A Place in Time
It’s not often I get to spend time with a lovely family, one who’s roots tie-in closely with my own. Having said that, spend just a short time with this mother, daughter, and son business-owner trio, and you’ll feel like an old friend, and you’ll definitely be treated like family.
The Top Hat Tea Room, located in beautiful downtown Orangeville, is like walking into a space where time stands still. Comfort food is delivered lovingly every day, and of course, a well brewed “cuppa”, served in antique tea pots and cups, delivers a one of a kind experience. When the question “So what was the inspiration behind this lovely space?” was posed to this mother and sibling team, they all beamed with pride. Like mine, their family hails from Northern Ireland. “My mother and father moved to Canada from Northern Ireland before I was born” explains mom Denise Bechard. “Although, my family constantly teases me that I am the most Irish of all of them, having travelled back home more than any of the others.” Daughter Danielle Colgan shares her own very compelling reason to be in love with British culture; “My grandfather died one month before I was born, and so my grandmother began taking me back to Ireland on a regular basis to visit family and friends.” It was through these regular trips that eventually led Danielle to her soulmate, now her lovely husband. Son Andrew, the only one in the family who shares the dark hair and blue eyes typical of many from Northern Ireland, shares the love of his family roots, and perfectly rounds out this delightful trio.
“The three of us have always been in the manufacturing industry as a career” explains Denise, “however, I’ve always dreamt of owning a sweet little tea room where we would serve authentic teas, homemade soups and stews, and light lunches including beans on toast, sausage rolls, sandwiches, and quiches, all made from scratch with ingredients you would find in a ‘true Brits’ cupboard.”
Even as I sit in the warm inviting space of the Top Hat Tea Room, and write these very words, I find myself distracted, trying to decide which savoury lunch item I’m going to enjoy with my pot of Irish tea. Will it be the cucumber and cream cheese sandwich? Or possibly the Italian sausage soup served with homemade bread? Hmmmm… or how about “eggs and soldiers”?
This is the true beauty of what the Top Hat Tea Room has to offer its patrons. Beyond just a space of comfort, nostalgia, and warmth, they offer a choice menu filled with beautiful foods and desserts to fill both your tummy and your heart. “We wanted this space to be somewhere our customers could come and feel peaceful, enjoy the atmosphere, and let us cook for them” says Andrew. “There are customers who come in with a book, enjoy a pot of tea, and stay here for hours. That’s exactly the type of experience we want to create for everyone who comes through our door.”
The hallmark of any great tea room is being able to offer a traditional “Afternoon Tea”. This is one of the more popular menu items, served on an elegant 3-tiered tray, adorned with Denise’s homemade sandwiches and Danielle’s beautifully baked scones and desserts, all delivered by the handsome, debonair Andrew. This choice makes for a lovely everyday experience, or even as a special-occasion treat.
This small, yet elegant space is perfect for hosting parties, showers, luncheons, and really any significant event that you want to be both magnificent and memorable. I love the idea of celebrating children’s birthday parties, or choosing the clever “Little Lads and Ladies Tea”, where the young ones can experience a real-life tea party, and feel very grown up at the same time.
An interesting story as well, is the one behind the inspiration for the name. “My father and I came up with the name to ensure that people knew that a tea room was not just for ladies” shares Andrew, “so we thought “Top Hat” would lend itself perfectly to the grandeur and sophistication of an old-time tea room.”
The Top Hat Tea Room is everything that you could dream a place like this would be. And I would submit, that Denise and her family have proven beyond a doubt, that dreams really do come true.
Written By: Kelli M. Maddocks | Photography: Cory Bruyea