Food + Drink

Redefining High Tea: Casual Elegance at McHugh Tea Room

Amy and Woody Quinn have created a welcoming tea experience in Houston.

McHugh Tea Room owners Woody (l) and Amy Quinn (Photography by Alex Rosa)

When McHugh Tea Room owner Kim McHugh “passed the teapot” to Amy and Woody Quinn, the duo made it their mission to bring the Houston community together with their pinkies held high and their teacups full.

“We like to think of this as a local neighborhood spot, or someplace that you remember as you’re passing through the area. We’re not a place where you have to feel proper or fancy. Tea can be casual and fun,” says co-owner Amy Quinn.

Amy describes McHugh Tea Room as a premier gathering place to connect with family, friends, and the wider community, and where both tea enthusiasts and first-time visitors can enjoy a relaxing tea experience. McHugh Tea offers a “casual-elegant” tea experience where customers can indulge in an assortment of brewed teas served alongside tiers of finger sandwiches, scones, and pastries.

“If you have an afternoon tea booked and you want to dress up as if you are getting ready to meet the King of England, go for it,” she says. “Put on that big hat, wear your best dress, come in and experience high tea and feel fancy. If you don’t want to do that, if you’re just celebrating a birthday with a girlfriend who’s out of town or you’re having a little-kid tea party, come in your jeans and flip flops. There’s no dress code. There’s no standard, but our staff will still provide you with our standards of excellence. However you come, we just want you there.”

Wanting to serve the Bellaire and Greater Houston area with a business that could bring people together, Amy and her husband knew pretty quickly that McHugh Tea Room was the perfect fit.

“People sometimes think high tea is unchangeable or it’s rigid,” she says. “We’ve actually found quite the opposite. We have found that we can be so creative within this world of tea and high-tea experiences. We are having such fun discovering all the things that we can do with it—even with people who like to sit and play table games and just gather, chat, and celebrate. Our motto is ‘come as you are.’ It’s casual elegance, right?”

McHugh Tea Room offers themed tea events for holidays, and their “tipsy tea” service includes champagne and wine tohelp increase community engagement while also distinguishing the tea room from other drink businesses in the city.

“We’ve been having monthly themed special teas,” Amy says. “We started it with a Halloween-themed tea that ran all month. You can come and be fancy or casual while you have your cucumber sandwich, scone, and tea, or you can have a Frankenstein monster brownie as your dessert. We also plan to celebrate Pride Month in June with a colorful and festive themed afternoon tea choice. We have found people just love to embrace a theme. It’s so much fun to see people come in and dress up, too. We’re taking some high-tea traditions but just having a little bit more fun with them.”

While tea will continue to remain a highlight for the business, Amy and Woody hope to incorporate live events and other fun activities to pair with the tea.

“We really want to add a little bit of a nightlife feature to the tea room,” she says. “Happy hours, book signings, poetry readings, live music, game nights, book club gatherings—things like that. I think one of the hardest things about owning your own business is not trying to implement new ideas all at once, because everything feels so exciting and you want to do it right out of the gate. Patience is something that we’ve kind of had to learn.”

No matter what additions the business implements, Amy notes that tea and community will remain at the forefront.

“We really want the tea room to be a place of safety, comfort, and fun,” she says. “We’d really love for people to experience it as much as possible.”

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Connor Behrens

Connor Behrens is a communications graduate from the University of Houston. He has written for the Washington Post, Community Impact Newspaper and the Galveston County Daily News (the oldest newspaper in Texas). When he's not writing stories, he is likely watching the latest new release at the movie theater.
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