Sue and Esther's Serves Tea in Frankenmuth

By Barbara Gulley


Tea and treats

Sue and Esther's Tea Room is exceptional in many ways, but perhaps its most remarkable feature is how it stands apart from the Christmas-themed town it resides in, where wintery scenes and holiday decorations are displayed every day of the year. Located in Frankenmuth, "Michigan's Little Bavaria", the town is known for restaurants that specialize in family-style fried chicken dinners and tall steins of beer served by waiters in lederhosen and waitresses wearing starched aprons over colorful dresses. Frankenmuth is also home to Bronner's, an enormous holiday retail outlet, whose website proudly hails it as "the world's largest Christmas store". The size of five and a half football fields, illuminated by 100,000 twinkling lights and over 50,000 trims and gifts for sale, it's hard to argue it has any competition to its title.

Amidst the glittering lights and specialty shops, and just steps from Main Street, you'll find Sue and Esther's, a cozy tea room that seems as far away from downtown Frankenmuth as Germany is from Michigan. Here owner and manager, Lisa MacDonald maintains an inviting tea room that offers guests a respite from the crowds, shopping and everyday stress. Visitors will find a room decorated in rich, warm autumnal colors of burgundy and golden yellow with floral tablecloths at every table. The ambiance is traditional, but not overly frilly. MacDonald designed the interior to be welcoming and accessible to all.

Murlick grew up in Frankenmuth and was once one of the waitresses in a starched apron and festive dress. However, it wasn't a straight line from restaurant worker to tea room owner. After graduating from college with a Communications degree, Murlick worked behind the scenes at local news stations. A trip to a Georgia tea room with her mother and sisters inspired her to make a change. They had such a wonderful time, she decided then she wanted to create the same experience in her own hometown. Two years ago, Murlick opened Sue and Esther's in the Michigan city with German roots.

When asked what surprises guests most when they visit, Murlick says it's the fact that they can have tea all year round. "It's not just hot tea for cold weather, visitors can enjoy bubble tea or iced tea if they want something to drink to cool them down. We serve all kind of teas for all seasons."

All the food served at Sue and Esther's, from the chicken salad to the scones, are made fresh daily at the tearoom. The menu changes for the seasons, but even with a variety of tasty items to choose from, MacDonald says the emphasis is always on tea. "We don't consider ourselves a restaurant that serves tea. We are a teahouse that serves food. It's all about the tea."

Sue and Esther's winter offerings include butter rum and eggnog scones served with Peppermint Cream and Sunroasted Chestnut teas. The latter MacDonald describes as " a cozy type of tea".

In a town that embraces Christmas and winter throughout the year, (the latter not being a real stretch for the northern climates of Michigan), MacDonald finds that because Frankenmuth is "unique and friendly", there's an advantage to having a business in such a town as it brings a lot of visitors to the area. However, being slightly off the beaten path, the tea room has to work a little harder to get visitors to find them. But when they do, says MacDonald, "they are pleasantly surprised."

It's a tea room that doesn't compete with a Christmas Wonderland, it complements it. With a cup of Sun-roasted Chestnut and an eggnog scone, we're ready to take on the holiday shopping and snow in this festive town in central Michigan - no matter how long either one lasts.