Tea is the elixir of youthful memories for Cindy Cousineau, who is the matriarch of Grandma’s Tea Room in Winsloe.
Not only does this aromatic beverage elicit childhood thoughts of fun one-on-one times with her grandmother, it seems that, when paired with a bevy of baubles, whimsical hats, crust-less sandwiches, elegant sweets and dainty teacups, it’s a transport back in time for others as well.
“The ladies come in, they put on a hat and they start taking pictures. And they start having this magical tea party just like they thought they were when they were little girls growing up. We also have a lot of men come in and it’s funny, they always wear that Anne of Green Gables hat with the braids. I could hide it and they will find it. Or the women will find it and put it on them,” smiles Cindy who, with her husband, Guy Cousineau, operates her tea room, which was named as one of seven top tea rooms in Canada by Chatelaine magazine last year.
Cindy opened her first tea room in a quaint four-table, front room at their first B&B in Greenvale in 2003 as a way to have a bit of fun and to make use of a very special collection of teacups and saucers she had collected from aging family members.
“In my day, everybody received a teacup and saucer, whether it was your birthday, wedding shower, baby shower, Christmas, it didn’t matter, you got a teacup and saucer. So I (visited) each and every one of them and I asked for one of their teacups and saucers (as a keepsake),” she remembers.
“Some teacups have people’s names on them: my aunts, cousins, grandmother, mother. I collected them from everybody and then said, ‘What am I going to do with all these teacups and saucers?’”
Grandma’s Tea Room proved to be a popular destination. Then in 2008 the Cousineaus moved — lock, tea room stock and B&B business — to their present Confederation Trail-side property in Winsloe.
This allowed for plenty of space for a gift shop in the front of the house and a large tearoom at the back, which faces an expansive garden where a series of 13 miniature fairy vignettes have mysteriously appeared.
“People love to look for them and find them. It’s extra fun,” Cindy says. “It’s all part of the magic.”
Also part of the magical tea intrigue is a tea-sniffing bar where tea lovers can cozy up to and inhale each of the 20-plus varieties available for tasting.
“It’s all about smell, so if the smell is appealing to you then the taste must be, too,” Cindy says.
There is also a stash of fancy clutch purses, satchels, necklaces, beads and lots and lots of hats that are a throwback to another tea sipping era.
“They come in and they start speaking very proper. And someone who’s never been English before starts having this English accent. And everybody is sort of with this pinky thing . . . ,” Cindy smiles.
“The teacup handle is so small you need to pick it up a little bit differently than you would just grabbing onto a mug. You just have to be a little more elegant.”
Lately, however, there have been a few burly coffee mugs hobnobbing with the dainty teacups at Grandma’s Tea Room.
A number of years ago the couple went to Hillsborough, N.C., which is known as coffee country in the United States, to get a top quality espresso machine.
Guy also imbibed in some study time with a barista.
Eventually they bought a coffee roaster, buckled it into a seat in their camper and drove it home
They now buy gourmet beans from around the world and roast it to the strength and taste that they want on ground of their Grandma’s Tea Room and Beside the Trail B&B.
The smell on roasting days is so scent-fully pleasing that they have to post a sign to let passersby know that the delicious aroma of fresh ground is coming from there, not the coffee chain outlet next door.
“We roast on the front lawn so for about a block around you can smell all of this coffee roasting. All of a sudden you can see the lineup at the drive-thru getting a little bit bigger and bigger,” Cindy laughs.
“So I made this sign that says Now Roasting and now when people pull in we’ll give them a free sample of coffee.”
Their special Roosters Coffee Roasters blends will be available on Sundays at the Downtown Farmers’ Market as well as at the tearoom, where they also various teas as well.
One heart-warming bonus of the in-home tea room is that Cindy, who is now a youthful grandmother of 11, ages three weeks to 12 years, can pay this playful one-on-one time forward to the next generation of “tea drinkers.”
“I have a lot of grandbabies in my life and putting on a display for them, giving them magic so that they have something to remember is really part of my fun, part of staying young; it’s part of being a grandma,” she adds.
“Imagination is the best gift in the world.”
At a glance
- Grandma’s Tea Room is located in Winsloe, just next to the Confederation Trail.
- Guy and Cindy’s Rooster Coffee Roasters of P.E.I. brands will be available at the Downtown Farmers’ Market, which runs every Sunday from June 29 to Sept. 21, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is located on Queen Street and runs from Grafton to King streets.
- There are more than 40 vendors who are selling everything from produce to preserves, as well as food service vendors and a large variety of artisans.