The true test of any tearoom is whether you’d take your mom there. And, trust me, if you don’t take your mom to the Dragonfly Tea Room she just might ask you to.
The new tearoom in Modesto’s Roseburg Square quietly opened late last month, serving morning and afternoon teas as well as a full lunch. The restaurant and retail shop sits in the renovated corner spot that used to house a laundromat, next door to O’Brien’s Market.
The open, airy interior features crisp white shelving along the walls that showcases the Dragonfly Tea Room’s signature loose-leaf blends as well as pots, cups and more for sale. The dining area is filled with painted tables and chairs that owner Judy Robinson found at yard and estate sales, then refurbished over the years. Tea, in turn, is served in one of more than a dozen different sized and shaped pots and teacups she also plucked from various yard and garage sales in the area.
“I wanted this to be a traditional tearoom with a little California twist,” Robinson said. “My goal was for this to be a relaxing place for people to meet. So people will say, ‘Let’s meet at the tearoom,’ instead of at Starbucks.”
So don’t expect to be inundated with stuffy lace doilies or floral patterned upholstery. Instead the restaurant features calming colors — Dragonfly’s signature light green and purple in particular — with white accents and fun chandeliers. The menu ranges from traditional crustless finger sandwiches and scones to more unique vegan and gluten-free options. All of the sandwiches, pastries and desserts are made fresh in house, as are the jams, creams and curds.
The highlight for most are the tea services. The more elaborate afternoon teas range from $21 to $25 per person – there is no tipping – and are served on tiered plates. You can pick your savory, scones and dessert options for each level. And while it may look dainty, it’s more filling than you might think.
Breakfast items include smoothie and oatmeal bowls, yogurt parfaits, avocado toast and more with individual items ranging in price from $3 to $7. Those looking for a heartier lunch meal can get full sandwiches, from roast beef to a vegetarian mushroom philly and salads, for $9 to $10 each.
As for the tea itself, Robinson buys it from wholesalers and labels it with her Dragonfly Tea Room brand as well as creating her own blends with the mixes. The shop has more than 80 kinds from black teas like the popular Earl Grey to green teas, herbal teas and special blends with health benefits. You can purchase the tea prepackaged or bring in your own container to buy in bulk. Robinson has made small sample tins with each variety for people to smell.
And, of course, you can enjoy a steeped pot in the shop anytime. A pot runs $4 for personal to $7 to share and you can pick your kind of pot — from English to Asian services and even a blooming pot with a flower inside.
Regulars at the Modesto Certified Farmers Market will know Robinson from her booth, which she has had since 2014. A year before that she started hosting private, mobile in-home tea parties under the Dragonfly name. It was at those events and the farmers market that people kept asking if she had a brick-and-mortar spot they could come and try her teas and more. It took a couple of years for her to find the perfect spot, and then close to a year to do all the necessary renovations, which included installing a commercial kitchen.
But before Robinson became a tea expert, she was just a fan. About seven years ago she visited a tearoom in Columbia and thought Modesto could use its own similar service. She then began teaching herself about teas through attendance at the annual World Tea Expo in Las Vegas and online courses. She previously worked as a teacher in Tracy for 15 years.
The tearoom now has 17 employees and Robinson has hired a chef to handle the restaurant’s seasonal menu, which will change each month. The tearoom will celebrate its grand opening Saturday, May 5, with a special tea service with food. The event begins at 11 a.m. and tea services will be at noon, 1:30 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Tickets are $23 and include food and tea, with reservations recommended.
And speaking of all those mothers who might be interested in giving it a try, the tearoom is hosting a special prix-fixe Mother’s Day Tea on May 12 and 13. The menu includes scones, mixed greens salad, carrot-ginger soup, asparagus tartlets and roasted red pepper and feta bruschetta, and a dessert course. The cost is $30 per guest and reservations are required. And don’t worry, dads (and uncles and brothers and nephews and grandpas, et al) are always invited. Real men can drink tea, too.