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Tea Room Review: Afternoon Tea at Laura’s Tea Room in Ridgeway, South Carolina

There are a few rules whenever Xak and I travel via car. We must have travel snacks and whenever possible, we must stop for afternoon tea. For the holiday season, we had plans to drive down the East Coast to see family which meant we needed to buy plenty of Cheez-its for the road and we had to locate some new tea rooms to visit.

The midway point between our home and our final destination is around South Carolina. Although the city of Charlotte seemed like the most obvious choice, it wasn’t exactly on the way. After much research, we identified a tea room that looked promising: Laura’s Tea Room in Ridgeway, South Carolina. Our visit took place on December 22, 2023.

About Laura’s Tea Room

Laura’s Tea Room is located at 105 N. Palmer Street in a historic building built in 1911 that originally was for the Thomas Company, an old mercantile. The restored two story building is not only a tea room upstairs, but downstairs there is a sitdown deli for lunchtime and an impressive gift shop.

The tea room was established in 2008 and is named in honor of Laura Thomas, the last of the Thomas family to run the mercantile. Sadly, the owner, Carol Allen passed away in November of 2023, however the tea room still continues its legacy. Β 

The exterior of Laura’s Tea Room. You can still see the original building owner’s sign.

Reservation Process

Once Xak and I decided we wanted to check out Laura’s Tea Room, we wanted to make a reservation as soon as possible. Based on our travel time, we anticipated being in the Ridgeway area around 11 AM, so we agreed on 11:30 to be safe. This would give us plenty of time to load up on the hotel breakfast and allow for a little time if we get lost.

Although Laura’s Tea Room does have a website, they take reservations only through phone. This is also the time to report any dietary needs. When Xak called to place our 11:30 reservation, he mentioned there were 2 adults for afternoon tea. He was informed that he would have to call back the day before to confirm the reservation. The number of guests reported in this final call is what the tea room uses to determine how much food they need to make. Xak made sure to set up a Google calendar reminder to call back so we wouldn’t forget.

Confirm Your Reservation

You’ll have to confirm your number of guests the day before your reservation. Calendar reminders are your friend.

Parking

Ridgeway, South Carolina is the definition of a small town and even that’s an understatement. In fact, Laura’s Tea Room is situated near the only traffic light in the town. Main Street is one block and home to a few antique and gift shops, some eating establishments and that is the majority of the town! The population after all is less than 500 people, so it’s obviously going to be different than a big city like New York.

Street parking is available in front of the shops on the main street. Not a meter in sight.

There was plenty of street parking available on the main street. We parked directly across from the tea room with no issues. There were no meters and also no signs, and while I would normally feel nervous getting towed in a big city, I felt pretty confident we would be ok. (…)

Exploring the town of Ridgeway

Since Xak and I did not get lost on the way to Ridgeway, we had quite a bit of time to spare before our 11:30 AM reservation. We decided to walk around and explore the town. On the main street, we passed some antique stores and gift shops, a tiny library, the old police station, and a positively ancient relic: a telephone booth.

While the main street wasn’t too long, it was a pleasant walk.

The Tea Room

After we walked up and down Ridgeway’s main street, we finally headed to the tea room hoping it was ok that we were arriving just a bit early. Since there was a sign stating they were open, we decided it was safe to head inside. Since the tea room is also a deli and gift shop, the hours aren’t necessarily the same for all three.

I couldn’t help but be momentarily distracted by the tea decor on the outside of the building. Just from the exterior alone, I was already giddy to have tea here.

As we opened the door, I was shocked at the insane amount of tea themed items surrounding me. There were shelves of teapots, teacups, teas, ornaments, and I briefly wondered if I had walked into a tea themed antique shop and not a tea room and quickly remembered that the tea shop was a part of the tea room.

This (minus an excited Xak) is what you see when you enter the building.

I mentally cursed myself for not walking in earlier, because this gift shop was awesome. There was so much to look at and I wanted more time to decide how to part with my money, but we had a tea to attend. Even though the place was huge, Xak and I still had yet to see anyone. There was no one else in the front of the gift shop, including customers or employees. We wondered if we were supposed to stand near the entrance until someone came to the front to get us or perhaps we need to find someone ourselves?

We walked past the white barrier that you see in front of the entrance and then saw lots of tables with people eating their lunch and chattering before we found an employee behind the counter near a cash register.

We explained to the employee that we were here for our afternoon tea reservation. Before we headed upstairs, the employee explained a few things to us:

  • We would wait on the mezzanine at the top of the stairs until our table was ready
  • Hats were available for me to wear, if desired (apparently not for Xak πŸ˜„)
  • There is one bathroom in the entire building and it is on the first floor.

