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MICHAEL DE ADDER CARTOON: FEB. 27, 2020
If you’ve got the food, Donna Cooper has the dishes.
Cooper, of Whitney Pier, has opened a new business — Elegant Afternoon Tea — in her home, offering an intimate and elegant atmosphere for up to six people to have afternoon tea.
“It could be an intimate gathering for a bride-to-be, simple small birthday, Mother’s Day, a gathering of family or friends,” Cooper said.
The ideas or occasions are endless.
“It would be a great way for people just to catch up over a nice cup of tea.”
Customers will bring their sandwiches and sweets to Cooper’s house prior to the reservation and she will arrange the food on her elegant china and provide the tea.
“There are beautiful vintage plates, a vintage tablecloth and vintage linen napkins,” she said. “That’s my inspiration, vintage. I find vintage is so much warmer because someone made it, it’s handcrafted.”
The table will be decorated with fresh flowers and soft music will play in the background. Interested customers must book two weeks in advance for the service offered Monday to Saturday in the afternoon, although Cooper will on occasion accept an evening reservation.
The cost of the experience is $25 per person for up to two hours.
The business is a spinoff off Cooper's already established business — Elegant Tableware Rentals — which offers rentals of vintage porcelain and china.
Her passion for china began as a little girl.
“I remember having tea in china cups and saucers with my grandmother.”
Thirty-eight years ago she married husband Gary Cooper and received a Brown Betty teapot as a wedding gift. That ignited an interest in collecting teapots. Eight years later she also began to collect china. She picked up pieces for her collection at flea markets, yard sales, on eBay and her travels — in other words, anywhere she could find them.
“I absolutely love going out and finding elegant tea cups and saucers,” she said.
Today she has more than 300 teapots dating back to 1840 and from all over the world as well as hundreds of pieces of china, porcelain and fine flatware.
Cooper opened the Elegant Tableware Rentals business four years ago. She came across a company in the U.K. offering fine china rentals and she spent another two years collecting even more vintage pieces of linen, china and flatware in preparation.
“I wanted to make sure I’d have lots of choices for my clients.”
Cooper has had people with vintage china or linens they don’t need or want donate it to her business.
“My husband’s family have been great, donated vintage napkins, china and tablecloths.”
Cooper can provide china settings for dinner parties for up to 125 people and luncheons for 175 people. The rentals can be picked up or free delivery is offered in Sydney and area.
While she was maintaining her rental business Cooper was also hosting afternoon tea parties for family and friends.
“They just loved it,” she said. “They would say, “Donna you should be doing this.'”
Cooper listened and this month launched Elegant Afternoon Tea.
Although there are many venues catering to large crowds, her afternoon teas cater exclusively to a small group in a private setting, she said.
“With a small group everybody isn’t talking over each other, they are each listening to each other,” she said. “This is something intimate, spending quality time with friends rather than sending a text with a little smiley face over it.”
Cooper also continues to collect teapots and china.
A few years ago, she and her husband travelled to Scotland with empty suitcases and bubble wrap.
“We love Scotland,” she said. “We came home with four teapots.”