Michiana's Menu: Apothica Teas

NILES, Mich. - This week on Michiana's Menu, ABC57's Morgan Clark escapes the everyday and embraces her whimsical side at Apothica Teas. 

“You don’t have to be a huge tea drinker," said Laura Hollister, proprietress at Apothica Teas. "We are not pretentious about our teas -- we have very good quality, but we’re not pretentious about it. When it comes down to it, it’s wet leaf juice." 

When you walk into Apothica Teas, you enter the apothecary, which looks a lot like a somehow futuristic but old 19th century apothecary. Although instead of medicine behind the counter, the jars are full of tea leaves. And when you head over to the conservatory, you’ll enter another realm of wonder.

“We’re trying to lean into the feel of an apothecary, but we wanted to have a little bit of a fantastical, whimsical spin,” said Hollister. “There’s actually two different sides, and they have very different personalities. We say you can stand in the doorway and choose your adventure. On the apothecary side, you see more Erlenmeyer flasks and beakers and a little bit more of the steam punk. On this side, this is called the conservatory and it’s supposed to be more like tea party outdoors kind of feel, going back to the English garden parties."

No matter which adventure you choose, the décor, flavors, and music will take you to a wonderland.

Full of whimsy and wonder, Apothica Teas opened in late 2019 by Laura Hollister, who wanted to create a space that welcomes people that may otherwise feel left out in today's society. 

“I have children with disabilities," said Hollister. "And so you live in these little subsets of society where you don’t always feel welcome in other places.”

In steampunk fashion, Apothica borrows from Victorian era flower language. Guests can use a yellow rose, a symbol of friendship, to show another table that they are open to socializing. The physical symbol serves another purpose.

"We can embrace a space that is welcoming to people who are neurodivergent," said Hollister. "Even little things, like flowers on your table to indicate whether you’re open to visiting with strangers, or no, you’d rather kind of stay on your own, you want to read your book, you’re on a date, whatever. Those give clues to people who may not read social cues as well. “

After COVID shutdowns and a slow reopening, Apothica Teas is a place where people can socialize off-line.  

“During COVID, we lost a lot of our social skills, we’ve forgotten how to interact with people," Hollister said. "And then when we did come back, there’s a level of fear now. We may not have the plexiglass in front of us as much anymore, but almost emotionally, we still do. I’m trying to carve out a space in which you can safely engage with that…or not.”

“The atmosphere changes in the evening, afternoon teas stop around 5-ish," said Hollister. "And then we tend to see more table games and larger crowds of people that just want to sit and hang out. And you’ll see people interact in a way they don’t normally. "

In the afternoon tea experience at Apothica, the first step is to pick out a teacup. A fun gesture that fills a gap Hollister noticed at her former job.

“When I was at the library, I was trying to do a lot with adults with special needs, and sometimes they weren’t given a lot of places to make choices in their lives, things were done for them," she said. "And even something as simple as choosing your cup or the beverage that you want is empowering. And to them, it was a huge deal."

We started off with something savory. Then we pick out the teas, but with 100 teas to choose from, you may need some help deciding in the apothecary.

An afternoon tea is not complete without the scones and other finger foods. 

“And the whole idea is -- it’s small portions so you can nibble and visit, you’re not just sitting down and eating," said Hollister. "You can still talk and try things.”

Beyond the food and the tea, people are coming to Apothica for the experience. 

“We drove in from Indiana, we drove about an hour to get here," said one customer. "This was a place she saw. And for her birthday, we thought this would be really nice to have high tea with the desserts and whatnot."

Click here to plan your visit.

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