By Cynthia A. Lovely
Photos Courtesy of Whistling Kettle Tea Lounge and Café
As a newly married couple expecting their first child, Meahgan and Kevin Borowsky began questioning their high-pressure career paths and the frantic pace of New York City living. Opting for a calmer lifestyle, they researched different places and looked for an outlet that would utilize the talents of both while providing a fulfillment that seemed to be absent. A series of unusual events all pointed in the same direction: tea.
The couple’s interest in tea began when they made a commitment to adopt healthier eating and drinking habits. They switched from their daily coffee grind to loose-leaf tea and discovered a whole new world of flavors. In the midst of their tea revelation, they continued to discuss the possibility of opening their own business. While brainstorming ideas of what type of business, they came across an educational course titled, “How to Open a Tea Room.” It sounded interesting, so they took the course. With perfect timing, Kevin’s mother returned from a trip to Germany raving about a tea shop she had visited there and lamenting that there were none in their area. For Meahgan and Kevin, that was an epiphany moment.
“The tea business is perfect for us,” Meahgan adds. “I still have an outlet for designing: the restaurant interior, labels, packaging, merchandise, as well as using my passion for good food to come up with a delicious menu. Kevin is the ‘tea man,’ researching the teas and handling the technology, equipment, and other aspects. Working together is the only way we could make this unique business a success.” Of course, the success didn’t happen right away as the reality of the dream included a healthy dose of intense planning, long hours, and plain old hard work.
Since the tea lounge opened July 14, 2004, its popularity has grown by word of mouth. It has become one of the most popular hangouts in the village and surrounding areas. Being voted No. 1 lunch spot in Capital Region Living magazine and being listed in National Geographic Traveler lend credence to its continued success. The tea lounge is open 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily, and its tempting menu lures new and returning customers with offerings like panini, club, and tea sandwiches; soups, salads, and quiches; and savory and sweet crêpes. Delectable desserts include Lemon Cream Burst, Chocolate Peanut Butter Delight, and Berries & Cream. Afternoon tea is served all day as a three-tiered combination of a savory, soup or salad, and a sweet of choice. Gluten-free options are also available.
More than 100 varieties of loose-leaf tea are in stock, including black, estate, chai, rooibos, green, white, oolong, herbal, and fruit. Creative titles line the tea menu: Morning Sunrise, Peach Blossom White, Buttered Rum, Angel’s Dream, Mango Mist, and Lavender Sunset.
Situated approximately 10 miles from the famous Saratoga racetrack, the tea lounge is easy to spot with its colorful red-and-white-striped awning covering the outside patio area. The historic 1892 building formerly housed a high-end dry goods and clothing store.
“We discovered the building when it was one giant hole, stripped to the bone, with dirty brick walls,” Kevin says. “Our landlords wanted a new business that would add character to the village, so they loved our idea. We were fortunate that they agreed with us on the style of renovations.”
New ceiling trays installed to create a tin effect, central air, an outdoor patio, eucalyptus floors, fireplace, counters, and shelving were among many remodeling endeavors. The end result offers an inviting atmosphere for patrons. The high ceilings and old brick walls accent the merlot-colored chair coverings and rich wood floors. Cozy corners with upholstered love seats line another section, and watercolor paintings from a local artist are tastefully displayed. Tearooms often attract a ladies-only crowd, but this tea lounge appeals to both men and women with its classic décor, upscale furnishings, and excellent food and drink.
“Our tea lounge is a work in progress. We are always thinking of ways to improve and to satisfy the needs of our customers,” Kevin says. One of those ideas includes the black T-shirts, emblazoned with “Campaign for Real Tea” in white letters, the friendly staff wears. The shirts are available for purchase in the gift shop at the front of the tearoom. Looking for that hard-to-find tea accessory? There’s a good chance of finding it at this gift shop. The shelves are lined with portable teapots and carafes, steepers, infusers, filters, tea-storage containers, water boilers, ceramic pots and sets, iron pots, glassware, and earthenware.
A huge array of tea samples is also available for purchase in bulk, sample-size, 4-ounce, 8-ounce, or larger quantities. The most difficult decision is narrowing down the choices. To help, the shop presents a unique solution—a sniffing bar. Small, capped jars stand at attention, waiting to tantalize the customer with their alluring scents. Breathing in the delightful aromas, one is guaranteed to find a perfectly suited tea to take home. And if sniffing isn’t enough, tea tastings are held monthly with the dates publicized on The Whistling Kettle’s Facebook page.
But the Whistling Kettle offers even more to the dedicated tea lover with the Tea of the Month Club and a catalog. Every month, Meahgan and Kevin sample some of the best, newest, and highest-quality teas on the market. Club memberships are available on the Whistling Kettle's website for as little as $44 for three months and up to $165 for a yearlong commitment, which includes samples of tea and a newsletter. The 44-page catalog has been updated recently and now includes 122 teas. It lists fair-trade and organic choices, recipes, articles about each type of tea, health benefits, and advice on the proper way to store tea. Quirky icons are displayed throughout the catalog, highlighting decaf, customer favorites, fair trade, organic, new, iced tea, milk, sugar, and nuts—for those with allergies. Available merchandise and tea paraphernalia are listed along with a free coupon on the back for a tea sample.
The Borowskys’ hard work and talent have paid off. They now enjoy the convenience of walking or biking to work instead of enduring the snarl of city traffic. They live, work, and play in a family-friendly village with all the amenities of Saratoga close by. The Whistling Kettle Tea Lounge and Café has developed into a popular local attraction, offering a lovely dining experience and showcasing exceptional tea choices and accessories. It truly is an American success story—a tearoom extraordinaire.
For a slide show of pictures, click here.
Visit The Whistling Kettle Tea Lounge and Café in Ballston Spa, New York, at 54 Front Street or online at thewhistlingkettle.com. To contact the tearoom by phone, dial 518-884-2664.