Making Time for Tea

Kym Brown puts a regional accent on an international ritual. Photo by Matt Rose

Kym Brown puts a regional accent on an international ritual. Photo by Matt Rose

Kym Brown grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where a neighbor taught proper table etiquette and the Ladies’ Society at church put on an annual tea. She measured out her life in tea spoons at an early age, and the years to follow have been steeped in Earl Grey and Pu-erh. Brown opened A Southern Cup, Hendersonville’s sole tearoom, in late June.

This month, the proprietress put cream tea — a light meal including scones, clotted cream, and jam — on the back burner to chat with Bold Life.

You obviously have a history with tea — but what’s the appeal?
I like the idea of it. You can sit down with a scone or slice of cake and a cup of tea. Tea is consumed to relax, I feel. Your troubles just melt away. Tea has always been there. I think about it when I wake up, I think about it when I go to bed, I think about it during the day.

Can you describe the culture of tea in the South?
In the South, tea has always been a big deal, for women especially. Tea was once a way for women to enter the workforce. They’d open a little tearoom and provide luncheons for people. It was also a way for African-Americans to establish themselves as business owners, not so much in the South but further north. They’d meet and gather there, too. Since they couldn’t go into the white establishments, they created their own.

How does your tearoom reflect that Southern tradition?
It’s more hospitable than the traditional English tearoom. You’re always welcome. I can serve scones, but I can also serve up a big ol’ buttermilk biscuit in a heartbeat. I can throw in some beignets, too, because my dad is from New Orleans. And the minute the weather gets cold, you better bet I’ll be warming you up with a pot of gumbo. You can’t get that in England.

What’s the most popular tea blend at your shop?
Tropical Rainforest. It’s a black and green tea blend with a hibiscus base. It’s very fragrant and fruity; it’s not a very strong tea. You may or may not need sugar or milk. Personally, I love a good Earl Grey with lavender and rose.

If you could have a tea party with anyone, whom would you invite?
I’d definitely want my mom there. She’s been gone for a while, but she’d want to come. I’d love to have Maya Angelou and Beatrix Potter. If you can find Amelia Earhart, she needs to come. I don’t know if Rosie the Riveter was a real person or not, but I’d love to have her there, too. There would be a collection of good, strong women.

A Southern Cup Fine Teas is located at 1529 Greenville Hwy., open Tuesday through Saturday, 11am-5pm. Reservations are required for afternoon tea. Look for more information at asoutherncupfineteas.com or call 844-596-7832.

Sample fine tea with Kym Brown at the Asheville Kitchen & Bath Show on Sunday, October 16 at the WNC Ag Center. ashevillekitchenbath.com.

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