As soon as you step into Steeped in Comfort Tea Room in Lakewood, you feel welcomed by the warmth of its hearth and cozy charm. You will likely be met with a friendly greeting and smile from co-owner, Heather Todd. If you are a regular visitor, chances are she knows you by name and has already put your tea order in.
The atmosphere is lovely: tables covered in white linen beneath vintage floral overlays; antiques from a vintage sewing machine to a cast iron stove. The tea room is not stuffy or overcrowded, and has precisely enough space to make you feel like you’re having a private party. If that doesn’t entice you, wait until you try the food, desserts and tea.
This South Sound business has been around for 15 years. It was 13 and a half years ago when it came under the ownership of Margie Todd, a lover of tea rooms. Working side by side with her son and daughter-in-law, Benjamin and Heather Todd, success was gradual for the trio of Shelton locals. With Heather and Benjamin in the kitchen, and Ms. Todd in the front of the tea room, the journey to scone perfection took flight.
When Margie retired four years ago, Heather and Benjamin decided it was time to take a leap and took over the business entirely. With some reorganization of the menu and baked items, which are all made from scratch daily, things really began to fall into place.
Heather has been baking since she was seven. She started alongside of her mother and grandmother during the holidays. She was eight when she received her very own hand mixer, and began making chocolate chip cookies on her own.
“We did not have any junk food in the house, but if you baked it, you could have it. I learned how to bake pretty quickly,” Heather recalls, laughing. Many of the recipes she has perfected today came from those early days. With an already extensive background in customer service as a former barista, Heather would later complete the baking program at Bellingham Technical College.
Benjamin began a career with Olympic Tool & Engineering, Inc. after high school. He worked mostly with airplane equipment. When his mother acquired Steeped in Comfort, it was the dawning of a successful union laboring next to his wife in the kitchen. According to Heather, they started out slow, as she taught him one thing at a time. Today, Benjamin is exceptionally skilled in the kitchen, handling all of the soups, sandwiches and other menu items, while Heather focuses on the baking. “He’s really funny and keeps me going,” Heather says of her spouse. “We just work together really well. We’ve gotten lucky. I feel really lucky.”
How does this husband and wife duo of 15 years manage to balance family, home and work all so harmoniously? Once upon a time, Heather’s grandparents owned a barber/beauty salon called Sea Rogues, two doors down from The Spar Café in Olympia. As a child, she watched them work together closely, which she feels greatly influenced how well she and her husband work together. Her philosophy is, “To work hard every day and be proud of what I do. Money is important, but it’s not everything.” She adds, “I feel so happy to make people happy with the food, and the fact that we can make a living working together, making food.”
You won’t find any Wi-Fi. The tea room is quaint, quiet and you won’t feel rushed. It feels like stepping back to a simpler time in life. Fancy hats optional, dress up, or down, it’s all up to you.
“I’m very proud that we are more of a slow-paced restaurant and we’ve kept that feeling over time,” says Heather. “It’s supposed to be a different kind of place. A nice, relaxing environment for all ages.” The Todds do not set a time limit on seating for this very reason. They encourage guests to slow down, enjoy time with friends and family, and soak in the tranquility. However, there are days when you might need a reservation, or else get turned away.
Though the tea menu is broad, a smaller accompaniment menu allows for everything to be made fresh daily. Customer favorites include the quiche, creamy chicken with rice soup and lemon bars. Heather prefers the cookies and scones, while Benjamin favors many of the soups.
In the future, they would like to expand their menu, explore the possibility of dinner options, catering, and maybe even a scone trailer. Currently, they can accommodate parties of up to eight for lunch, and 15 for afternoon tea. They also offer the rental of the entire space, and handle a considerable amount of large carry-out orders. Many of the teas are available for purchase in the dainty gift shop.
The Todds are grateful to the numerous customers that have made Steeped in Comfort Tea Room a multigenerational family tradition over the years, returning regularly with grandparents, great-grandparents and the like. “We appreciate our customers so much. We wouldn’t be here without them!” Heather says.
You can find this Lakewood gem at 11016 Gravelly Lake Drive SW. Sundays are available for private parties. View their menu. Call 253-582-1336 to make your reservation.