Discovering The White Heron Tea & Gifts
Walking up Grand Avenue, I am always entranced by the historic buildings in downtown New Port Richey. Across the street from the Richey Theater in the center of the block is one of my favorite places, The White Heron Tea Room and Gifts.
The White Heron Tea Room is quite popular, with seatings for high tea at noon, 2 pm, and 4 pm Tuesday through Saturday by reservation. Yes, reservations are required. If you want to enjoy a quick respite without a reservation, the Tea Parlour is available for your enjoyment.
Traditional tea is served in a relaxed atmosphere like no other, with a spa/resort feel replicating the refined elegance of some of the world’s most beautiful tea rooms while adding the perfect amount of Florida to make it great.
Doing things Right is one of Kelly’s Passions
Kelly (Maki) Hackman was born and raised in the New Port Richey area. She attended Richey Elementary, Bayonet Point Middle School, and Ridgewood High School and has always considered the downtown New Port Richey area as a place of pride and community.
The only Certified Tea Specialist through the World Tea Academy in the Tampa Bay area began her journey with a passion for the historic downtown in New Port Richey.
“The dream of owning a business in historic downtown New Port Richey is one that I have had for so many years that I can’t even remember how long it has been… It seems so surreal and exciting to me to be able to bring my passion to life for everyone to enjoy,” Kelly shares with me.
In January of 2016, Kelly and her husband, Bryan, opened The White Heron Tea and Gifts at 6228 Grand Boulevard, smack in the center of Downtown New Port Richey, Florida. They purchased Karen’s Gifts, a full-service gift shop with a loyal following, from Karen Leggault who was ready to retire after twenty-plus years.
“The shop was full of traditional “collectibles” and we have changed the inventory to more current lines, locally made products, and custom chocolates,” Kelly shares when telling NatureCoaster about developing The White Heron Tea and Gifts, “We began with four tables for tea, testing and refining our concept to what best fit the customer’s desires.”
The only problem was that Kelly was not what one would consider an avid tea drinker.
Kelly Becomes a Tea Specialist and Sommelier
“I didn’t quite enjoy the taste of tea before I went to my first tearoom, Kelly says. “At my first tearoom experience, I discovered that tea is flavorful, and its myriad of properties can make each type of tea unique. I had only prepackaged tea before, and there really is a difference between tea in bags and loose-leaf tea – and I loved the tearoom atmosphere.”
Because Kelly did not have a history with tea, she went on an educational quest and The White Heron’s guests reap the delicious results!
Understanding tea and proper tea etiquette are very important to Kelly. Wanting to offer her patrons knowledge and understanding of the tea she serves, she recently completed courses and is a Certified Tea Specialist through the World Tea Academy, as well as a Tea Sommelier. Kelly is one of only three Certified Tea Specialists through the World Tea Academy in Florida. She is the only one in the Tampa Bay area.
Enjoying Cream Tea at The White Heron
Cream tea is a less formal tea, where one enjoys a pot of their favorite tea with scones and the proper accoutrements.
My first visit to The White Heron Tea Room and Gifts was to their wonderful Tea Parlour to enjoy a couple of scones and a pot of warm, cinnamon-infused tea. The Tea Parlour is a less formal room, where reservations are not required and frequent visitors are common.
I noticed that the scones were not as crusty as the ones I am used to and asked my server why. “These are traditional Scottish scones. They are softer and have a lighter texture than many others served in the U.S.,” Dawne McDonald explained. “We have our own recipes and we make our Devonshire Cream in-house also.”
I chose a blueberry white chocolate variety of scone and paired it with the Devonshire cream. It was delicious. My tea mate enjoyed the “plain” scones, featuring a delightful vanilla taste, with strawberry preserves and a pot of rooibos tea. Rooibos tea has no caffeine, which may have been a good idea for me because after I drank my pot and a half of cinnamon “leaded” tea, I was pretty jazzed up.
The High Tea Experience
The High Tea experience was a true delight. Reservations are required for High Tea, which is served at noon, 2 pm and 4 pm daily from Tuesday through Sunday at The White Heron. Dawne was again our server. She is quite knowledgeable and personable and has been working at The White Heron Tea Room for more than three years.
High Tea is a traditional three-tiered serving of small sandwiches, pastries and scones, perhaps with truffles or other fancy desserts to complete the experience. At The White Heron, guests choose their favorite tea to go with the fine finger fare, and conversation is a welcome part of the ambiance.
Their chicken salad was my favorite, served on fresh bread cut into a generous portion that was still appropriate for a tea platter. Each sandwich had a great flavor and was fresh and tasty. We had choices of scones, from the house plain with a hint of vanilla to cherry or blueberry with white chocolate. Another offering was a cinnamon scone, but I was too full to try it.
Our petite pastries on this visit were petit fours, with their delicate presence and chocolate or vanilla coating. It was a fine finish to a great luncheon tea.
The Tearoom is fabulous, with light teal painted walls, white furniture, teal and silver themed artwork and some beautiful white tulle gently shaping the ceiling, creating an envelope of relaxation that encouraged our conversation and generated a feeling of being somewhere special – away from the hustle and bustle of our hurried twenty-first-century lives.
Each of us ordered a pot of our favorite tea from the extensive tea menu and the pots were covered in lovely cozies. The teacups were delicate china, which seems to enhance the taste of the tea, and we shared our different choices, although Dawne was quick to offer second pots of any variety we cared to try.
Driftwood Tea Company
“Every two months or so, new tea flavors are introduced to go with the seasons and keep things fresh,” Kelly told me. The tea that is served at The White Heron is supplied by her Driftwood Tea Company. The Driftwood Tea Company sells the teas online as well as allowing Kelly to experiment with new flavors.
In 2019, Kelly created the Luscious Loquat Green Tea, which was awarded a Silver Medal in the 2019 Global Tea Championships (in the category of Flavored Green Tea). It is available in 2-ounce and 4-ounce packages, as well is 15 pack tea sachets, as are all of the flavors available at The White Heron Tea Room and Gifts.
Visiting The White Heron Tea and Gifts in Downtown New Port Richey
The menu of teas and food changes at The White Heron Tea and Gifts regularly, as does the adorable gift inventory. If you have a special request, it needs to be brought up when the reservation is made for tea. There isn’t a huge staff here or a large kitchen to make changes.
Groups are welcome, but again, a reservation is necessary for tea and I would recommend if you are bringing a group for cream tea that you give the store a heads up. Their phone number is 727-203-3504.
Special events, such as Tea Tastings, Princess Teas, and Holiday Teas are held often. The best place to keep up with the events is their Facebook Page.
If you want to learn more about tea and keep up with what The White Heron Tea Room is up to, please subscribe to their newsletter, either online for the e-version, or in the store for the printed version.
Gather some friends, make a reservation and get down to The White Heron Tea and Gifts, located at 6228 Grand Boulevard in downtown New Port Richey. You will be glad you did.