La Dolce brings worldly teas to Aiken
Lady Kelly, co-owner of La Dolce, developed her passion for tea while living in England with her husband.
“I’ve always been interested in tea,” Kelly said. “I used to do tea events for my friends. So while I was there, I took advantage of that and traveled to over 100 different tea rooms and just kind of observed the culture there.”
Kelly and her husband spent three years in England. She used the experience she gained there to develop La Dolce, an Aiken bakery that carries over 100 different types of teas that come from across the country and all over the world.
“I also took courses to become a tea master, so I’m internationally certified as a tea master, as well,” Kelly said.
As a tea master, Kelly studied teas extensively, including where they come from, where they grow best, how different types of teas need to be steeped at different temperatures for certain amounts of time, and what teas are best paired with certain meals.
La Dolce is very much a family business. Kelly’s son comes in at 4:30 every morning to make the bread for the bakery, and Kelly’s daughter, Kirstie, is the executive pastry chef.
“Everything here is made from scratch,” Kelly said. “Nothing comes off the back of the truck except the ingredients to make it.”
Kelly said Kirstie graduated top in her class at the Culinary Institute in New England, and went on to work at 5-star restaurants as a pastry chef for some time. She is the one that first suggested the family combine their talents and open their own bakery.
“When we were getting ready to come back from England, she asked ‘What do you think about opening a bakery?‘” Kelly said. “And I said ‘Well, I have my tea master degree and about 80 sets of china I collected while living in England, and you’re a pastry chef with a lot of experience.’ So we put the two together and created a business from it.”
La Dolce, which means ‘the sweet’ in Italian, was originally opened on Laurens Street in downtown Aiken three years ago. The Kelly family decided they wanted their own property and parking lot, so they moved the business to Doughtery Road.
“It has been great, it’s tripled the business,” Kelly said.
Their Doughtery Road location can be rented out for private events. Kelly said she was inspired by tea shops she saw in England for the bakery’s decor, which includes bright colors, china sets, and a fireplace they light during colder weather.
Kelly said Aiken has been a great place for their bakery because there is a “real mix of potential customers” in the area, from older residents with disposable income looking for a nice lunch, to college students looking for a hot drink and wifi for their schoolwork.
Kelly and her family are expanding the online side of their business. They have started shipping their cakes, pies, and cheesecakes nationwide.
La Dolce does several yearly events. Their “Downton Abbey” event is their most popular one of the year. Kelly said they always sell out, and several people arrive dressed as actors from the show.
Their next event, a monthly Tea Class, will be holiday themed on Friday, Nov. 9, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.
La Dolce is open at 697 Dougherty Road from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, call 803-335-1440 or visit ladolce-aiken.com.