A historic home renovation in the town of Camden, New South Wales, has seen a Victorian-style home given a new lease of life. It’s now a stunning tea house and shop. The home was originally commissioned and built in 1896 for the Mounted Infantry.
The Webster family, and in particular, mother and daughter Natasha and Jacinda, had always admired the building at the top of Hill Street. The large two-storey, semi-detached home features elegant Victorian detailing – arched windows with lead lights, decorative lacework trims to the verandah, and beautiful balustrade panelling.
So when the historic home came up for sale in 2019, Natasha and Jacinda knew they wanted it. But weren’t sure at that stage what they would do with it. Jacinda says, “We were looking to start a business together and didn’t know which avenue we would go down”. At the time, Jacinda was an Events Stylist/Wedding Planner in Sydney, and Natasha was a graphic designer. After looking into the history of Brookfield House, they discovered it had been used as a Devonshire tea house for a brief time. That’s when a plan started to emerge to restore it into a fully-fledged Tea House.
The dream started with a lot of research, travel to UK tea houses and even a Tea Master Certificate at the School of Tea for Natasha. Jacinda says, “We have both always loved tea, but (our love of) it grew as we learnt more about it while travelling around the UK, with the history of teas and the meaning of high teas.”
A quick history of tea in Sydney, Australia
- Tea has a long history in Australia, enjoyed by convicts through to high society. But even before colonisation, Indigenous Australians made tea from local plants.
- It was the style of tea and accoutrements that were the markers of social status and wealth.
- It was unseemly for women to socialise in public coffee houses or hotels, so tea increasingly became popular in domestic settings. Making tea at home gave people an opportunity to display their style, class and wealth.
- As the century progressed, afternoon tea became a bit of a thing, but only bread and butter was served with the tea.
- Refined establishments and opulent tea houses started to appear in Sydney in the 1870s and 1880s. They offered tea with an array of daintier treats, hence the birth of high tea.
- Quong Tart was a Chinese immigrant and self-made entrepreneur who started the trend for high end tea rooms. His tea rooms would be lavishly decorated with hand painted Japanese art and Chinese wood carvings. He imported tea from China and the wealthy would stop by his tea rooms to rub shoulders with other influential people.
- A 2019 Ray Morgan Research poll found that Australians consume 9.5 cups on average per person each week.
Natasha and Jacinda’s historic renovation of Brookfield House has been nothing short of amazing. It’s obvious that they harnessed their design and event planning skills to create a tea house that feels like a magical escape.
Vibrant colour, stunning wallpaper, beautiful upholstery and attention to the tiniest of details make Brookfield House a stunning attraction. Photos don’t do it justice. And I have a feeling it will be enjoyed not only by locals, but also out-of-town visitors who hear about it.
In addition, people can pop into the quaint shop at the front of the home to buy unique blends of tea, as well as a selection of beautiful tea cups, tea pots and other tea accessories. Natasha’s graphic design skills also came in handy with the packaging of their range of teas. Everything is beautifully presented.
Garden High Tea
Besides an extensive range of teas, coffees and other drinks, there is a selection of high tea menus to suit any group.
I went along with my friend Tracy from Tiptoe Down Poppylane and we chose the Garden High Tea.
The Garden High Tea consisted of the following for each person:
- 2 delicious scones paired with locally made jams and cream
- 3 savoury items – finger sandwiches – one with chicken and one with cucumber – and delightful mini quiches
- 3 sweet treats – melt-in-your-mouth cheesecake, scrumptious sticky date and light pavlovas
- 1 pot of tea or one standard sized coffee
Brookfield House is Camden’s newest attraction and it really is a beauty in every sense of the word. Step inside a Victorian-style home and be immersed in a world of colour and good, old-fashioned hospitality. Have a private tea party in the “blue room” or be seated in any of the other areas that are sunlit and decorated beautifully. This was one historic renovation that turned expectation on its head.
Brookfield House is situated at 30 Hill Street, Camden, NSW.