Opening a new tea room is a big challenge under any circumstances. But what about in the middle of a global pandemic? That’s what Anne Reeves has done at The T Lounge, the freshest addition to the vibrant tea room scene in Lincoln. Remarkably, Anne had no previous experience in the hospitality industry; she had been working at Lincoln County Hospital when she bought the tea room premises in December.
Anne has followed her dream of opening a tea room while continuing to work for the NHS during the immense pressures of a pandemic. She spoke with us about her vision for The T Lounge, the challenges of starting a business during these times, and how it’s been going since the doors first opened in July 2021.
Working for the NHS while opening a tea room
Anne is a healthcare support worker at Lincoln County Hospital, where she has worked for the last ten years. Maintaining her contribution to the NHS effort while attempting to create a new hospitality business has required a fine balance – but it’s a challenge she feels is highly rewarding.
“I’ve always had the dream to open up my own tea room, and got to the point where it was time to fulfil my dream,” she says.
“Our afternoon teas have a modern look rather than the vintage tea look.”
The T Lounge has opened in the former premises of the Peony Tea Parlour. When the business went up for sale, it was an opportunity that Anne couldn’t refuse.
“I love Lincoln, and especially uphill Lincoln,” she explains, “The opportunity came along to purchase the tea room on Burton Road and I immediately liked the location. It’s not too far away from the Bailgate and has a lovely community feel to it.”
A whole new look
Almost immediately after Anne bought the tea room, the country entered a third lockdown – one that would last several months before businesses like hers could open to the public again.
While this was a setback, Anne saw an opportunity to transform the interior and put her own stamp on The T Lounge. “It wasn’t worthwhile to open for takeaways,” she says. Instead, she focused on having renovation works done to create the look she wanted.
Anne has stripped back the previous vintage feel and gone for a more subtle design, with a deep blue colour scheme complemented by a rustic bare-brick wall.
“The community response has been fantastic, with people walking past and watching the tea room transform and being excited to be able to have a place to meet up with their friends once the restrictions were lifted,” she says.
A creative menu
With Lincoln city centre already featuring a deluge of tea rooms, Anne wanted to design a menu that would stand out and offer something a little different.
While offering some classic tasty light bites and homemade cakes, The T Lounge also serves up some of its own quirks and eccentricities.
“I didn’t want the café feel to it,” Anne explains. “The ploughman’s platter seems to be popular. The pizza bagel also gives people the choice to build their own bagels with the toppings they like.
“Our afternoon teas have a modern look rather than the vintage tea look. All our plates have that little extra touch. We will be introducing our picnic platters very soon too.”
Locally sourced coffee
From the beginning, Anne wanted to use local suppliers at The T Lounge to keep the offer fresh and support other businesses in the area. To this end, she has formed a partnership with Stokes Tea & Coffee.
“Stokes are our neighbours with their roastery being just a stone’s throw away,” she says. “They have been so accommodating to us, offering tea and coffee tasting sessions so we could decide which flavours we think will work the best.
“We are very proud to be offering Stokes tea and coffee.”
A space to meet, relax and work
While Anne continues to balance her work at the hospital with growing the tea room, she hopes the The T Lounge will eventually become a full-time venture. But the circumstances are still very difficult for many businesses like hers.
Having the uncertainty hovering over us as to whether we will have to close again is very challenging,” she says. “But it has been going really well.
“We are building up a customer base of old and new,” she continues. “We are still finding our feet, and we still have temporary scattered opening times, but the support we have had so far has been overwhelming.”
“I would eventually like to open later in the evenings so people and groups can meet up.”
Anne hopes to build on the foundations she has created at The T Lounge, and believes that the trend towards remote working could be a factor that will help to get things moving again.
“After the worst year for everyone, our hopes and dreams are to create this cosy space for people to enjoy their lost time with friends and family,” she says.
“I would eventually like to open later in the evenings so people and groups can meet up. Also, with internet access, it is becoming a nice place to work for an hour or two.
“I am looking forward to watching The T lounge grow, and we look forward to welcoming you all.”
You can find out more on The T Lounge’s Facebook page, including opening times and menu updates.
The T Lounge is also featured in our guide to the best tea rooms in Lincoln, which compiles our favourite spots for tea around the city.
Read more about the people behind Lincolnshire’s hospitality scene in our series of local stories.