Customers entering Velma’s Candy, Tea and Gifts often have similar comments to share with owner Velma Richmond after coming through the door at 4660B Marine Avenue.
“People tell me it smells wonderful when they walk in,” says Richmond.
A wide variety of tea from all over the world, including China, India and European countries, is responsible for the distinctive aroma.
“There is something for everyone's taste,” explains Richmond. “Everything is loose leaf and certified organic, which is very important to me.”
Brands available include Velma’s Tea, which is packed in-store, Urban Earth, which is blended in Powell River, and Silk Road, a well-known, Victoria-based company.
“Silk Road’s owner is famous in Canada for her expertise, so I was thrilled to be able to carry her teas,” says Richmond. “She’s an expert blender and all of her teas come in tins.”
With infusers required for preparing loose-leaf tea, Velma’s has everything customers need, including standalone infusers and teapots with infusers already built in.
“As a specialty store, there are some fancy infusers here, too, such as floating infusers or infusers with cats or other designs on them,” says Richmond. “They are hard to find elsewhere.”
Selections of teapots and teacups come in many shapes, sizes and shades inside the store.
“I have choices of teapots you can't find anywhere else,” says Richmond. “A lot of the time, black or white is the only option, but I have many colours and some with polka dots or animals on them.”
Fill-it-yourself teabags are also available, with long sleeves that allow tea drinkers to determine the amount of tea they wish to place inside.
“They’re nice because they allow the leaf to open up more than in a constrained, commercial tea bag,” says Richmond. “It enhances flavour and you get all the health benefits from the leaf when you brew your own tea.”
According to Richmond, the quality of the tea is of utmost importance and having the appropriate accessories is just as necessary as the tea itself.
“Basically, I have everything you need to make that perfect cup of tea,” she says.
Health benefits are the goal for many customers who visit the store at 4660B Marine Avenue due to tea being high in antioxidants and having therapeutic attributes, says Richmond.
“I carry therapeutic teas, breakfast teas, wellness teas, green teas and lots of flavoured teas,” explains Richmond. “Earl Grey is my most popular seller.”
Mini samples are available for all teas as gifts or for customers unsure about buying a larger bag without a taste test.
“Sometimes people just want to get an idea first,” says Richmond.
Anyone looking for a specific tea is welcome to call or come into the shop to ask about it.
“I can probably find it for them,” says Richmond. “I do special orders.”
Despite tea being the main aspect of the business, the store’s candy, chocolate and gemstones are still a draw for local and out-of-town customers. Richmond carries a selection of chocolate-covered almonds, a variety of bars from Powell River-based MAD Chocolates and also makes her own candy in the store’s kitchen, including caramel sticks and Turkish delights.
Richmond says more chocolate choices will be brought in prior to Christmas.
“I’m planning to specialize more in quality chocolate; I want to provide unique, healthy bars and hot chocolate mixes,” says Richmond. “I already have accounts with Daniel le Chocolat, a famous chocolatier in Vancouver, and Organic Fair on Vancouver Island.”
Also, the store’s gemstone jewellery, some locally made and others from Scotland and Ontario, includes bracelets and necklaces.
“It’s another specialized product and Powell River no longer has a gem store,” says Richmond. “I started carrying a small amount and, before long, I ended up carrying more due to customer demand.”
Velma’s Candy, Tea and Gifts is hosting an open house tea-sampling day during regular business hours from 12-5 pm on Wednesday, October 18. The store is open Tuesday to Saturday and gift certificates are available.
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