The Blue Willow Tea Room in Petersburg, Virginia is one of my absolute favorite places to spend time. It’s not a stuffy environment, no need to wear your Sunday hat (although you can if you want to); instead, it’s warm and inviting for all. They like to say that enjoying tea is about “the company you keep not what you’re wearing.” The cozy atmosphere helps, but more importantly, the tea room manager welcomes you to sit a spell, sip tea, get a little nibble, and feel as relaxed as if you’ve just left a spa.
I recently spent some time with Kirsti because I wanted to know more about how she creates this inviting atmosphere. I no longer wonder why I feel so peaceful when I leave there; it’s because Kirsti brings her calm and gentle ways to the way she runs this tea room.
The Tea Room
The idea of the Blue Willow Tea Room originated with Sid, the owner of the antique store next door. He’s a flight attendant and has spent years flying all over the world. He loves spending time in the UK and especially loves his afternoon teas there. One of his favorite places to spend time is Robson’s of Lewes. He decided he wanted something similar a little closer to home and renovated part of his antique store to become a tea room and Blue Willow was born.
The smartest move he ever made though was hiring Kirsti to run it. In my chat with her, I learned that she’d always been a tea drinker, but didn’t know much about the different varieties until her mom bought her The Harney & Sons Guide to Tea, maybe a premonition about her future endeavors. Now, one of her favorite things to do is recommend a tea for you based on the flavors you like. If you’re not sure what to order, Kirsti will ask you several questions to help her narrow down a selection for you then she’ll “surprise” you with her pick. If you don’t like, that’s okay, she’s not offended. She’ll just bring you something else.
When it’s time to enjoy nibbles, one thing’s for sure, you won’t leave hungry. The Full Afternoon Tea is plenty for two, I know, that’s what I always order with my sweetheart. Yes, he LOVES spending time at Blue Willow!
Kirsti finds inspiration for the seasonal menus in a variety of places; watching cooking shows, Pinterest, flipping through cookbooks, even figuring out how to turn an entire meal into a finger sandwich. Over the holidays, you may even find a turkey dinner turned into a sandwich with stuffing and cranberry. She likes to keep things simple and use the freshest ingredients. And of course, she likes to make sure that Virginia is well represented so you’ll always find some Virginia Ham somewhere on your plate.
With a small kitchen and not a lot of free time, Kirsti loves recipes that are simple but combine unique ingredients that you may not normally think of putting together. Her scone selection remains the same through most of the year, changing things up only around the holidays, but Blue Willow changes the jams seasonally. If you’re there in the fall, don’t miss the Carrot Cake Jam!
All in all, Kirsti makes Blue Willow a place you want to spend time as often as possible. If you’re ever in the Petersburg area, make time to stop by Blue Willow Tea Room for an afternoon tea, you’ll be so glad you did. In fact, give me a call and I’ll come join you!