WILTON — For Alex Higle and his wife Shu-Chuan Chen, the dream was to bring a proper tearoom experience to Wilton. But that dream came to a close after about a year of slow business.

Their last day of business was Thursday.

“A lot of people have come in and expressed excitement, but excitement doesn’t pay the bills,” Higle said. “ I like that they like it, but I think that we had some bad luck, possibly because of inexperience in the restaurant field.”

Since opening CultureTea in August in the Wilton Town Center, the Norwalk couple said they never earned a profit and lost a couple thousand dollars every month. They also started out with a full staff of three waiters and one chef but gradually had to let them go, Chen said.

“So when you are in this kind of situation, you cannot continue with just praise, right? So you really have to make a decision,” she said.

The tearoom offered a variety of high-quality organic teas from around the world, homemade scones lauded by a professional taste tester, and sandwiches and pastries to enhance the tearoom experience.

Though statistics pointed to a bright future for the tearoom, with some 80 percent of American households having tea in their kitchens, developing trends among large tea businesses eventually painted a different reality, Higle said.

Last January, Starbucks closed all but one of its Teavana tea bars, converting three in New York City to full Starbucks stores. This year, Montreal-based DavidsTea reported a $400,000 loss in the first quarter compared to a $1.5 million profit a year ago.

“When we researched the industry in the beginning, it really did look like the industry was growing. It really looked like Americans were starting to embrace tea more than ever,” Higle said. “Everyone in the industry seemed to predict big things for tea and then it’s like, ‘Maybe not so much. Maybe yes, but it’s going to be much more gradual than we realized and it’s not an appropriate time to pop things up all over the place.’”

Chen said geography also plays an important part in the success of a tea business. While tearooms are common in the West Coast, where the World Tea Expo is held, Chen said such shops are harder to find in the East Coast.

“It means that this market here is not as good as we thought,” she said.

Prices also seemed to be a stumbling block to most customers, Chen said. A pot of tea, which is equal to four to five cups, ranged from $6 to $9.49. Realizing this, the couple added lower-priced teas to their selection but still didn’t find a difference in sales.

“The majority of people who drink tea daily, they probably only still buy from the supermarket, so you don’t have to really spend too much money,” Chen said. “We gradually realized that our tea product would be attracted to those people who are core tea drinkers.”

“Or passionate tea drinkers, rather than the casual,” Higle added.

Part of their vision for the business was to also educate people about tea culture and different health benefits, bringing in different speakers and sharing from their own wealth of knowledge. Prior to opening the business, Higle became certified as a tea specialist. He spent one year learning about the subtleties of tea taste, the history of tea development and industry, and the science of tea plants and cultivation.

Having a tearoom garnered this type of interest among customers, Higle said, and also enabled him and his wife to build meaningful relationships with people from the community.

“People have come in and just opened themselves up to us,” he said.

“That’s why I love this tearoom concept,” Chen added, “because the typical flow is the tearoom owner would go out to greet the customers and establish a little bit of conversation with them. And oftentimes these customers would start to share their lives with you. And so we did. We did have established quite a few of these customers. They are the people we will be missing.”

The last month of business has been both the best and the worst for Higle and Chen. They’ve had their share of “nasty customers,” but they’ve also hosted a Make a Wish Foundation event and helped a woman celebrate her 100th birthday. She came back to the tearoom with her daughter a few days later.

“That is really a reminder of why we wanted to get into this business — to touch people’s hearts,” Higle said. “We really wanted to make a difference in people’s lives and I hope to some extent we’ve succeeded. And I think in some cases, we have.”

“And if people, ... because of us being here they started to like tea, they started to get benefits from tea, I feel that’s our reward,” Chen added.

skim@hearstmediact.com; 203-842-2568; @stephaniehnkim