Down the rabbit hole: Alice’s Tea Cup brews in Brooklyn
Sunlight floods into Alice’s Tea Cup’s newest location, an intimate café at the corner of Hicks and Middagh streets.
Wooden stools shaped like mushrooms adorn the room. A playful turquoise couch sits below wallpaper covered with keys. A mischievous grin from the Cheshire Cat greets customers.
The popular chain opened its first location in the borough on June 18. The Brooklyn Heights outpost offers the same variety of mouthwatering scones and tea as the other two locales, but its focus is more on coffee — and on an expanded selection of cakes, thanks to a massive basement kitchen.
“We always wanted to take coffee as seriously as we take our tea, and it only took 18 years to do it,” co-owner Haley Fox told the Brooklyn Eagle.
The new spot, dubbed “Alice’s To Go,” since it won’t have full service like its other locations, seats about 12 people and offers coffee beans from Brooklyn Roasting Company. It will also cater wedding and birthday cakes.
Fox said the inspiration for Alice’s, which she co-owns with her sister Lauren, came from “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” — the book, not the movie, she’s quick to point out.
“Our inspiration has always been this down-the-rabbit-hole experience where you’re having afternoon tea, but you don’t have your pinky up,” she said. “There’s no harp music playing. You don’t have to be proper.”
The famous café appeared in the movie “Trainwreck” and has been mentioned in numerous books. Actors Amy Schumer and Katie Holmes are among its base of loyal customers.
At Schumer’s stand-up show at Madison Square Garden, she jokingly reveals that her exercise regimen involves running around the reservoir in Central Park and then getting a scone at Alice’s.
Holmes routinely brings her daughter Suri Cruise to a location in Manhattan. “It’s their afternoon tea tradition,” Fox said.
The sisters opened their first location on the Upper West Side in 2001, signing the lease a day after 9/11.
“A lot of New Yorkers thought it was very risky, but we felt it was the perfect time to offer something that was an escape from the hustle and bustle of New York,” Fox said.
Roughly two years after opening the 73rd Street location, the business expanded to East 64th Street. Both have been successful, but creating a space in Brooklyn has always been the dream, according to Fox, who lives in Park Slope.
“I never used to walk around Manhattan the way I walk around Brooklyn, especially this neighborhood,” she said. “Brooklyn Heights is so beautiful; I like how low-slung the buildings are. The light, the way it feels like a city, but has the space of a suburb, the quiet streets, the beautiful townhouses. There’s a community here.”
Fox wants to make sure that community never leaves Alice’s hungry.
“We tried to make it so the people are really fed,” she said. “People think of tea salons and they think they’re going to get little sandwiches or tiny scones, but that’s not our model at all.”
Mickaela Fouad, a Downtown Brooklyn resident, said she has fond memories of spending her 12th birthday party at Alice’s before a play — but only after another restaurant lost their reservation.
“There were already 10 girls at our house and we were about to leave for the city to celebrate,” she said. “Of course, there was no record of our reservation. While my mom was having a meltdown, my dad somehow found Alice’s and shepherded everyone to the restaurant.
“I think my friends liked the finger sandwiches and tea better than the Broadway show. I can’t even remember what we saw that day. My parents still talk about how that restaurant saved the day for us.”
While the store’s sandwiches are scrumptious, it’s the baked goods that take the cake (no pun intended). A lemon glaze or vegan chocolate coconut scone is the perfect foil for a cup of strong coffee.
This cozier rendition of a tea room doesn’t feel posh or pretentious. It’s family-oriented and caters to a broad clientele.
It’s a space to find some peace and quiet — though as a sign on the wall reminds the patrons: “We’re all mad here.”
Follow reporter Scott Enman on Twitter.
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