Morgan Lee moved to Memphis from L.A. to pursue teaching. The city surprised her, as it wasn't super Southern-y, as she was expecting. About a year later, her mother Stacy Brooks joined her and, together, the pair opened TreeLeaf Tea Room in Bartlett in mid-August.
TreeLeaf offers Cream Tea ($5.99) with a pot of tea and a scone served with Devonshire cream; Light Tea ($10.99) with a pot of tea, the scone, and assorted savory snacks; and Afternoon Tea ($16.99) with a pot of tea, the scone, savory treats, dessert, and fruit. A plate on a recent visit included finger sandwiches, a sandies cookie, melon and grapes, and a pie bar.
- Photographs by Justin Fox Burks
- Morgan Lee (left) and Stacy Brooks of TreeLeaf Tea Room
Teas include black and herbal. There are the classics — Earl Grey, English Breakfast. There are also seasonal teas like a cranberry hibiscus. There are a dozen offerings in all.
The prices are kept affordable. They want everybody to feel like they can stop in for some tea. For comparison, the afternoon tea at the Peabody is about $45.
Lee says she was too much of a tomboy to be into tea sets when she was a kid, but Brooks says she loved to play house. She liked serving people, and she liked cleaning. This extends to present day in the tea room, which is pristine and pretty with linens and tea sets, many bought at thrift stores.
While Lee manages the business side of the tea room, Brooks is in charge of the overall experience — how the space looks and how the table is set and how the food is placed on the plate. Lee laughs that when she plates the food, her mother tends to move it, even just a little. "It's got to look nice," insists Brooks.
The pair initially thought about a cookie business as Brooks loves to bake, but then the idea branched out to include a place to eat the cookies. Lee was taken to a tea room in L.A. as a birthday present from her sister. The idea set in.
Brooks says she figured out how to do the tea room by watching YouTube and checking out Pinterest.
Brooks stresses that it was God who put her on this path, steered her toward Tennessee, and led her to use her talents in this manner.
TreeLeaf is named after Brooks' favorite psalm. She knew it was divine intervention when she came upon the idea and was ready to call her daughter, who had been bugging her about the name. But, first, she played a game on her phone. One of the questions from the game had to do with trees and leaves. Lee was just happy to have a decent name. "Sounds good to me," she responded to her mother.
Brooks raised eight children in L.A., and there were plenty of struggles. But the mother-daughter relationship is relaxed and not fraught. "It's a good thing we like each other," says Brooks. Lee says even their squabbles are productive.
"Morgan sacrificed her life to help me with this," Brooks says.
"It's time for her," answers Lee. "She sacrificed many, many times for her children. It's a very small price to pay."
TreeLeaf Tea Room, 2780 Bartlett Blvd. (512-5936), treeleaftearoom.com
After Miles Kovarik put up his post for a spelling bee event at a local bar, he was a bit astonished by the response. He says about 1,000 people were interested. "I thought we were onto something," he says.
He then set about creating similar, nontraditional events for bars. Events he calls intellectual or boring.
And, thus, he established Drunk Competition, which puts on these events at Taylor Berger's bars, Loflin Yard, Maciel's, and Railgarten, about twice a month at each establishment.
The next event is Drunk Debate at Loflin Yard, December 27th.
The competitions begin with the easiest questions and increasingly get more difficult as they move along. At a recent math competition, Kovarik says that the first questions were of the most basic, two-plus-two variety, but the last question, he thought, was darn near impossible. But someone solved it.
Kovarik imagines all the directions Drunk Competition could take — Drunk Connect Four, Drunk Pictionary, Drunk Charades. The possibilities are endless.
Kovarik notes that you don't actually have to be drunk to compete, it's just whatever gets you comfortable enough to be in front of a crowd. "You can be drunk on water," he says. "The emphasis is to have fun in your own capacity."
But, if you want to drink, so be it. The bar usually offers drink specials, and the winner of the competition gets $100, "for more alcohol, if you like," says Kovarik.
Sign up to compete via Facebook or eventbrite.