If you ever find yourself in the vicinity of Maple Bay, BC – a small coastal village just north and east of Duncan, you may want to take a detour up Richards Trail to visit a unique little enterprise that specializes in tea.
As a tea aficionado, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit an actual tea farm and try their wares. I had already determined that I would buy something, but what I didn’t expect was the vast array of teas to choose from, nor how informative the host of the establishment would be about tea from around the world.
Victor, who operates the tea shop with his partner Margit, is very welcoming and a consummate salesman. Just when you think you’ve seen everything, and are trying to decide between the shortbread laced with home grown tea or the homemade apple kuchen, he presents a tempting tray of truffles that have so many unusual ingredients, you know that you have to try ‘just one’.
What works in many ways for this shop is not only the pairing of tea with exotic treats, but the pairing of tea with the lyrical pottery made by Margit, that unassumingly decorates the shop. For anyone looking for a gift or souvenir, it makes sense to buy a handmade tea mug to go with the beverage.
Although their place is labelled a ‘tea farm’, Victor and Margit have not yet started harvesting and selling their own tea, but that is the goal. It takes at least five years they tell me, before their tea will be ready, so at this time there is still a couple of years to go. In the meantime, they are blending the tea they purchase with some of their own herbs like lavender and coming up with fragrant and delicious combinations, and Victor told us that they are using their own tea in what he terms ‘culinary applications’, or in other words, adding it to food.
To my mind, they are selling tea as an experience, and that is exactly what you get when you visit. I have been drinking Yerba Mate for years, but never had it the traditional Peruvian way until I went to their shop. It was an experience drinking tea through a straw that was set in a gourd, and sharing it with my partner in the cozy atmosphere of the café.
The Tea Farm is easy to access from the Island Highway. If you are heading south from Nanaimo, the exit is just past the one to Crofton that takes you to the Salt Spring Island ferry. It was busy the day we were there, on a lovely October holiday weekend, and
Victor told me that during the tourist season, they literally have to turn people away. But don’t let that discourage you from making a stop. The winding road they live on is pleasantly rural, and once you take the plunge down their steep driveway to get to the Shop, you will definitely feel that have entered another era when there was time to linger over tea and enjoy the good things in life.
Visit the Tea Farm website at: http://www.teafarm.ca/