By Abigail Cukier, News Staff
If you thought tea rooms were stuffy places for perfect etiquette, step into Parkermanns Fine Tea Co. for a breath of fresh air.
The small tea room opened in July on King Street and has been slowly building a following. Owned and operated by pals Sara Parker and Diane Nixon Manns, the shop carries dozens of flavours of loose leaf tea, tea accessories, preserves and organic honey from Flamborough, Beamsville and Jordan. They also serve locally-roasted Red Hill Coffee and treats baked daily by Dundurn Street South’s Cake and Loaf, including vegan options (and gluten-free choices on the way).
The walls are adorned with consignment artwork from local artists and upbeat music plays all day. When this reporter visited on a busy Wednesday afternoon, visitors got into conversations with Parker and Nixon Manns over everything from the novel Fifty Shades of Grey and the retro tune playing on the stereo to local issues and community events.
Parker, who used to work in the fine dining industry and Nixon Manns, a decorator, have been friends for two decades and used to meet for tea and dream up businesses they could open together. After Parker took classes to become a wine sommelier, she switched to tea sommelier courses at George Brown College.
“I always had the romantic idea of opening a tea room,” she said.
After Parker faced illness in her family and Nixon Mann’s mom died, they decided that “life is too short” and they were going to do it “sink or swim.”
They found this small space in Olde Town Stoney Creek and decorated using an old door for a countertop, black and white tiles and pale yellow walls. Many of the items are re-purposed and updated from Value Village or the Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore.
They get their teas from brokers in Toronto and Ottawa or direct from ethical, free trade plantations in Kenya, Sri Lanka and Taiwan. Varieties include white, black, oolong, green and roobois in flavours like Canadian Maple, organic ceylon, Ontario ice wine, apple crisp, Earl Grey and hibiscus. Milk is delivered from Hewitt’s Dairy in glass bottles.
“We have a soft spot for Stoney Creek and we want it to be more than just hairdressers and dentists,” Parker said. “There is a lot of community here. We are really excited about what can happen here on King Street.”
While the shop has limited seating, everything is available to take home and Parker and Nixon Manns have other plans to bring their products to the community. These include private parties and helping organizations run tea sampling fundraisers.
A tea leaf reader will soon be at the shop on Monday nights and the women also plan to start a book club. They recently played host to a retro Tupperware party and will welcome a knitting club.
“We are about quality not quantity. We want to invite conversation and support the local community,” Parker said.
Parkermanns Fine Tea Co., at 47 King St. E., is open Monday to Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.