With that, we thanked the employee and headed upstairs to wait on the mezzanine.

The Mezzanine

Mezzanine is a fancy word for the half floor between floors. It’s essentially a landing area. As we walked up the stairs to get there, I was excited at the beautiful garland draped across the banisters and the teapots on every single step.

Once we got to the top, there was an abundance of hats a Christmas tree, some cardboard standups and some chairs. I’m not a hat person, minus the very short phase of bucket hats and berets in high school. I realize that some people enjoy wearing hats during tea so I could see people enjoying the large collection.

After a few minutes, a server came down a small flight of stairs to announce our table was ready. We headed up the second flight of stairs to the dining room dedicated for tea guests.

The view of the dining room from the mezzanine. The second flight of stairs is to the right.

Accessibility: Stairs

There are two flights of stairs to get to the tea dining room. Since there is no elevator, I would strongly recommend requesting a table downstairs during your reservation call if you have any concerns.

The Tea Dining Room

We got to the top and I was so surprised! The room was beautiful and flooded with light coming in from the arched windows. There was Christmas decor in the from of wreaths, trees, and garlands and festive tablecloths adorning each table.

The tables and seats were different shapes and sizes. Although I do like when things are “matchy-matchy,” the room looked very elegant and I appreciated the architectural details of the historic building including the columns, the wooden floors, and the brick walls. It felt very unique and special and as HGTV hosts say, it definitely had “character.”

Before we headed to our table, we were asked to stop at a long table loaded with teacups and teaspoons for us to select our own. I was both impressed and a little overwhelmed at the rows of tea cups on the festively decorated table. My eyes landed on a Biltmore Blue Ridge Rose teacup: a nice white teacup with a pretty blue print. As I started to reach for it, so did Xak and we eyed each other. Out of about 100 cups, of course we would want the exact same cup πŸ˜’

Luckily, there was another one on the table and we picked them up happily and walked over to where our server indicated we would be sitting. There were several tables near the beautiful arched windows in the back, however our table was right next to the railing overlooking the first floor. I was a little bummed since I saw that the servers had to continuously go up and down the stairs directly behind us to carry food, pots of tea, and pitchers of tea, meaning they would constantly walk past our table.

As we sat down with our respective Biltmore Blue Ridge Rose teacups, the server poured out some iced tea into two glasses and placed them in front of us. The server explained that the iced tea of the day was Blackberry Sage, and the hot tea of the day was Comfort and Joy which was described as a black tea with apple, cinnamon, and bits of cloves and licorice.

We thanked him and told him we would review the tea menu first.

Tea Selection

The tea menu had almost as many options as there are residents in Ridgeway. (joke) There were black teas, white teas, green teas, herbal teas, rooibos teas, and Simpson & Vail literary teas. Additional teas from South Carolina company, Oliver Pluff & Co were also available which included some popular favorites like Darjeeling, Lapsong Souchong, and Jasmine.

As usual, I chose the British Breakfast (essentially Republic of Tea’s English Breakfast) and Xak decided on the Picard Blend (by Plum Deluxe) which was listed as “a twist on Captain Picard’s favorite Earl Grey. Bergemot Oil, Orange, Pecan, Blue Cornflowers.”

Our server came back to ask us about our tea selections, and after confirming we could indeed have both the hot tea of the day and our own specific choices, we placed our tea orders along with a request for some milk. Our server poured some hot water into each tea cup and swirled it around before discarding the water. Xak and I sometimes do this at home in our tea pots before preparing the tea to warm up the pot, but I’ve never seen this done at a tea room. πŸ€”

As we waited for our first tea, we took sips of the blackberry sage iced tea. It was amazing! I don’t normally drink sweetened iced tea, but I would totally make an exception for this. It was extremely refreshing and had a sweet, strong blackberry taste. It felt like something you would want to drink on a summer day while you’re sitting on a wrap around porch. This was a winner! Suddenly, I wasn’t so upset that all the servers with pitchers had to walk past us. πŸ˜„

Our server came back with the first starter pot of Comfort and Joy and placed a tea cozy wrapped pot with what looked like a black scrunchie in front of us. He said that our other teas would be out shortly as would our first course, the scones. Xak and I eagerly served the Comfort and Joy tea.

While most people probably pay no attention to tea drip prevention methods, both Xak and I were excited to see how Laura’s Tea Room handled this very important problem. The scrunchie was quite genius, perhaps even better than the sponge attachment we were so impressed with at a previous tea room we visited. Xak and I began to discuss if we should invest in scrunchies for our own teas.

