staff, as well some of the students involved in their after-school program. “It gives me the opportunity to connect with another organization, to offer some sort of support, and to highlight the benefits of drinking tea to that particular community,” said Allicks. Allicks and The Tea Experience will also be a part of the Feeding Westchester Gala.
The Tea Experience is also a force for community in your own home. The Tea Experience offers a starter kit with the four major types of tea: black, green, white, and oolong, all made from the same tea leaf. Simply try the different types of tea and figure out what you like. “It’s the perfect first step on your journey in the world of tea,” said Allicks.
For the more advanced, you can follow along with Allicks’ recommendations for seasonal tea drinking. She tends to go with, “Dark, deep warming teas in the colder months,” like Chai and Earl Grey. Then in the spring, “As the weather lightens up, my choice of tea lightens up.” She recommends green teas (jasmine tea, and genmaicha – a green tea blended with popped corn and toasted rice).
And for the truly hot months, Allicks has one sage piece of advice: “Anything goes because you can make anything iced.” She recommends anything with fruity elements to it, but the idea is to experiment. If you like a certain tea when it’s hot, try it on ice during the summer. But as a blanket statement: For every season… just try something new.