We had the good fortune of connecting with Angela Renals and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Angela, maybe we can start at the very start – the idea – how did you come up with the idea for your business?
I was 28 years old when I discovered the wonder of afternoon tea: a meal of tea, finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream, and desserts. A young mom at the time, I was instantly in love with the afternoon tea tradition, which originated in the 1840s, because it invites us to slow down, catch up with loved ones, and enjoy scratchmade treats and delicious teas in a beautiful setting. I began seeking out tearooms all around Atlanta and wherever I traveled, but soon found this to be a challenge, as there was no complete listing of afternoon tea venues in the U.S. Why not? For one thing, many tearoom owners are Baby Boomers with a flair for excellent baking and decorating, though possibly not as tech savvy, so without much of an online presence. Also, beyond tearooms and teahouses, afternoon tea service can also be found in hotels, restaurants, bed & breakfasts, museums, historic homes, botanical gardens, even trains. Much research would be necessary to gather all these afternoon tea venues in one complete listing. So, when my youngest went off to kindergarten, I decided to apply my background in public relations and marketing towards promoting something I love, and began developing a comprehensive online resource for afternoon tea in the U.S.: Destination Tea.
What should our readers know about your business?
Destination Tea has 10,000 monthly visitors, 85% of whom are new every day! In the early days, I would celebrate 100 visitors a month, and now, watching the audience continue to grow puts a huge smile on my face. After all, it’s our mission to introduce afternoon tea to everyone, and for the folks already in the know, to help them find where it is served. Whenever a tearoom reaches out to thank me for their new customers who found them on Destination Tea, I glow. We also just introduced themed tea party guides and compiled listings of online tea shops where you can order all the trimmings of an afternoon tea, which have been very popular with tea lovers wanting to host tea at home. It’s mostly pure joy working on Destination Tea, but it does challenge me, most of all in regards to my inner dialogue. When I dwell on any expertise I lack — website development, graphic design, coding, traffic analytics, sales — my work slows to a halt. Shifting this mindset to one of self-assurance is ultimately how I get working again, trying out different solutions until I succeed. Like when I learned how to use WordPress and its plugins to design the functionality of the website. I resisted tackling this unknown so much so that I actually first asked another company to hire me to research and maintain up-to-date afternoon tea directories for their website. The kind woman I spoke with told me to just go ahead and get cracking on my own website, confident I would somehow figure it out. When I finally stopped being scared of how little I knew, and instead applied myself to learning, I saw that she was right!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
How lucky any afternoon tea enthusiast would be to visit the #5 city in the U.S. for afternoon tea! Metro Atlanta actually has 27 afternoon tea venues from which to create a tea tour itinerary. I would use the Atlanta afternoon tea directory (www.destinationtea.com/atlanta) to confirm days/times afternoon tea is served at each venue, which varies widely from one to the next. My favorite afternoon teas check four boxes: 1. scrumptious scratchmade menu; 2. high quality teas; 3. stylish ambiance; and 4. gracious customer service. If this experience comes at an affordable price, all the better. I’d advise my tea tour friends to pack a variety of tea outfits, from metro-fabulous to traditionally fancy, as each venue has its own vibe.
Also, we’ll need comfortable walking shoes for post-tea strolling and shopping, to work off all those decadent afternoon tea menus. Here’s where we would go:
Saturday – Candler Park: Dr. Bombay’s Underwater Tea Party in Candler Park (be sure to peruse their used book selection), pop over to Buffalo Exchange in Virginia-Highland for some trendy thrifting, optional pub crawl and dinner on North Highland (start at The Righteous Room and go North, finishing at Virginia Ave. intersection)
Sunday – The Beltline: just add honey afternoon tea (bring walking shoes), followed by a 1.5 mile stroll on the Beltline to the picturesque Historic Fourth Ward Park and Ponce City Market for shopping, many excellent dinner choices (H&F has famous burgers), rooftop mini-golfing and games, or a live show at City Winery
Monday – East Atlanta: Jayida Ché Herbal Tea Spot afternoon tea (take Mariyah’s tea suggestions, but you can’t go wrong with their handmade tea blends), explore East Atlanta Village
Tuesday – Woodstock: 11 am teatime at Tea Leaves & Thyme (order the Queen’s Tea, take any of your server’s tea recommendations, and explore the gift shop), followed by boutique shopping on Main Street, and 4 pm teatime at Jessa’s Tea Parlor (order each of their 3 afternoon tea menus for the table to share)
Wednesday – Chamblee: ZenTea afternoon tea (each guest try a different tea, they have more than 100), followed by thrifting/shopping at shops within .5-mile radius (Hello Gorgeous Boutique, Attic Treasures Thrift Shop, Broad Street Mercantile, Simple Finds and My Favorite Place), finish with live jazz over dinner and drinks at BlueTop
Thursday – Peachtree Corners: Peachy Corners Cafe afternoon tea (don’t miss their Rose Ceylon Tea), followed by shopping at The Forum, late dinner and drinks at Lazy Dog or Mojitos
Friday – Norcross: Ivy Tea House afternoon tea (order the Southern Tea and Seasonal Tea menus, and the Spa Tea if you are feeling Paleo, and try any and all of Ari’s tea suggestions) followed by shopping in historic downtown (must-see: Carolee’s boutique, Anna Balkan Designer Jewelry Gallery, Taste of Britain gourmet grocer, and Antique Traditions)
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
When I think about Destination Tea becoming a bonafide small business, I feel special gratitude towards two women of Atlanta’s tea scene: Kim Jordy of Tea Leaves & Thyme in Woodstock, and Brandi Shelton of just add honey, with several downtown Atlanta locations. I will never forget the day I released Destination Tea’s first media kit, wondering if the dream of monetizing the website would find traction among potential advertisers. Kim Jordy called me that same day, asking if my top advertising spot had yet been claimed. Within the week, Brandi Shelton had also taken out an ad. It touched my heart that these women became my first advertisers because ever since I began working on Destination Tea, they have been my cheerleaders, always affirming its ultimate success. These are two honest, authentic, hard-working women who intentionally share their personal stories to uplift other women. Kim reveals her successful recovery from inflammatory breast cancer as a cautionary tale, advocating for early and regular mammograms; while Brandi blogs and vlogs about how it feels to grow as a business owner, mom and wife. These women remind me to be real in all that I do with Destination Tea, to listen to my instincts instead of my doubts, and to seek to support other women as they pursue their dream businesses.
Other: Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/DestinationTea/
Jenny Bell (for all black-striped dress photos); Michael Bradley for Four Seasons Photo