Setting up a business in the thick of recession is a pretty high risk strategy, but not when it turns out your product is the one thing people treat themselves to in an economic downturn.
Jo Davies set up The Gilded Teapot, her specialist tea and coffee shop in Dorchester, last year coincidentally at a time when sales of loose leaf tea began to rocket.
She says: ‘Sales for loose teaf tea went up by as much as 50 per cent last year. People are not spending a lot money on going out or having holidays but they are treating themselves to luxury basics like loose leaf tea instead.’
When you walk into the The Gilded Teapot, housed in an old tobacconist’s shop, and see shelf upon shelf of beautifully arranged packets of tea, well, you start to understand what the fuss is all about.
Jo sells tea-making paraphanelia too which makes the whole loose leaf thing much easier. Gone are the days of the tea strainer and the pot with a wedge of soaked leaves at the bottom. Instead teapots with inbuilt infusers are the thing.
Naturally Jo is vehemently opposed to the tea bag, which, she says contains the lowest grade leaves.
The most popular tea is her Dorset Farmer’s Brew (the poshest possible version of builder’s tea) and Earl Grey Supreme but you’ll find some of the rarest teas here too.
Green tea, another growth area, is popular Jo says: "as people are beginning to realise there is an alternative to the bitter tasting tea-bag version they once tried."
There is coffee here too sourced from master roaster Nigel Green from the Dorset Coffee Conpany in Dorchester. Just the descriptions on the packet make your mouth water; how about Guatemala Montie Fleur Arabica – rich and creamy or Costa Rica Tarrazu Tres Rios – dark and savoury?
Jo had the idea to start a specialist tea and coffee house on a home visit to Dorchester when she discovered how much many long term residents missed an old tea merchants shop called Parsons which ran from the 1920s to the 80s. Dorchester was clearly a town of tea-lovers.
The genius decision was to also set up an online shop – so now you can visit The Gilded Teapot to smell the different, intoxicating aromas and seek advice from Jo – who is it must be said a total tea-head – and then you can keep re-ordering without even leaving your desk.
Packets of tea cost from around £3.50 for 100g – more expensive than the supermarket variety perhaps but hardly going to break the bank.
I see a whole new avenue of indulgence opening up.
Find The Gilded Teapot at No 1 Tudor Arcade Dorchester.