Erin Bradley and Janet Meyers, friends for more than 20 years, worked in the insurance industry and dabbled in tea as a hobby over the course of their friendship. They served tea to family members and friends and occasionally for special occasions, such as a birthday party for someone turning 50. The two enjoyed visiting other tearooms and began to toy with the idea of owning a tearoom.
When Erin and Janet decided to open a business, they went to the small-business resource center at a local college. They took courses about starting a business and getting the necessary funds. Two years later, they opened the tearoom, located in a 1922 Cape Cod–style house on the outskirts of downtown Bel Air, Maryland,. “We wanted to make sure this was something the two of us could do and make a go of it,” says Janet.
Tasting tea is what it’s all about at Tea by Two. The owners say it is very important that their guests truly enjoy the tea itself, as well as the overall experience. “It would be sad to come to a tearoom and leave thinking ‘well, that was nice, but I hated my tea,’” Janet notes.
To ensure that each guest has a pleasant experience, Erin and Janet have devised a system that allows guests to experiment with tea selection. If two or three people are at a table, each person can order a tea of her choice and share. If there are four or five, guests are encouraged to start with two pots of tea and then as the pots are emptied to try new flavors.
Janet points out, “We have about 50 teas on our menu, and we encourage our guests to consider trying teas they might not think to order. If they don’t like it, we will get them something else.” The tearoom’s most popular brew is Tibetan Tiger, a blend of smooth caramel, rich vanilla, and almond. All teas served are also available for sale, along with books, fine bone china, cards, and music CDs.
Just as there is variety in the tea selection, the menu offers choices as well. From cream tea and light afternoon tea to a full formal tea, there is an option for every appetite. And for the youngsters, ages 5 to 12, there is a delightful cambric tea, complete with a chocolate chip scone, a gourmet peanut butter and jelly tea sandwich, a sweet treat, and a choice of hot or iced tea or lemonade.
The menu at Tea by Two changes weekly, and foods are selected to celebrate the changing seasons. Soup, scones, finger sandwiches, finger desserts, and a savory all appear in one combination or another on the menu. Erin and Janet work with their pastry chef to develop new and interesting recipes.
“Sometimes a recipe will be a joint effort among the three of us. Some are family favorites, such as the blueberry buckle recipe that comes from Erin’s family or the strawberry cream icing that was my mom’s recipe,” says Janet. Future plans include a cookbook comprised of favorite Tea by Two recipes.
The tearoom is often the site for birthday celebrations, bridal or baby showers, and tea tastings. “We recently had a tea tasting, and we had our tea vendor come. We did a dessert evening, and all desserts were made using tea,” the owner notes.
Tea by Two, just five miles off I-95, attracts tea lovers from Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. The tearoom is located at 814 South Main Street, Bel Air, Maryland, and is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., serving tea until 3:30 p.m. Call 410-838-8611, or visit the tearoom online at teabytwo.com.
Editor's Note: At the time of publication, the information listed above was correct. However, please be sure to verify this information before making plans to visit to ensure it has not changed.