Brianna Velarde grew up moving often. As a military kid, she lived in places across the country, including in Hawaii, and even spent time in Germany. After graduating from college, she settled in St. Louis. Since she was young, she had an interest in opening her own tea shop. “Drinking coffee has never worked out that well for me—I just love tea,” she explains. “I always had a dream of opening a tea shop after I retired. Around 2022, I started wondering why wait. I might as well try it now while I’m young and energetic.” That idea grew in Chimera Teas, which is offering a plant-based, electric menu of refreshments in Tower Grove East.

Chimera Teas got its start at the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market. “I first fell in love with the market as a customer,” Velarde says. “I thought it would be a great place to dip my toes in. I could do it on the weekends and not have to quit my day job. It seemed accessible, and the farmers market was already an awesome part of my life.” With a starting plan in place, the next step would be to figure out how to source the tea. One of Velarde’s biggest concerns was finding distributors to work with that could provide a sustainably grown and ethically sourced product. “I wanted to make sure I was doing things the right way, so I worked with the Ethical Tea Partnership,” she notes “I tried a lot of tea. I wanted to create a menu with a great breadth of flavor and unique offerings.”

When it came to find a name for the business, Velarde had a plan for that as well. “I kind of stole it from my partner,” she admits. “They wanted to start a vegan cheese company and came up with the Chimera name but ultimately decided to abandon the idea for the time, so I took it for myself. It’s a bit of a joke. In mythology, a chimera is a mashup of different animals, and we’re plant-based, no animals involved. Also since I grew up all over, I got to see different cultures, and I wanted to bring that to my business by sourcing tea from all over. We’re also a bit of a chimera because there’s a mashup of influences, and the cafe is a wild, eclectic mix.”

Chimera Teas opened as a Tower Grove Farmers’ Market vendor for the 2023 season. Velarde had a projection in mind of what building a customer base would look like, but she was surprised by how quickly it took off. “From the first day, we blew my expectations out of the water,” she says. “It was amazing to see the community keep coming out to support us throughout the season.” Velarde’s original plan had been to operate Chimera Teas at the farmers market for a few seasons before looking for a brick-and-mortar location. Thanks to the business’ runaway success, she was able to make her dream of tea shop come true much sooner than expected.

“We were really lucky in finding the perfect space for us—it was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up,” Velarde says. That ideal location was 3149 Shenandoah Ave., the former home of Kitchen House Coffee. Thanks to the space’s previous life as a coffee house, the transition into Chimera Teas was a smooth one, with little change being necessary to get the back of house operational. “It was a surprise how attainable and doable it seemed,” Velarde notes. “The biggest change we had to make was to the aesthetic. It was urban farm themed, which wasn’t the vibe we were looking for. We took all of that and gutted it. We wanted the cafe to be bright and airy with a touch of the natural and mystical.”

The new location gave Velarde the chance to expand Chimera Teas’ menu. Working out of the farmers market, the offerings had to be more limited, changing each month. Now, more drinks could have a permanent place on the menu and new seasonal flavors could be added. “We’re now offering Blueprint Coffee and espresso-based drinks—we’re being inclusive of all the coffee drinkers in the neighborhood who miss Kitchen House Coffee,” she adds. “The food menu also is all new. Along with standard bakery items, we have steamed buns with international influences and a hummus plate. I’m really into mixing and matching small plates, so that’s kind of a theme.”

Velarde is excited to continue to grow Chimera Teas. She is working with creators to decorate the walls with local art and has plans for the addition of chimera-themed murals. The tea shop also will host more events, including live music and tarot card readings. “My goal is to make this a fun community space,” she explains. “Chimera Teas is still really new, and we’re looking forward to people coming out and getting to know us.”

peanut butter jelly thumbprint cookies

• 1 c. chunky peanut butter
• 1 c. sugar
• 4 tbsp. milk, room temperature
• 2 tsp. vanilla extract
• 120 g. flour
• 1 tsp. baking soda
• ¹8 tsp. salt
• Strawberry jelly


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Sift flour, salt, and baking soda in a bowl.
  3. Mix all other ingredients (except jelly) in a stand mixer until combined.
  4. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
  5. Scoop dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  6. Use the back end of a small spoon, or your thumb, to make an indent in the top of the cookies about halfway down through the dough, shaping dough around the indent to be bird’s nest shaped.
  7. Fill this indent with a spoonful of strawberry jelly.
  8. Bake for 12 minutes.
  9. Allow the cookies to cool on the sheet for five minutes after baking, and remove to wire racks to cool completely.