Mary Malott has led an interesting life. In her late 30s, having never flown before, she packed up and moved to Africa to do missionary work for a year in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo
When she came back, she worked as a medical assistant and later as an LPN at York Hospital for 15 years before retiring in 2006. She met her husband in the early ’90s and nursed him through a long illness until he passed away last year. She’s a mother, a stepmother, a grandmother and now – after one fateful night two years ago – the owner of a tea room in downtown York.
“It came about by a dream,” Malott tells me as we sit across the table from one another in the back room of her new cafe, Coffee, Teas & Thee. It takes me a few seconds to realize she’s talking about a literal dream – not a long-held aspiration, but a vision that came to her in sleep.
Before she went to bed on January 25, 2012, the idea of operating a tea room had never even remotely crossed her mind. When she woke up the next morning, she was very surprised to find herself on a new mission.
Finding the right space for her tea room took a few months; securing the space and moving in took another year. Now, having known next to nothing about tea when she started, Malott is the masterful matron of her quaint and welcoming tea room.
When you walk in the door of Coffee, Teas & Thee, it feels very much like you’ve entered somebody’s house. The bright, friendly tea room is decorated with an interesting mix of teacups, ornaments and artwork. If there’s a theme in the design, it’s part antique and part Oriental. But Malott says many of her decorations were donated by friends and people from her church.
The wide picture window overlooking Pershing Avenue is flanked by dark green bookshelves and green shutters, creating a nice contrast to the overall brightness of the room. The handful of tables are all set with full place settings – china plates and cups, ornately folded napkins and floral centerpieces. In the back room, a long table awaits the next private luncheon group.
Coffee, Teas & Thee features a rotating menu of coffee, tea, soups, salads, breads (including pastries like muffins and scones) and “tea sandwiches” (which are basically miniature sandwiches or sandwich quarters). During my visit in early March, the sandwich menu paid homage to St. Patrick’s Day with Irish delicacies like cucumber watercress and smoked salmon. The salad of the day was a Waldorf salad (made with apples, walnuts and celery). I was tempted by Malott’s array of desserts (peanut blossoms, date balls, pecan tassies and more), but I settled for what turned out to be a delicious bowl of bean and bacon soup.
Coffee and tea is sold in small and large pots, with tea flavors ranging from Earl Grey and green Rooibos to pomegranate raspberry and dreamscape chai. Malott offers a reservation-only high tea luncheon for groups of up to 10 people, but walk-in traffic is also welcome. For a truly unique experience in downtown York, just venture one block off of Market Street and enter the cozy world of Malott and her dream.
• 15 South Pershing Avenue, York; 854-3669
• Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.