Photos by Meg Johnson and Donna Hardin
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Beyond the 140-acre farm and shorthorn cattle grazing, a smiling Donna Hardin warms up a hot pot of sweet orange black tea in a small English cottage. Hardin, the owner of the tearoom, carefully places the porcelain teacups and makes the bed for her next guest. Her cottage home has a garage-turned-bed-and-breakfast suite and serves afternoon tea in the tearoom.
It all began with her daughter’s desire to go to England. In an attempt to fund the trip, the two of them held tea parties at libraries and eventually brought England to their home with a tearoom named after Donna’s daughter: Miss Spenser’s Tearoom.
“People loved it so much, they wanted to come to our house, so in 2008 I got my certified kitchen license, and then we served tea in my living room at the time before we remodeled,” says Hardin.
Hardin and family moved out to Longview Farms in New Virginia, Iowa, where they remodeled the garage into the current tearoom. Hardin and her daughter, Spenser Hardin, serve groups of guests afternoon tea, each with a monthly theme. She has a variety of themes like Enchanting April, Irish Farmhouse tea, and For the Love of Downton, based on the TV show Downton Abbey.
“People loved it so much they wanted to come to our house, so in 2008 I got my certified kitchen license and then we served tea in my living room at the time.”- Donna Hardin
The bed and breakfast started in 2012. Hardin wanted a place for her guests to feel relaxed and where she could serve them tea. Guests can stay in the Room with a View or the Garden View Suite, and they typically stay around two nights.
A diverse crowd comes to the tearoom, bed and breakfast. The tearoom hosts a broad age range, from 20-85, and the bed and breakfast hosts a lot of young, married couples.
“Donna has a great gift of serving others and makes everyone feel welcome.”- Tonia McCoid
“I’ve even had a couple come to the tearoom from as far as England,” says Hardin. “They were coming to Iowa, and they found us on Google, and they ended up being our best friends.” Hardin has visited this couple, Alan and Ilse Ridgway, in their home in England twice.
Whether it’s the tearoom or the bed and breakfast, not many of Hardin’s guests only come once. Many of her guests are frequent customers and life-long friends. Beverly Kilman has been to the tearoom over 50 times, but her favorite tea theme was the Titanic theme in 2012, which was picked for the 100-year anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking.
“Each attendee was given the name of an actual person on board the Titanic, and at the end of the tea we learned if we lived or died,” says Kilman. She adds that she loves the themes, Hardin’s hospitality, and her family’s involvement—Hardin’s daughter used to dress up to match the themes and pretend to be the characters.
“Helping my mom in the tearoom allowed me to be a one-man show and use my love for history to entertain the guests,” says Spenser Hardin.
Hardin’s daughter helps out when she isn’t working, and her three boys and husband pitch in when they aren’t helping with the farm. Spenser Hardin now works behind the scenes by helping with the website and bookkeeping. Both the tearoom and bed and breakfast offer a unique twist from the traditional teahouse, which Hardin plans on continuing.
“It’s not going to get big, because I like to have my hand in it,” says Hardin. “People are very city-weary, and being here they can drink in the country quietness.”
“I love the idea of a bed and breakfast. I think it is a great way to use resources homeowners already have and use their gifts to share with others.” -Tonia McCoid
Bed and breakfast enthusiast Tonia McCoid has been to several bed and breakfasts, but she loves the country setting and Hardin’s kind friendship.
“I love the idea of a bed and breakfast. I think it is a great way to use resources homeowners already have and use their gifts to share with others,” says McCoid.
McCoid stayed at the bed and breakfast with her husband after attending the tearoom.
“Our breakfast consisted of an assortment of breads and chocolate croissants, chocolate covered strawberries,” says McCoid. “We did not leave hungry or disappointed.”
Contact Donna Hardin for reservations for the tearoom or the Bed and Breakfast at (641) 342-1547.