It could only have happened in the Cowichan region. Canada’s first (and, it is believed, only) tea crop is nearing maturity on a verdant 11-acre bit of heaven near Duncan. Perched along sun-drenched terraces at Teafarm, 600 Camellia sinensis plants are the focus of hundreds of hours of dreams and labour by Victor Vesely and Margit Nelleman, the enthusiastic owners of this most unique undertaking.
Victor and Margit abandoned the big city of Vancouver in 2003 and purchased the property located along a bucolic country road not with the goal of growing tea, but with the aim of making a life for themselves that would combine their varied talents. The idea of growing tea came to them only fairly recently, and the first 200 plants went in to the ground in 2010.
Affairs at Teafarm have evolved greatly since that first crop was planted. Part of the old dairy barn on the property has been converted to a calm, welcoming combination of tea room and retail outlet for more than 100 artisanal organic teas from around the world. Margit’s unique clay pieces, including tea pots, cups and mugs, also take pride of place in the tea room area.
But one of the very best parts of visiting Teafarm is the actual experience of drinking some of the unique blends, and learning about the history and culture of tea. Victor is a walking, talking encyclopedia on the subject, and it’s not difficult to spend upwards of an hour or two (depending on how busy they are) enjoying Teafarm’s products and gleaning new-found knowledge on the subject.
We arrived late on a Sunday morning and were immediately taken with the luxuriant growth and rustic ambiance that surrounded us as we reached the bottom of the sloping driveway. Luckily for us we were the first ones through the door that day, so we had Victor’s undivided attention. We embarked on a lengthy verbal and culinary journey that took us from drinking tea based on our birthdates to a traditional Moroccan tea service complete with beautiful silver pot, freshly-picked spearmint and several pourings that revealed varying complexities of flavour and colour. Teafarm also offers sweet treats, all infused with tea, as part of the experience in the tea room.
Intermittent downpours meant we were pretty much confined to the indoors for our visit, but there is a lovely outdoor seating area available as well, with views of the fields below.
The actual tea grown at Teafarm is not yet available for consumption or sale. Tea plants take upwards of five years to reach full maturity and to develop the flavour unique to their region and the terroir. Victor and Margit are exceptionally cautious about when their own Cowichan tea will be on the market – as Victor points out, because of the uniqueness of their location the entire tea world will be watching, so they want to get it right. Based on what we saw and experienced during our first visit to Teafarm there is no doubt in our minds that they will, indeed, ‘get it right’ – their devotion to this venture ensures that, and promises many years of future great delight for the visitors who take the time to venture off the beaten path along that pretty country road.
Further information about Teafarm can be found at the website:
Teafarm is located at 8350 Richards Trail, North Cowichan
GPS co-ordinates are:
- 48.8512225 Long. -123.70646899999997
N 48 51.073 W 123 42.388