Being at Alice’s Tea Cup is like stepping straight into Wonderland. But instead of encountering a Queen of Hearts who has a disdain for people’s heads, you’ll find steaming pots of tantalizing teas, sumptuous scones, and other delicacies to delight your tastebuds. Born out of their love for Alice in Wonderland, sisters Haley and Lauren Fox created the landmark New York City eatery as a place to have proper tea to spend a proper weekday afternoon or even a weekend brunch. We spoke with the sisters about their inspiration for Alice’s Tea Cup, their own personal favorite teas, and why tea time is right anytime.
Were you obsessed with Alice in Wonderland as girls?
Lauren: Yes. We both babysat for our godmother’s daughter who is named Alice, after the books. So by babysitting, we were able to revisit our own love for Alice.
So how did Alice’s Tea Cup come to be?
Haley: Well, we grew up drinking tea; it was mostly our mother, but our father was a big tea influence, too. We always thought of drinking tea as an experience, as a way to bond. We were always sad that we would leave there hungry and not get enough food, though.
Lauren: They would have those little sandwiches that were never quite filling. So we wanted to do something like it. We loved the tradition of drinking tea, and we loved everything about it except that! [laughs] We wanted to capture the energy of New York as well.
Haley: Drinking tea is also a timeless experience that you can have with your friends, family, or even at an event like a bridal shower. We wanted it to be an experience that anyone can have.
Lauren: Yeah, like I want to take my girlfriends on a Thursday afternoon for tea.
Haley: Having afternoon tea is proper for adults but it’s fun for children, too.
So what can people expect when they come to Alice’s Tea Cup?
Haley: We wanted to create an environment that would be ageless and loose but also have that bit of whimsy. So that’s where the Alice theme came into play, and we kept channeling the Mad Hatter tea party. The rooms have different themes, and you can select from all sorts of treats and also sandwiches so you’ll feel full and happy!
Lauren: I wanted Alice’s Tea Cup to have personality, which is why the color choices were important to me. For example, in the Looking Glass Room, I knew I wanted this color on the walls. I had actually seen this color in someone’s bedroom and I loved it! [laughs] It stuck in my head so when we got this space, I knew this would be a perfect space to do that.
Alice’s Tea Cup is also a popular event space.
Haley: Yes, we host parties for any age. With the kids’ parties, we have Alice visit. We’ll do face painting or sing songs. We also have a Mad Hatter Magician who performs tricks, but we always welcome parents who have their own ideas. We’ve done tea readings as well which is fun.
Lauren: We think that Alice’s is a great place but it’s not a children’s place; it’s child-friendly. It would be great to offer the experience at a hotel as a place where families can bring their kids. So we’ve been toying with that idea of working with boutique hotels that would have Alice’s Tea Cup built into the hotel experience.
Having a restaurant can feel like having a child. How do you find balance?
Haley: I have two kids, and I have to say that you never know what the day is going to bring! It’s great because it’s exciting but it can be stressful, too. We have the business set up so that we don’t have to be here all the time, but we definitely are here often to troubleshoot and to also be a part of our customers’ experience.
Now, what are your favorite teas?
Lauren: I’m partial to straight black teas. I’m a purist when it comes to that, whether it’s coffee or tea. I drink something that we carry called New Vithanakanda and it’s a Sri Lankan tea. It’s wonderful; it has a full, rich flavor.
Haley: We have a tea called Mauritius. It has a vanilla essence which is very fine but it’s also a dark tea. That’s my favorite because I like it when it’s very strong.
Now, for someone who doesn’t love tea, but wants to have the Alice’s Tea Cup experience, what would you recommend?
Haley: The Phoenix Dessert tea has honey, vanilla, and caramel. It’s delicious!
What tea is popular among kids?
Lauren: Our most popular is berry bunch. It’s a tisane which is a fruit tea. This particular one is mixed with dried berries. It has hibiscus in it so it’s sweet. It steeps bright pink so it’s very pretty!
Of all the different versions of the movie Alice in Wonderland, which one is your favorite?
Lauren: I like the television one. It was very trippy.
Haley: I agree. It didn’t adulterate the book too much.
Lauren: We’re purists. We like the story told pretty straightforward. Visually, you can go to town, but the story should always be the same. We love Alice in Wonderland, and want the story honored, whether it’s a movie or here at Alice’s Tea Cup.