Leigh Magar's hands are glittering with gold paint when I arrive at her studio. She's decorating for a Christmas open house. She tells me I can look around the hat-making studio and she'll join me on the porch in a minute to discuss how she makes sun tea.
Magar grew up in Spartanburg, but the milliner has been in the Holy City for over 15 years. She studied her trade — hats, not tea — at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City before opening Magar Hatworks, where she uses "the old process of hat-making" to craft her headpieces. She counts local celebrities like the Lee Brothers as clients and was recently snapped wearing a notable topper by Bill Cunningham for The New York Times Sunday Styles section.
Lately, Magar has been offering reservations-only tours of her studio, where she also incorporates a classic Southern tea (which she describes as "not as stodgy" as its English counterpart). She believes the custom has been lost and is attempting to bring this afternoon commune back.
"It's more like an experience than a generic, boring tour," she says. In addition to over 400 sculpted wooden hat blocks on the shelves and original floors, her space is punctuated by curiosities like peacock feathers in the front room and a giant movie-set dinosaur egg in the garden. She serves her visitors homemade and locally sourced delectables, including a "very spiked" tea punch, deviled eggs, and mini red velvet cupcakes from her sweet neighbors at Sugar Bakeshop.
"My mom went [to Sugar] and she called me later and said, 'I was wondering if you get that sweet tea recipe off of Bill.' And I was like, 'That's mine! I mean, that's yours,'" she tells me, noting the difference between her mother's version and hers is simply less sugar.
"It's really simple," she says. "I put it on the porch. You don't have to do it, but I think it adds to the flavor."
Magar Hatworks Sweet Sun Tea
• ½ cup White Gold Sugar
• 1-3 lemons, sliced in rounds
• 6 small bags of American Classic Tea from the Charleston Tea Plantation
• 3 bunches of herbs, like mint, lemongrass, or lemon balm
• ½ gallon bottled water
Fill a large Mason jar with water. Add the sugar and lemon slices. "Shake, shake, shake." Add the tea bags and herbs. "Shake, shake, shake." Let it sit in the sun for two to three hours. Squeeze the tea bags and discard. Serve over ice.