Steampunk Tea in Oregon

A trip to Ireland leads to a steampunk-themed tea room near Portland

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Steampunk and tea go together like movies and popcorn, so it's no surprise that someone would open a steampunk-themed tea room. What may be surprising is the response. Clockwork Rose Tea Emporium in Beaverton, Ore., is so busy they've had to suspend their walk-in menu (at least temporarily), and weekends are often booked weeks in advance.

"Any place can serve tea," says Harold Nolder, who opened Clockwork Rose in 2016 with his wife, Maggie. "We serve an experience."

One look tells you that this is no ordinary tea room. A 30-foot dirigible hangs from the ceiling, and a poster warns patrons to "Beware of Airship Pirates." Items from Maggie's steampunk art collection are tastefully strewn about, and clocks are everywhere. The latest addition is a brass dive helmet.

Their story

The couple previously owned a company that made handcrafted soap and bath products, including a steampunk-inspired line. Their interest in tea began during a trip to Ireland, when a breakfast server asked what they would like to drink. "I responded 'coffee' and was given the strangest look," Harold recalls. The owner told them that the only coffee was an aged jar of Folgers that had been there since before she owned the place.

Clocks

"My response was 'tea it is.' So for the next couple of weeks we had a lot of tea and Guinness. We found ourselves in many little tea rooms relaxing to a pot and a scone or pastry."

Meanwhile, Maggie found deals on antique china at charity shops (thrift stores in the U.S.), with an eye toward making teacup soy candles.

"By the end of the trip, the other women on the tour were joking that we would open a tea house with all that china," he recalls.

The joke became a reality when they found available space in an old commercial building. Before long, they had sold the soap business and were all-in with Clockwork Rose.

"Steampunk can fall anywhere from gothic to playful, and we decided to do something in-between," he says. "We went with a Victorian industrial feel, with Persian carpets and concrete floors." And lots of clocks.

Reviewers on Yelp and TripAdvisor give Clockwork Rose high marks for the tea, food, service, and, of course, the atmosphere.

It appears to draw an eclectic mix of customers. "We have made something that appeals to all ages and genders," Harold says. "We have had people who come dressed in full Victorian-era clothing for tea, people dressed in steampunk, people dressed in jeans and T-shirts, in plush Pokemon costumes and black tie, and no one feels overdressed or under dressed."

For a closer look at Clockwork Rose, check out the photos in the gallery.

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