The Comfort and Joy tea was quite good, especially with the splash of milk from the cute creamer and a plop of a sugar cube. You could taste the licorice, which is good or bad depending on if you actually like licorice. The tea was very true to its name and certainly felt seasonally appropriate especially combined with the Christmas adornments in our surroundings. If I wanted to feel like I was in Winter, I could drink my Comfort and Joy tea. If I wanted to feel like I was in Summer, I could drink my Blackberry Sage Iced tea. Pretty cool!

When the server returned with our respective pots of tea, he moved some items from our table to make room since our table was filling up fast. Each teapot had their own patterned cozy which meant we would be able to distinguish which was which. I quickly finished off my Comfort and Joy so I could taste the British Breakfast.

Our server announced our scones would be coming out very soon. I realized then that I had no idea what we would be eating. On our tables were tea menus, however nothing explaining the food. I looked around at some other empty tables and saw that each plate had a paper menu on it. I got up and I quickly snapped a picture of one.

I snuck this picture of a menu from a different table because we didn’t have any menus at our table.

I’m not sure why our table did not have any menus, but at least now we knew what we would be eating.

Our food would be the following:

  • Blueberry scone
  • Tomato Basil Bisque
  • Chicken Salad Croissants
  • Pimento-Cheese Tomato Canape
  • Cucumber Cane (sandwich shaped into a candy cane)
  • Mini Quiche
  • Turkey Pinwheel
  • Spice Cake
  • Vanilla Mousse Tart
  • Christmas Fudge (White Chocolate Peppermint Fudge)
  • White Chocolate Covered Strawberry
  • Chocolate Victoria Sponge Cake with Cherry Cream filling

I was ready.

Check Facebook for Menus

The website might be a little out of date but the Facebook page is updated often including announcing the seasonal menus.

The Food

Scones

The blueberry scone was served with two grapes and an orange slice for a garnish on a festive plate with a Christmas tree. As I looked at the scone, I realized I could not rip it in half like I normally do, nor was there any fruit preserves (ex. strawberry) on the table. I briefly wondered if I should run downstairs quickly to buy some of the lemon curd I saw in the gift shop.

There was some cream already on the table available to spread so I broke the scone in half and slathered it on the side. The scone was sweet and the flavor reminded me of a scone you’d find at a coffee shop. I usually find those triangular shaped scones to be a little dry and dense, but the scones at Laura’s Tea Room tasted quite nice. Turns out I didn’t need to make an emergency lemon curd purchase after all.

Soup

The next course was a delicious smelling Tomato Basil Bisque soup served in a teacup. (So cute) Among the many flavors, I detected celery, onions, pepper, and overall it was a delightful creamy, herby tomato soup. I wondered how many rules of etiquette I would be breaking if I picked up the teacup to get every last drop. After all, why serve soup in a tea cup if you’re not supposed to drink from it?!

This soup was great! I wouldn’t mind if it was served in a tea pot for next time πŸ˜„

After our soup bowls were cleared, the three tiered tray came out with what looked like Royal Albert Old Country Rose plates and I was giddy with glee.

Our decor had to get removed to make room for our three tiered tray, but I did not mind.

Savories

I was pleased to see an assortment of savories with different bases. At some tea places, you’ll see the same bread used for everything with just the fillings switched out. This isn’t necessarily bad, but variety is exciting when it comes to savories. I also love seeing different shapes.

The holiday menu savories at Laura’s Tea Room included a turkey cheese pinwheel, pimiento-cheese tomato canape, quiche, cucumber cane sandwich, and a chicken croissant.

Turkey Cheese Pinwheel

While I was admiring how the savories look on my plate, Xak was absolutely ecstatic at the sight of the Turkey/Cheese pinwheel and immediately demolished it.

This hits the spot!

-Xak, Perpetual Pinwheel lover

I, on the other hand, am not obsessed with pinwheels the way Xak is and took my time tasting it. It had some mustard in it, but overall it was indeed a nice bite. It’s nice having savories that aren’t always on sandwich bread. I foresee pinwheels making its way into our afternoon teas in the near future.

Pimiento-Cheese Tomato Canape

I actually looked up whether it’s pimento or pimiento, and apparently both are correct but one is Spanish and the other is Portuguese. However you spell it, it’s a mild red pepper and you can find them stuffed in olives and in a special cheese mixture that apparently is known as “Southern PΓ’tΓ©.” While I usually eat the stuffed olives and I’m known to enjoy a good cheese ball around holiday times, pim(i)ento cheese isn’t my number one choice.

