BROOKSVILLE — Only a real fan of tea would recognize all 29 varieties available at the recently opened Tilted Teacup Tea Room & Boutique in Brooksville.
To name just a few, there's bourbon de vanilla, creme de caramel, Tuscany pear, bella coola and night of iguana chocolate.
Can't decide? Pause in the foyer, lift the lid from a labeled tin and sniff.
The only problem is, the tea fragrances might be overwhelmed by the smells coming from the kitchen, including, on a recent morning, pineapple upside-down cake.
"They've been baking all morning," said John Gans, 40, who owns the shop with his wife, Aimee.
The menu for lunch, served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, includes fingerling sandwiches, scones with cream, quiche of the day, salads and soups.
Aimee Gans, 40, said she's long been a fan of teahouses.
"They're just so charming, a place of serenity," she said. "It's an unhurried environment … that gives that feeling of going back in time."
She thought of this as mostly a woman's thing and was surprised to find that her husband was as enthusiastic about the idea as she was.
"I met someone with the exact same passion, my husband," she said.
So the couple opened their tearoom in September. But it was long in the dreaming, planning, gathering and remodeling.
"It was my vision to have it in an old house built in the 1900s," said Aimee Gans, 40.
They found what seemed like a good location, a one-story 1919 wood-frame structure at the corner of Fort Dade Avenue and Lemon Street.
But the first time they visited, they were so dismayed that John Gans refused even to get out of the car. His wife, peeking through an open window, saw peeling wallpaper, fallen ceiling plaster and holes in the floor.
"We'd written it off," she said.
But when a deal for another house fell through, they returned and started to see the home's potential.
Four months were consumed in reincarnating the onetime home that more recently served as a law office and the headquarters of a pest control company.
They patched walls, hung period-appropriate wallpaper, repaired the floors and replaced plumbing. They filled the rooms with furniture they found at flea markets and in antique stores.
Among the finds: a crystal chandelier, caned chairs, antique china, Victorian table linens and an old door with a glass doorknob that John Gans fashioned into a coat rack.
The result is six themed dining rooms that he describes as "shabby chic."
With no restaurant background, his wife admitted, "it was kind of scary going into this."
But the couple will also sell a variety of merchandise, including vintage aprons and scarves, jewelry designed from melted silver spoons, "tea-stained" hair bows, soy candles and, of course, tins of 29 flavors of loose teas.
By the way, the kitchen does not brew coffee. "I can't say we get a lot of requests," Aimee Gans said. "If you can get the true coffee drinkers to try the right tea, they'll like it."
And if that fails, the customer can step into the boutique and inhale a jolting whiff of the espresso candle.
Beth Gray can be contacted at [email protected]