Summer in Dorset is a picture of true heavenly beauty. The vivid green of the rolling hills moulding shapes under a piercing blue sky. Heavy leaf-abundant trees create draping canopies over the small country lanes leading to little areas yet to be explored, and the sound of the ice cream van interrupts a lazy afternoon of gardening and house maintenance.
On one particularly sweltering summer’s day, where most people seek shade and swimming pool relief; where the allure of melting ice cream cones and suntan lotion seems to be the activity du jour, you wouldn’t be to blame should you happen to find yourself in the heart of the Blackmore Vale, and more specifically in the sprightly little town of Sturminster Newton, drinking tea.
And that’s exactly what Englishman and I decided to do.
Across the bridge, just on the hem of the town, lies a beautifully restored Georgian building which is home to Rob & Michelle’s Comins Tea House, a tea-sanctuary that welcomes all visitors that walk through the door with muted scents of faraway lands and abundant hospitality.
Englishman and I had met Rob at a local country fair, and we’d decided to pay their tea house a visit. With my love of tea, and Englishman’s love for trying new things – it was the perfect combination for us to enjoy and be educated. More than this though, it was the thrill of finding something slightly different to the run of the mill tea and coffee shops you see dotted on every corner, in our own countryside. A little piece of a faraway land, at home, like us, in a little corner of the UK. It hardly mattered that we didn’t know our Assam from our Matcha, our Oolong from our Sencha, finding this little oriental gem was a treat that we’d both been looking forward to.
As we slowly made our way through our first cup of Oolong, with Rob carefully taking us through the traditional Gongfu tea ceremony, we chatted about the life of the teahouse, and the course of events that had brought them to this point. Rob, a self-proclaimed former tea sceptic, and his wife Michelle, had walked the Indian tea lands, smelt the leaves, felt the earth beneath their feet – and had lived and breathed a journey that would change their lives forever. And in this brief moment of sharing something so foreign, we all had a commonality that bonded us, over our little clay tea cups.
And as the day grew longer, and the 3rd hour had passed, and we’d tried the frothy Macha and the ice cold Sencha, time had escaped us completely, we’d realised. We’d chatted with a resident local called Chris who told us about travels, while philosophically sipping his Houjicha and we’d enjoyed the stretching afternoon sun that was creeping in from the patio outside, and warming the tips of our toes. We’d listened to Rob’s stories about creating the counter in the shop out of a local Ash tree, and the vintage school chairs that he’d sourced from an antique dealer in Cornwall. But most of all, we’d experienced something new.
As the River Stour meandered its way around Sturminster Newton and the Dorset sun set over a hill shrouded by a herd of lazy fresians, we felt blessed. We’d found something new, something foreign, but at the same time, something so familiar. And most of all, we felt welcomed, and we felt blessed.