If you’re not into “cheese with stuff in it,” you probably won’t be a big fan. The canape wasn’t bad, however the juicy tomato was a little overpowering so the name of the canape was quite accurate.

Quiche

I like quiches (especially quiche lorraines) and I wish more afternoon tea places served them. I couldn’t really detect the flavor of this particular quiche though. It was warm, had some green onion (or maybe chive?) in it but overall had a neutral taste. I’m not really sure what I ate, but at least it didn’t taste bad.

Cucumber Cane Sandwich

I’m not a fan of open faced sandwiches because usually I find myself making a big mess where toppings will fall everywhere or the bread just smears across my fingers. However, I give this one a pass because I am sentimental and love seeing the festive theme in the food! The cream cheese was flavored which is always a good thing. Luckily, a wet-nap was not needed for my fingers, but I still wouldn’t have minded another piece of bread on top. πŸ˜„

Chicken Croissant

Chicken salad sandwiches might be my favorite tea sandwich, taking over from egg salad and cucumber. Whenever it’s served inside a croissant, I don’t think there’s any contest! This particular chicken sandwich didn’t have too many herbs, but I had the crunch of the celery and also some sweet tartness perhaps from some craisins? It was difficult to tell because I ate it pretty fast πŸ˜„

Overall, the bread part of the savories were soft, but not soggy and my favorite was the chicken croissant. Xak and I really need to make some soon!

Desserts

After our savories, we moved to the desserts. I was particularly excited for the large slice of cake that is not typical for the many tea rooms I’ve been to. The only time I’ve ever had a full sized cake slice during afternoon tea was at the Willard in DC as a special birthday event. I decided to save the cake slice for last.

The holiday menu desserts at Laura’s Tea Room included a spice cake, Christmas fudge, Mousse tart, Chocolate victoria sponge cake with cherry cream filling, and a chocolate covered strawberry

Spice Cake

I am a big fan of spice cake. Usually I go for desserts that have ginger and lots of molasses in it. This particular cake reminded me of a light coffee cake since it had a cinnamon and sugar flavor. It was quite nice and went well with tea time. The bite was gone pretty quickly.

White chocolate Fudge with Crushed Peppermint

I am neither a huge white chocolate fan nor do I care too much for peppermint. However… perhaps the holiday season was getting to me because this tasted awesome! It was very seasonally appropriate and it also went very well with Xak’s Picard Blend Earl Grey tea. It reminded me of an after dinner mint, or one of the 40 Andes mints you get after Never Ending Pasta Bowl at Olive Garden (both which I like very much). Very tasty.

Mousse Tart

The mousse was French vanilla and served in an edible chocolate cup, topped with a raspberry. The whole combination was great! Xak and I both agreed that we needed to work on our chocolate skills. How awesome would it be to have Dirt Pudding served in an edible chocolate cup?! (Xak, write this down)

Chocolate Cake with Cherry Filling

Although I intended to save it for last, I couldn’t ignore the chocolate cake slice any longer. Since this was a victoria sponge cake, it was extremely light and very delicate. It was very delicious! I am a big chocolate cake fan (Xak makes me one every year for my birthday), but I’m not always keen on cherry flavoring. In this cake though, the combination was quite enjoyable.

White Chocolate Strawberry

With my new found love of white chocolate (thanks to the fudge I ate 2 minutes earlier), I was now excited for the strawberry. The chocolate was nicely set and provided a full coverage shell around the strawberry. It was a great way to end the meal.

Payment

After we were done eating, our server came by to give us our bill. We were instructed to go downstairs when we were ready to leave. As I looked at the bill, I noticed it was a little bit higher than what was mentioned on the website by $4 ($2 for each of us). Still, even with that discrepancy, both Xak and I agreed that the price difference for afternoon tea here in comparison to the DC Metro area was pretty astounding. Three types of tea and a four course meal would be at least $45-$50.

Slightly more than what was advertised on the website, but not by too much.

And speaking of three types of tea…

Restrooms

As the employee mentioned earlier, there is one restroom in the entire building and it’s on the first floor in the back of the building. This is the restroom used for all the guests, whether you’re there for tea, shopping, or enjoying lunch. Even though customers are informed/warned prior to being seated, I imagine having to run down two flights of stairs in hopes that you can use the one restroom in the building has probably caused some problems (and panic) in the past. Luckily, when I went downstairs, the line was short (as in, it was just me in line) and I awkwardly waited outside the door looking at the discounted items for sale along the wall. Overall the restroom must have been fine, because honestly I don’t remember anything memorable about it. That’s probably a good thing πŸ˜„

Don’t wait to go

Since there’s only one restroom in the building and you have to travel two flights of stairs to get there, don’t wait until the last minute!

