Whenever Loretta Foreman would see acquaintances at the grocery store, they always asked her the same question: ”Loretta, when are you opening it again?”
‘It’ was referring to the Country Emporium, a tea room and antique store that operated in Central from 1984 to 2012. A decade later, the shop has finally been reborn. The Cottage Cafe and Tea Room held its grand opening this past Friday, serving Capital Region residents a new spot to enjoy teas and desserts in a cozy setting.
Patrons will find a calming, homespun environment and a full-service menu featuring many of the Country Emporium’s familiar favorites, such as the green bean sandwich and peach cream pie. Customers can choose between an afternoon tea (which is typically a pot of tea and dessert) or high tea (which is more of a full meal including soups, sandwiches, scones and dessert). All the food is made on site from recipes taken from family or friends.
Back in the ’80s, tea rooms were as relatively uncommon in the Baton Rouge area as they are today. So when Foreman opened the Country Emporium, it quickly became a staple of the community. When the business closed in 2012, Foreman, now 84, had no plans of reopening—until her granddaughter Sarah Ulmer, 26, expressed interest in helping her run the business.
Regulars of the Country Emporium who would come sit for hours leisurely drinking tea will now find the same tranquil environment in the Cottage Cafe and Tea Room. “It’s like a ministry,” Foreman says.
Built inside a cottage, stepping into the cafe feels like visiting an old friend’s home. The space boasts different tea rooms, including a car port that was renovated into one of the rooms. Each room was designed intentionally to be calming and to accommodate different-sized parties. A lush yard surrounds the property, where owners plan to add picnic tables. The cottage is full of antiques, including teacups and decorative hats, many of which were taken from the Country Emporium. Through their partnership, Foreman and Ulmer have been able to take many of the beloved traits of the Country Emporium and innovate them—and they say they have many more plans to come.
The supportive environment of The Cottage Cafe and Tea Room extends to its staff, as well. The business aims to offer mentorship to its team, allowing young adults from local schools a chance to learn to work in food service while being in a supportive environment. Referring to them as “tea girls,” Ulmer says this is “more than just a job“ to them.
“It’s life guidance and helping them learn day-to-day tasks and just things that they wouldn’t learn in a normal job, giving them one-on-one attention,” she explains.
Ulmer and Foreman anticipate newcomers and regulars of the old Country Emporium will return to The Cottage Cafe and Tea Room—and when they do, they’ll find the shop’s old favorite dishes and its familiar sense of peace, all in an updated space with exciting plans for the future.
The Cottage Cafe and Tea Room is open Wednesday-Sunday. Afternoon Tea is served daily, 2-4 p.m. High Tea requires a one-day advance reservation and is served from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The Cottage Cafe and Tea Room is at 10443 Joor Road.