The highlight of a recent foodie trip to Dorset was a visit to Comins Tea House, housed in a handsome building on the main road that runs through the unspoiled and undiscovered market town of Sturminster Newton, famous for once being the home of author Thomas Hardy, the poet William Barnes and Europe’s biggest calf market.
Rob and Michelle Comins spent three years looking for the perfect showroom for their loose leaf tea importing, retail and wholesale business. Their patience and determination paid dividends and they are now ensconced in a beautiful house, with a shop, kitchen and courtyard garden on the ground floor, and living accommodation above. Rob did all the handiwork to create the shop interiors: blonde woods, slate floors, white walls, tall windows, comfortable seating, the design is fresh, clean, light and relaxing.
It is so refreshing to enter such a contemporary and unfussy world ~ all the focus of the business is on the teas, and Rob and Michelle have travelled to far flung tea gardens in Asia to procure light, fragrant tea leaves that can be enjoyed both in the shop and at home.
Coming to Comins Tea House is an educational experience ~ Rob calmly and carefully guides you through the different black, green, white and oolong teas, explaining their tastes and preparation methods, both hot and cold, demonstrating the best way to make the perfect cup of tea. Rob wanted to create a shop atmosphere that is neither glorified nor intimidating, where customers can go on an enjoyable journey of discovery without feeling overwhelmed by the complexities of tea drinking.
There is food available as well: sticky buns, breakfast muffins, tea cakes and scones are either freshly baked in-house or sourced from the town bakery a few doors down the road. For lunch there are filled pitta breads or gyoza, filled Japanese dumplings.
You can buy the teas as well as the cups and teapots in which they are served, napkins, tea caddies and spoons, all designed and sourced with Rob’s perfectionist eye for detail and authenticity.
We tasted Darjeeling First Flush, Gunpowder Linan Dayan Garden, Sencha Karigane Uji and Matcha Uji teas, all hot, and, as the sun outside was scorching, Rob recommended we taste Sencha Uji tea straight from the fridge. We purchased Houjicha green tea, a roasted, nutty everyday leaf tea from the tea gardens of Uji, Kyoto, Japan, and Sencha Karigane green tea.
Refreshed, informed and reinvigorated, we made our way round the other shops of Sturminster with a light, bouncy spring in our steps ~ that’s what visiting Comins Tea does to you. If you are visiting Dorset’s Blackmore Vale it’s not to be missed. If you would like to read more about how Rob and Michelle opened their tea house, Rob tells the story in the second print edition of The Foodie Bugle.
Comins Tea House ~ www.cominsteahouse.co.uk
Follow Rob and Michelle on Twitter ~ @cominsteahouse