Cook Penny Veitch (left)

Tea house attracts tourists

Yellow Umbrella/Thyme for Tea opens for the season March 18 at 150 Mile House.

Yellow Umbrella/Thyme for Tea opens for the season March 18 at 150 Mile House and amazingly visitors  may actually be treated to a blooming daffodil or two.

In the 12 years since she first opened the popular tea house, owner Linda Symynuk says this is the first year she has ever seen daffodils popping up in their front garden this early on in the season.

As usual, there is no usual at this little tea house that opens for the season with new floors, fresh paint and a whole bunch of new and unique home decor, garden, and personal gift items, not to mention all things tea.

Thirteen years ago when the tea house was just a twinkle in Linda’s eye, she says Canada and the U.S. were primarily coffee drinkers but researchers were predicting that would soon change.

So she took a chance and combined her first passion to create a unique gift shop with a tea house, a gamble that turned out to be well worth taking.

The little tea house has become as popular a stopping place for people travelling up and down the Highway 97 corridor as it has with locals seeking out a special gift, or a quiet lunch in a unique location or even a high tea.

The lunch menu is homemade every day using healthy ingredients, Linda says. You won’t find fries or fast foods on this menu, just savoury soups, fresh sandwiches and salads, fruit cups, and their popular quiche, scones and cheesecake with fresh fruit toppings in season.

Key-lime cheesecake is on the menu this week.

Yellow Umbrella/Thyme for Tea has become a popular venue for birthday parties, bridal and baby showers and this summer will host its first small wedding.

“We have a tremendous number of travellers stop in the summer and we try to make everyone welcome,” Linda says. “We are all about service. People say they feel at home here and that is what we strive for.”

When she first started out Linda offered 25 types of tea. Today she carries more than 150 teas: strong black teas; all of the favourite English teas; green teas, chai teas; herbal teas; fruit teas; and various flavours of Rooibos teas that  are grown in South Africa, naturally without caffeine.

Tea is served by the pot at the tea house or sent home in 50 or 100 gram bags. You won’t find any tea bags here.

“Once you have tasted a really good leaf tea you don’t want to go back to a tea bag,” Linda says.

She buys all of her teas from the Metropolitan Tea Company.

“They give good service and their tea is rated very high,” Linda says.

As for the gift shop, Linda makes a concerted effort to carry unique items that other local shops don’t carry in a wide price range and to introduce new items for each season the tea house is open spring, summer, fall and Christmas.

Everywhere you look there is something interesting to see: fancy measuring spoons, a little girl’s fairy dress, unusual aprons, items for building fairy gardens, an old fashioned bread box, iron garden markers, and unusual wind chimes and moving garden decorations.

There are cloches (glass bells) in which to build seasonal displays or protect budding plants; a rack of bright little and colourful tin boxes from England called Apples and Pears with the fixings for interesting activities inside such as making a sock zebra or building miniature flying machines from bamboo cut-outs.

There are far too many interesting items to mention here.

Linda purposely doesn’t carry local art work, referring people instead to the Station House Gallery, or another local store if they don’t have what a visitor is seeking.

“If we can’t help people, we refer them to other people who can help,” Linda says.

“I think it is important that even though we may be in competition that we do support each other.”

Linda manages the tea house with the help of her husband, Norm, who builds the displays and keeps the gardens looking beautiful; two full-time staff, long-time merchandising and sales assistant Melissa Smylie, and new cook Penny Veitch, who comes with 30 years of experience.

They also have three part-time staff many of whom are high school students receiving their first work experience at the tea house.

“We’ve had some wonderful young people work here,” Linda says.

There are six tables inside the tea house surrounded by lots of interesting things to look at and when the weather gets warmer another six tables on two patios outside that are surrounded by beautiful flowers and gardens.

Thyme for Tea is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week spring through the pre-Christmas season. Lunch is served between 10 a.m and 3 p.m. Dessert with tea or coffee is available between 3 and 4 p.m.

Reservations are recommended by calling 250-296-4235.

On Good Friday, March 25 and Saturday, March 26 people who wear an Easter bonnet or have their Easter Rabbit ears on will have their name put in a draw to win a beautiful big, plush Jelly Cat rabbit named Bashful, Linda says.

Thyme for Tea will be closed on Easter Sunday.

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