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Comins Tea House: A Zeitgeisty Kind of Place


Silver Needle: a delicious white tea at Comins Tea House

Don’t you love it when you stumble across a brilliant new local find?  My latest – the Comins Tea House in Sturminster Newton – is a real gem of a place. Just 3 weeks old this venture feels very zeitgeisty to me tapping into our growing obsession with healthy living and loose leaf tea.

Started up by Rob and Michelle Comins who also sell specialist imported teas through their Comins Tea House website, the look and feel of the shop/café is minimal Japanese. The real joy, though, is in the amazing quality of tea and the ritual that goes with it.

 

The couple travelled extensively through Japan, China and Sri Lanka visiting many tea plantations before hitting on the idea of importing loose leaf tea.

They decided to set up the tea house so there was a physical place for people to learn about specialist teas and to take time drinking them. I tried the Oolong tea, which is semi fermented and sort of halfway between black and green tea in terms of taste. Michelle brought a timer, a teapot, tray and a hot flask of water to the table. She explains that she is following the traditional Gongfu tea ceremony to maximise the flavour of the tea. First it must infuse for exactly one minute 30 seconds (hence the timer) then it can be infused twice more (hence the flask of hot water) for just 30 seconds as the tea leaves have now unfurled. The tea is delicious and I love the fact that you are encouraged to take your time savouring it. Comins Tea House is a simple, modern place that is the absolulte antithesis of the Starbucks phenomenen. Rob and Michelle hope people will come and linger over cups of teas, appreciating different types in much the same way we have learned about wine. Michelle tells me about a local businessman who discovered the tea-house at launch and now comes once a week on his own for a couple of hours to take time out. She was thrilled last week when new customers came in and stayed for 2 hours over one pot of tea. "To really share our love of tea we wanted somewhere we could sit down with people and talk about it. Everything is so instant these days and we wanted to encourage people to take time." This is what I mean by zeitgeisty – in a world that is addled with the modern day ailments of stress, depression and anxiety - a slow, leisurely concept such as Comins Tea House feels long overdue. Alongside the teas, which you can also buy in various weights to take away, Michelle and Rob sell delicious home baked cakes and tea bread, pitta sandwiches and their own gyoza dumplings. All the ingredients are sourced in Dorset and of the highest quality – so the pork is from The Uncommon Pig, the cheese from James’s Cheese, the flour from Town Mill Bakery and so on. You can also buy the beautiful tea ware which has been specially made for Comins - wonderful porcelain bowls which are bigger than traditional Asian tea cups as Michelle wanted something you can fit both hands around. Tea tins are based around an antique tin the couple found in Brussels and are beautiful, everyday objects which stack together and would look great on display in a kitchen. The tea house is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays but open to groups (free of charge) who want to come along to try the tea. Rob or Michelle will serve and then leave you to your own devices - how perfect is that? Sturminster’s Maj Jong club is already booked in, to me it feels like a brilliant book club venue. Talks, book readings, pop up tea clubs to follow soon. Somehow I think we'll be hearing a lot more from the Comins Tea House.    

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