WAXHAW – If modern day life isn’t your cup of tea, then take a sip back in time to Victorian England at The Contraband Society – a new afternoon tea experience in downtown Waxhaw.
Ethereal Crack, a company specializing in offbeat and unusual North Carolina attractions, created this unique outing, which is currently being held each month at the Waxhaw Women’s Club. Ethereal Crack is also responsible for over 30 East Coast-based ghost tours, including locations in Waxhaw, Matthews, Concord, Mooresville, Rock Hill and Fort Mill, S.C.
Guests can expect to be met at the door by founder Tim Starnes, escorted to their eloquently set table of fine china and given a menu of seven (and growing) specialty Art of Tea teas to choose for their own two-cup teapot. Waiters will bring over a three-tiered server of homemade finger sandwiches and treats.
The experience is inspired by and styled after the bygone grand tea salons of Victorian England, but given modern twists to keep it both homely and reminiscent of the past, according to Starnes.
“We give you the theme park experience without the theme park price,” he said. “I like to say it almost feels like you step onto the set of Moulin Rouge.”
Starnes, 23, lives in Fort Mill but is originally from Waxhaw. He said the idea for The Contraband Society came after he and his girlfriend, Savannah, visited a teahouse in Georgia and she suggested they open one of their own.
“It started as an off-hand comment at a restaurant, which is kind of how I start everything – an off-hand comment or a joke and I run with it until I hit a wall,” Starnes said.
To fund their venture, the couple decided to create ghost tours under the company Ethereal Crack, which Starnes explained means “a crack in time.” They researched ghost stories in small towns along the East Coast and hired guides to run the tours in those areas.
After a successful first year, Starnes said he and Savannah are ready to start the teahouse side of their business. They are hoping the unique aspect of having Victorian-style tea in modern day America will cater to those looking for something to do who feel like they’ve already done everything else.
Plus, Starnes said, fancy tea makes for a great social media post.
“I think you’re going to get a couple likes and at least that’s good for something,” he said, laughing.
Teas are held on the last Sunday of the month, weather permitting and except for holidays. Teas last for an hour and a half and reservations come in two seating times: 1 and 3 p.m. The cost is $25 per person and groups of four or more receive a 25-percent discount at $18.75 per person.
Starnes said the plan is to eventually move The Contraband Society out of the Waxhaw Women’s Club and into a permanent location somewhere in the Matthews or Pineville area.
“It’s a good hub for Charlotte, and at the same time, it doesn’t scare away our small town customers,” he said. “After that, we want to expand and have teahouses all over the Carolinas.”
Want to go?
Visit www.EtherealCrack.com to book a tea time and see the month’s menu. Guests should book at least 48 hours in advance, as reservations close two days before to ensure accurate food preparation.