Living Ind

Afternoon Tea

by Mary Tutwiler

A tea room, scones and all, brings a taste of England to Lafayette.

Novisi Haizel dreams of sugar plums. Treacle tarts dance through her head. So it wasn't really a stretch when she and her colleague Mary Coleman bestirred themselves to leave the Performing Arts Society of Acadiana and get mixed up in the baking business. On Dec. 18, the two women opened CAKESetcetera, a café and tea room in the Oil Center.

Lafayette drips with coffee shops, the hiss of steamed milk competing with easy listening jazz and the hum of laptop fans, but CAKESetcetera holds the warm quiet of an English tea room. The walls are painted a comfortable chocolate brown, the tables set with bone china cups, and big-bellied pots are filled with Earl Grey or English Breakfast tea. There are muffins for breakfast and a toasted cheese sandwich called Croque Monsieur for lunch, but the real meal is "Afternoon Tea," an English tradition Haizel is intent on bringing to Lafayette.

Raised in Ghana, England, Switzerland and the United States, her multicultural heritage converges on the pastry cart where she serves authentic British cucumber sandwiches, Scottish scones, Swiss chocolate truffle cake, loaves of ginger bread and good old American apple pie. "My mother taught us all to bake," Haizel says, "even my brothers." It was her brother, William Chapman Nyaho, a classical pianist then teaching at UL Lafayette, who invited his sister to join him in the Hub City. Lafayette reminded her of Geneva, a city she loved while growing up, and she decided to stay.

Coleman, a single mother, was raising twin boys. The two women talked about cakes while they promoted performing art. "We wanted to do this, but things kept getting in the way," Coleman says. They both concluded that their lives would be better if they followed their hearts, so they took the leap into the world of clotted cream and lemon curd.

Their first week, they didn't sleep for three days. "I never imagined we would be so busy," Haizel says. They baked cakes like crazy for Christmas and have barely drawn breath. But despite baker's hours, the atmosphere in their little English tea shop has all the cozy calm of a Barbara Pym novel, crumpets and all. Don't miss the mince tarts and seasonal tidbits, which will only be around until Twelfth Night (Jan. 6).

CAKESetcetera, Oil Center Gardens on Coolidge Boulevard, 234-1390. Open Mon.-Sat., 8 a.m.-5 p.m.