Photos by Gigi Toledo
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With old-style clocks lining the walls, the energetic and kind-hearted co-owner Liz Koch bustling about, and the Queen of Hearts tea filling porcelain cups, the Mad Hatter Teahouse brings the fun, Midwestern madness to the tearoom industry.
The 161-year-old Woodbury house keeps the cold air out with the hospitality of the staff and owners, who warmly meet the guests that come for tea and brunch. Liz welcomes the guests to her home, greeting the regulars with a warm hug and introducing herself to the new customers.
“Come as guests- leave as family.” -Liz Koch
Owners Liz Koch and Tim Koch have transformed the empty home into the only teahouse in Minnesota. Liz first opened the Mad Hatter in the Anoka Post Office in the downtown area of Anoka. Later she found the Woodbury house and knew it would have more space than the post office.
“In 2013 we heard the city purchased this house and thought about moving to a larger, more home-like place to serve people,” said Liz. “The city helped us out and has been nice to work with.”
“But it’s really the ambiance of the Mad Hatter that lets you know immediately that you are in for something extraordinary.”- Nicole Fenstad
The house was remodeled to have a larger kitchen, and the upstairs was made into a gift shop. Despite Liz adding her own Mad Hatter twist to this old house, she incorporates the historical facets of the house with a framed photo of the first owner of the house, Mary Woodbury. Woodbury was very fond of the house, and Liz keeps a frame in remembrance of her by the entrance.
Woodbury’s frame isn’t the only item with a legacy on the wall. Many of Liz’s frequent customers will give their antique decorations and even their old china to the teahouse.
“People donate it because they know it will be enjoyed,” says Liz, “and then their families will come and use that same teapot their grandma used to own, and it’s moments like that that I appreciate my job.”
The teahouse serves a decadent brunch and a filling tea service for people of all ages.
“Yesterday we had a 100-year-old woman come in for tea for her birthday,” Liz says.
Liz’s favorite part of owning Mad Hatter is the people that come through that white door. She has met many people from nearby to as far away as Michigan who come in for the Mad Hatter service. One of Liz’s favorite guests was an 8-year-old boy having tea for one. Liz says people “come in as guests and leave as family.”
The Mad Hatter hosts and caters for many kinds of events, including weddings, Daddy and Daughter teas, Beauty and the Beast parties, and many other princess parties. Liz partners with Princess Party Pals small business owner Nicole Fenstad. Liz is a big believer in partnering with other woman-owned businesses like her own.
Fenstad dresses up as different princesses for parties and other Mad Hatter events.
“I love women empowerment and love to partner with her business,” Liz says. “Her business has grown by 50 percent after her coming for two events every month.”
Fenstad and Liz first met through the Make A Wish Foundation after a little girl battling cancer came to Mad Hatters for a tea party.
“Our mutual friend recommended me and my business Princess Party Pals,” says Fenstad. “From there I started doing special events with them at their restaurant. Our first event was a Christmas Tea with Sprinkles the Elf, then it blossomed into doing other teas with different princesses and other characters from my company.”
Mad Hatter has promoted Fernstad’s business along with their Anoka tea service.
“Liz and her staff think of every detail to make the event special and memorable. Plus the food is spectacular. They have an amazing chef who delivers on taste and presentation,” Fernstad says.
Fenstad adds that it isn’t just the good food and atmosphere that brings her back every few weeks.
“It’s really the ambiance of the Mad Hatter that lets you know immediately that you are in for something extraordinary,” said Fenstad.
All of the recipes come from Liz, and the ingredients are locally sourced. They are known for their Queen of Hearts tea that is a homemade loose leaf blend, which is also sold online and in their gift shop upstairs.
The staff is made up of 22 workers, servers, hostesses, and cooks. Tim helps with the bookkeeping and maintenance of the house, and assists the cooking staff.
Tim sees the Mad Hatter continuing to go up from here and owes the success to the staff, the kind customers, and his wife.
His success reminds him to appreciate “all [his] employees and the things they can do.”
Both owners anticipate more special events like bridal showers and other wedding events for Mad Hatter in the future.
The Mad Hatter tea experience is unique and unlike any other teahouse or business in the area, and both owners want to continue positively impacting their guests.
“We are rumsicle and laid back.” Liz says. “A lot of tearooms are very formal. Like, if you want a beer instead of tea I won’t judge.”
Mad Hatter takes reservations for their brunch menu and tea service Tuesday-Sunday. Call to reserve your next teatime at 763-422-4160.