Shopping: Ely tea house Samovar opens web store
Samovar, the much-loved Ely tea house, is opening a new chapter: in the wake of Covid, the business has moved out of its bricks-and-mortar home on Forehill and into a web shop. Stocked with all the 130-and-counting loose-leaf blends Samovar is famed for, along with its house coffee, hot chocolates, teaware and gifts, the shop delivers by courier nationwide - with delivery free in Ely on Saturdays and just £1 to selected local areas on Sundays. (If, like us, you love Samovar’s homemade cakes as much as its teas, you’ll be pleased to know locals can also order sweet treats for doorstep drop-off.)
Inspired by the tea houses of Europe, which Sofia had toured while travelling, Samovar started life as a market stall in 2011 before expanding to the cafe and retail space. “In 2019 and early 2020, we were busier than we had ever been. The café was always buzzing: a lively and popular space where we regularly experienced queues out of the door, and we served brunch and lunch as well as our popular homemade cakes,” say Sofia and business partner Lizzy.
“But when Covid-19 was reported to be spreading in the UK, we immediately closed – some time before the Government instructed us to. The café was in an extremely old, narrow building which made for a wonderfully cozy and atmospheric space; but with no windows and barely two metres wide in parts, there was no way it could function in a safe way with a pandemic going on. Protecting the community, our staff, customers and neighbours was always going to be our major priority and we would never put profit before people.”
Through lockdown, Lizzy and Sofia got to work on their website, creating and stocking a comprehensive virtual store, and also perfected biodegradable packaging, something they’d long wanted to achieve. “The response to our website launch has been wonderful,” they say. “We're so pleased to get lovely messages from customers old and new who are enjoying exploring it - it feels like a really nice, comforting thing to be able to offer in this time of social distancing and anxiety. We’d like to thank everyone for their support. Stay safe - and enjoy a nice cup of tea!”
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More by this authorAlice Ryan