Saturday, April 16, 2016

My Country, 'Tis of Tea — Iowa

When I think of Iowa, I always think of the Iowa political caucuses that kick off our presidential election years. The caucuses have been over for months now,  however,  so it's time to leave politics behind and focus on tea!

• As I continue along my year of looking for tea info in each state, I find that some state names are significant to me because I know that a famous tearoom once operated there. In Iowa, it was without a doubt the Younkers Department Store tearoom in downtown Des Moines that was the most well known. Among other foods, it was famous for its Younkers Chicken Salad, made with sunflower seeds and ranch dressing, which I made and reviewed here. The original downtown Younkers was under renovation when it was destroyed by fire about two years ago, so that’s a sad loss, but the Younkers chain of stores is still in business today. I bought a bracelet in a Dubuque, Iowa Younkers store when I traveled through Iowa a few years ago, and I wish I could have visited the old tearoom too!

• Have you ever heard of the Iowa Tea Company? According to an article I found on, Walter Samuel Winders, born in 1873, was a Fuller brush man before he founded the Iowa Tea Company in Mason City, and the company was one of Iowa's earliest tea, coffee, and china stores. They were "exclusive dealers in fine teas and coffees, extracts and spices, baking powder, chinaware and Japanese goods," according to the 1923 city directory. I’ve yet to locate a photo of Mr. Winders—or his tea company—but I’m intrigued that an early Iowa store specialized in tea, coffee, and china!

• There’s an Iowa tearoom that’s long been on my bucket list, and it’s coming up on as the number one tearoom in Iowa: Miss Spenser’s of Longview Farms in New Virginia, Iowa. If you’ve been reading about the US tea world for a number of years, you may have come across accounts of this English-style by-reservation tearoom (and B & B) operated by the charming Lady Donna and Miss Spenser, who I feel I've gotten to know over the years through their blog posts and Facebook page. Click here to learn more and see why they’re number one in Iowa! 


  1. I'll vote for leaving politics behind and focusing on tea! I, too, would love to visit Miss Spenser’s.

  2. Miss Spenser's is on my bucket list, too! Wishing it weren't so far away!

  3. Angela - I'm happy to report that Miss Spenser's is as delightful as you can imagine; Donna and Spenser are both gifted with the art of hospitality. The tea room and the B & B are beautiful and peaceful, and the food is delicious! Worth a road trip!!!

    1. I figured that would be the case, so thanks for confirming … and making me jealous, ha!

  4. Angela, sounds like you need to make a road trip. :-)

  5. Part of my gypsy lifestyle was living in Iowa. I remember the Younkers store in Des Moines. That is where I bought my first fur coat. I loved that coat which kept me warm in the Iowa winters. I also shopped in other Younkers stores in other cities. I have no idea where I left the fur coat as I live in the tropics now and definitely do not need it here. Angela, I love your posts. Blessings

  6. Love that photo of Younkers, it looks so elegant, how nice it would have been to have tea there.

    And Miss Spenser's sounds wonderful, definitely worth visiting.

    So happy to report: your beautiful book arrived, autographed and definitely 'a book to be treasured!' So proud of you, Angela, it's a great book, thank you so much for sending it my way. Hope you have a great week, Joanie

  7. I love the Donna and Spenser's tearoom also shows up in Tea Time Magazine from time to time too. I loved getting to be an early guest to their B&B a few years ago too. The tea business is indeed fascinating, I hope you find pictures. I always love the department store stories you share too.


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