The Pink Door Tea House

Lupe Encinas bought The Pink Door Tea House.

Twenty-six years after opening Kimberly Ann’s Tea Room, Mae Collins sold it last year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Her neighbor, insurance agent Lupe Encinas, is keeping the English tradition alive with The Pink Door Tea House in the same space. 

“It’s so cute,” Encinas said. “I never really had a little tea party before, and now I get to have one every day.”

She bought the building after a private investor who wanted to convert it into a residential home backed out of the sale.

“I didn’t know anything about tea when I started,” said Encinas, who owns Cactus State Insurance. “All I know, being in my background, I am Latina, all I know is the herbal tea.

“But here what I got to learn and what I’m still learning is tea is supposed to be something that you sit down and relax (to enjoy). I’m always on the go, so that is a very hard thing for me to do as a mom and as a business owner.” 

While the official grand opening was in March, prior to reopening its doors, the building was renovated. Encinas said several walls were torn down to make a more open concept, an open kitchen was created, and an outdoor patio was added to the side of the building.

“The buildout so far was definitely the best part, because there are so many possibilities, so many different ways that you can start a business,” Encinas said. “What I have learned and what I really love is all of the memories and experiences that we are going to be able to give to the customer.”

Designated rooms throughout the building include the Queen’s Parlor in the front area, the Grand Tea Room and the Princess Room that caters to the “little tea drinkers.” Within the Queen’s Parlor there is a painting featuring two Victorian-dressed women having tea.

“I asked a local artist — they are the owners of Art of Fire in Peoria — I asked them to paint a painting for me to put in the beautiful room,” Encinas said. 

She gave no direction as to what she wanted painted, because she is “not an artist, and I don’t know what to do.”

“I found out she added me in,” Encinas explained. “This (painting) represents the previous owners teaching me about tea. She’s passing on her knowledge and passing it on so I can keep it going, and I love that and the representation, and they made me look good in that.”

The Pink Door Tea House serves an array of loose-leaf tea options, including its signature Pink Door Green Tea available hot or iced. The highlights are the afternoon tea menus.

Guests can choose between the Elegant, Garden, Classic or Prince & Princess high teas. Each menu includes a variety of sandwiches, salads and desserts to go along with the tea that customers choose. Breakfast and lunch items are served outside of the afternoon tea menu and can be ordered to go.

“My favorite tea so far, I would have to say, is the Pink Door, but I usually do, as I’m still learning, like my black teas,” Encinas said. “I like them strong, so the Chinese Pinhead is something that I am always recommending.”

Prior to selling her business, Collins imparted her 26 years of knowledge to Encinas to help her get started.

“We are just trying to bring people in from the community and teach people like myself about tea,” Encinas said. “There are a lot of us out there.”

The name reflects “something simple.”

“I wanted something that as you are driving by to kind of stick out, something simple,” she said. “I have three boys, so pink is something that I had to get used to. That’s why you see the green (on the walls), because it is my comfort color.”

Encinas went with pink as one of her soft tone color palettes and painted the front door the same color, thus creating the business name. The biggest challenge was finding fine china tea sets.

“I found out pretty quickly that you can’t just walk into a store and find fine china,” Encinas said. “I started going around to antique shops, and I couldn’t find the quality that I wanted to bring in.”

She found exactly what she was looking for at her first estate sale she visited. It was at the home of a woman who was moving into an assisted living facility.

“This house looked like it had everything that I needed on the pictures that they posted of just table after table after table of little teacups and sets,” Encinas said. “The description of them were exactly what I was looking for.” She made an offer for every set available, along with an assortment of furniture that is also used in the tea house.

“This is her life collection,” Encinas explained. “Every time her family would go out to different countries and states they would bring her a new set.

“I purchased it, and they told her that it was going into a tea house and she was so happy. I told her that whenever COVID slows down that she is welcome here to see where all of her beloved belongings went.”

Encinas hopes to offer several tea-based events, including an “Alice in Wonderland”-themed event on Saturday, Nov. 6.

“I’m a people person. I love being part of the community and being part of events with people,” Encinas said. “This fits me so well because I get to do all of that here.

“I get to be able to help people create memories and continue that legacy. I hope that I represent the previous owner just the way she did, and I want to keep it going for another 27 years.”