When you enter The Tottering Teacup, you’re immediately welcomed by displays of pride. Various coordinating colors string together to create a handmade knit hat on each of the workers in the tea shop. The hats’ color combinations symbolize a different identity, from bisexual to genderqueer. The way owner Anatash Werne describes it is, “We all have our own hats for our own flags.” And even if you don’t feel comfortable displaying your own flag as boldly, Werne wants you to feel welcome at The Tottering Teacup.
Opened in 2016 by Werne, The Tottering Teacup is a tea shop located in Carytown serving hot tea and small sandwiches, along with other drinks and foods. The shop offers a variety of teas including black teas, green teas, white teas, oolong teas, fruit teas, and herbal teas. Depending on how long you may be staying, you can order a single pot, either in small or large, or an endless pot, also featured in small or large sizes. And as the humidity continues into fall, hot tea isn’t the only thing one can get. There is also iced tea and iced coffee along with sandwiches and homemade baked goods.
Werne, who uses they/their pronouns, says that they’ve always been baking, ever since they were a child. But baking wasn’t the only childhood memory that convinced them to start their own shop. “My mom opened up her own business so I saw her go through that whole process,” they said. “I’m sure that kind of emboldened me.”
Childhood offers an enduring source of creativity that is often lost in adults. Pointing to their childhood experiences of baking as inspiration, Werne said, “I have always wanted to be a baker.” And now they are making such creative goods as lavender bread and Pride-themed macarons. Each year, during Pride month, the sales from their Pride-themed macarons go to Richmond LGBTQ youth outreach organization, Side By Side.
In the two years it has been open, the Tottering Teacup has had enough success that they are hoping to branch out with new events and new food. Every first Wednesday between 6pm and 8pm, they host an event called “Tea & Tarot,” in which three different tarot card readers are available to read your fortune. The business will be introducing salads soon, to help create a more inclusive menu for vegan patrons.
However, beyond the events, food, and even the tea, Werne would say their favorite part of running the business has been making connections with customers. “We have a lot of people who come in here who see the word ‘pride,’ and I think everyone expects a generic rainbow,” they said. But the Tottering Teacup goes far beyond the rainbow flag, displaying a number of other Pride flags that aren’t as well known.
“They’ll see the purple, grey, and white [asexual Pride flag], [and] they won’t necessarily understand what all the Pride flags mean,” they said. Werne is happy that they’ve been able to spread some “good, educational moments” about the lesser-known Pride flags within the LGBTQ community as a result of such conversations.
For Werne, the most important goal for the Tottering Teacup is to create a safe haven for young queer folks. Their hope is that LGBTQ youth who may not be comfortable being out yet will recognize the hats of the workers without having any of the paraphernalia boldly labeled with LGBTQ+ words or phrases. In this way, Werne hopes to make the Tottering Teacup inviting, without being overwhelming. Werne said, “I think this has been a long time coming.”