The gift Shop

As we made our way past the lunch patrons to get to the entrance, it was time to finally shop! First thing we wanted to do was buy some of the teas we had. Xak loved the Picard Blend and I really wanted to get the Blackberry Sage.

As I searched through the tea shelves though, I found a lot of teas but no Blackberry Sage. We asked an employee if it was available and she said no because someone just bought the last two canisters. Probably while I was waiting in line in the bathroom. πŸ˜’

As I wept gently, Xak decided to buy some Star Wars Ahsoka Tano green tea for his brother, and the Picard Blend for a future Star Trek themed tea!

After we made our purchases, we finally headed out the door to continue our very long drive down the east coast, satisfied and full.

Final Thoughts

I was pretty nervous for us to make a stop at such a small town for afternoon tea. If only there was an afternoon tea review blog that provided detailed experiences on what to expect…. πŸ˜„

There were a couple of things that caused some confusion, such as the website being out of date and not knowing where to go when you first enter since there are no signs or podiums. Since reservations are made via phone, there’s no email to reference your reservation information which can be bad if you’re traveling and forgot to write things down somewhere.

I absolutely love the building and the tea dining room. The staff clearly took great care with the decor and were very pleasant during our visit. The tea was wonderful and while I surprisingly preferred the desserts over the savories (rare!), it was overall a very enjoyable experience.

Ridgeway, South Carolina may be a small town, but it was worth stopping by for Laura’s Tea Room!

Bonus: Road Trip Food

Since Xak and I were trading off on driving during our trip, we decided whoever drives gets to decide where we eat! I was responsible for the first few hours of the trip and the further south you go, the more Cracker Barrel billboards appear until the point where you just can’t deny it and you must give in.

I haven’t been to Cracker Barrel in quite some time, but even so I still get roughly the same thing everytime I go (surprising, right?): the 4 vegetable plate. For some reason, I decided to switch things up and get the meat loaf along with macaroni and cheese, green beans, and mashed potatoes with gravy. Xak decided on a “thanksgiving” platter which included turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, and the hashbrown casserole.

Xak loves turkey (hello, turkey pinwheel) so I was surprised that he wasn’t a big fan of his meal. My meat loaf was ok, but the star of the show was the mall cafeteria looking macaroni and cheese with the runner up being the gelatinous layer of gravy on top of the potatoes. Delicious.

After our stop to Cracker Barrel, we were back on the road for several hours until we finally got to South Carolina. Since Xak had driven, he chose Ilios, a Greek restaurant. I chose the spinach and feta pie which came with two sides. I LOVE dolmades (stuffed vine leaves) and I asked the employees if my two sides could be two things of dolmades and they happily obliged. Xak chose a gyro wrap with a side of seasonal vegetables.

We headed back to the hotel to watch Hallmark movies and eat. The dolmades were great! Unfortunately, the spinach and feta pie was a little too salty… even for a person who continuously snacks on pickles and olives. However, Xak LOVED his food. He loved it so much, he insisted we return here in the future. I’m fine with that… as long as it means we can go back to Laura’s Tea Room too.

Tea Room Rating and Reviews

Average Rating: 4.125

Tea Room Visited: https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/sandwich_bread_loaf_93879

4 star rating
4 star rating
4 star rating
4 star rating
β€œ4 stars. Very nice tea and good experience. I was a fan of both teas (hot and iced). Picking your own tea cup was a good idea!

The waiting area and the dining space was good, but the entry way could be a little more clear where you’re supposed to go upon entering.Β 

So excited to see a turkey pinwheel as part of the savories! The little chocolate cup dessert inspires me to make little edible vessels. The scone was tasty but I wish I could have split it.
Xak
Traveler for Turkey
4 star rating
4 star rating
4 star rating
4 star rating
β€œ4.25 stars. What a cool building! We got to see Laura’s Tea Room with all the wonderful holiday decor, but I can tell that it is clearly a beautiful place all year round.

I absolutely loved all the teas we had and I can’t wait to drink full pitchers of Blackberry Sage iced tea next summer with easy bathroom access.

I really appreciate the little details added to make the menu holiday themed and the abundance of tea themed trinkets. If we ever make it out in that general vicinity again, I’m happy to do a little detour for another visit.
Dani
Decor and Detail Devotee

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