Come for Tea…
Contributed by the Traveling Gourmand
I enjoy a cup of good tea, be it herbal, an exotic blend or just plain old Salada. I also very much enjoy the experience of tea and delight in the experience of “high tea”.
Tea seems to be on a bit of a revival and there are many new places to have a spot of tea in Vancouver, some formal, others quite casual. Victoria remains a bastion of teashops with old standbys like the Fairmont Empress and the more casual White Heather located in Oak Bay.
Recently I was introduced to a Tea Shop unlike any I have experienced before. This little gem is located in the picturesque Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island.
More than a tea shop this is an honest to goodness tea farm. On the slopes of an 11 acre farm Camellia sinensis (tea plants) are growing. Planted just over two years ago the plants are not quite ready for harvesting but have successfully survived two winters.
Not at all what I had been expecting but a delightful, quaint teashop and art gallery duo. Resident tea expert Victor Vesely and his artist wife Margit Nellemann have carved out a niche market in this quiet part of the Island.
The shop is rustic and cozy. When we arrived there was a steaming pot featuring the tea of the day. Guests are encouraged to sample the tea as they stroll about the shop and gallery. The walls are lined with hundreds of tins of tea as well as packaged and bagged teas in assorted sizes. You will find over 80 types of estate grown organic teas, tisane blends featuring locally grown herbs from their own farm, and their exclusive Chinese zodiac teas.
The teas are so fresh and so flavourful you won’t be able to stop at just one pot. So go on experiment, try something different. The blends are unique and delicious.
Inside the artist’s gallery of the teashop you will find displays of Margit’s work as well as a featured artists. During our visit the colourful paintings of a Danish artist and local art installations made of indigenous woods and rice paper were on display. We strolled about the shop and marveled at the handy work of Margit. Her ceramics are all one of a kind. A wonderful display of tea pots and cups to enhance your tea drinking experience. Funky lanterns all aglow in candlight. My favourite were the clay houses that tilted and seem to sway, with tiny little windows they are reminiscent of a European village. Margit’s work is all done by hand without the aid of a wheel. They are exquisite with no two pieces identical.
It was cool and damp outside but so warm and cozy inside with the wood burning fireplace and a rustic table and chairs nearby. Victor is passionate about his teas and takes the time to share his interest with his guests.
We couldn’t resist the tea + sweet an absolutely delicious tea and dessert pairing that is offered at the Tea Farm. We decided on two pots of tea, a blend and one of the delicious Chinese zodiac teas. Of course a pairing is only as good
as its accompaniment and we chose the Apple Ceylon Cake and a chocolate truffle (the truffle courtesy of neighbour Amuse iBistro). It was heavenly, I can’t remember the last time I had a dessert as delicious as this one. The apples are from their own tree and the cake is infused with tea and crowned with pecans and caramel. Margit made all the fabulous desserts in house.
Be sure to plan a visit to the Tea Farm in December to enjoy the Winter Solstice Exhibit and Annual Open House starting on December 7. The Teashop is open until 9 pm on Friday nights throughout December.
If you can’t make it to the farm you can buy their teas online.
The Traveling Gourmand lives and works on Vancouver Island. A self described foodie TG is always on the lookout for places of interest on the Island.