Most coffee houses in New York City have turned into temporary remote work places for a myriad of denizens who spend part of their week working away from the office. Guests drinking coffee while using their laptops have become part of the urban landscape.
But don’t tell that to Honey Moon Udarbe, who operates two Brooklyn tea houses, Brooklyn High Low in Prospect Heights and Brooklyn High Low, the Parlour, in Park Slope. Unlike most coffeehouses which are available 7 days a week, her two teahouses open Friday through Sunday only. She rents spaces in the grounds floor of a brownstone and the garden floor of a brownstone.
There are four different servings including: Traditional Cream Tea, The Classic, the Grand Vanderbilt and The Gran Heights. She has about 20 employees in both tea houses, including kitchen staff and servers.
A Brooklyn entrepreneur Honey Moon Udarbe is demonstrating that sipping tea and eating scones can slow down most New Yorkers busy lives and produce a profitable business.
What Tea Serving Entails
For example, guests can reserve a 45-minute, $30 per guest seating on Friday’s that includes an endless pot of tea, English scones with jam toppings, and a special spread or $48 per guest seating for 75 minutes that includes the endless tea, triple plate tea tier with 8 finger sandwiches such as egg salad or classic cucumber, with a freshly baked scone and jam and sweets.
She acknowledges that she has “toyed” with the idea of using both spaces on off hours as a possible work area, but its “wi-fi isn’t strong enough.” Hence, no wi-fi, no work space.
The coffee atmosphere lends itself to being a work space because guests buy their caffeine by the cup. “With tea, it surrounds a pot and the ritual of making several cups of tea,” she notes.
Moreover, afternoon tea, which her two teahouses specialize in, “is designed around the social affair of talking.” Coffee is about “grab and go so their model has been created around convenient locations for speed, drive-throughs, travel mugs and quick service,” she asserts.
Udarbe, who is 46-years-old and has four children aged 23 to 9, opened the first Brooklyn High Low in October 2020 when the pandemic was just gaining steam, arguably the worst possible time to launch a business. She read several books on running a restaurant, consulted with friends in the business, and decided to pursue her life-long dream of opening a tea house. She capitalized it with her own funds, no investors.
She operates One of a Find, which she describes as a “vintage lifestyle store” that sells clothing, housewares, decors and plants, down the block from the first tea house.
But business at her tea house eventually picked up when the pandemic started to fade, leading her to open the Parlour in April 2023. “Reservations were filling up and we were turning guests away,” she notes.
Why Stay Open Only 3 Days A Week
Why stay open only three days a week? In Udarbe’s view, there isn’t enough business to generate weekday traffic so she’s sticking with weekend only, though she considered stretching it out with a Monday opening to extend the weekend but hasn’t so far. “It took me awhile to realize no one was asking for reservations during the week,” she says.
Reservation Only-For The Most Part
Currently her policy is, for the most part, reservation-only, which she says “controls costs” because it reduces inventory loss, a major bugaboo in the restaurant industry. The Parlour in Park Slope will take in occasional walk-ins if the reservation list isn’t totally filled-up.
Afternoon tea is the opposite of grab and go, she cites. “It’s about the luxury of time,” she says, sounding a bit like Martha Stewart. “It’s about the awareness of the value of time and how precious it is,” she adds. She hails from Northern California where people can slow down easier than most New Yorkers, who are always on the go.
She describes the food served as “traditional afternoon faire with a Brooklyn-inspired twist that includes: soup, crumpets, scones and condiments, bite-size sandwiches about a quarter of the usual size, and a selection of desserts.” Everything, she explains, is bite-sized so the meal doesn’t impede the flow of the conversation.
Coffee Lovers Will Go Elsewhere
And coffee lovers won’t find their needs met at Brooklyn High Low. “We don’t offer coffee as part of our service,” she offers.
She says making coffee well would take extreme effort and she doesn’t want to serve a cup of mediocre Joe. She recommends that coffee drinkers try chicory tea, which offers a taste that resembles coffee.
And coffee drinkers, Udarbe has a challenge for all of you: “We dare coffee drinkers to add tea at the later part of their day to see the difference in their mental state.”
Asked who her target audience is, Udarbe replies: “Anyone looking for a moment of peace and a place to connect, for any reason, at any age.”
Under its Parlour location, it also offers Speak’teasy, which Udarbe calls a “hidden tea room in the garden floor of a Brooklyn brownstone.”
Is she thinking about a third location? “If the right space came along, I would absolutely consider it,” she replied. She thinks that New Yorkers need more tea houses in order to slow down. Tea houses offer a respite from the frenetic pace that most New Yorkers live by, or what Udarbe calls, “a small escape, down the street or under the stoop.”