Stonehouse Teas: varie‘tea’ is the spice of life

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Campbell River entrepreneur offers specialty drinks, tea accessories and a cozy place to relax downtown

Christine Lilyholm had long-term aspirations to run her own business, but the timing was never right. Then, five years ago she was presented with an amazing opportunity to make her entrepreneurial dreams come true in her community. Christine is now the proud owner of Stonehouse Teas in Campbell River.

Continuing the legacy

Stonehouse Teas was established in 1995 when the original owner Tanya Hofer (née Stonehouse) came back from a family trip in England. Tanya visited many tea shops and tea rooms and she decided to bring quality loose-leaf tea to Campbell River.

At first, the business was home-based and most sales were made through home parties and farmer’s markets. In 2005, Tanya opened a brick and mortar shop to grow the business. 

Christine and Tanya have been long-time friends and Christine helped cover shifts in the store when needed. In 2016, Tanya was ready to semi-retire and the timing was right for Christine to buy Stonehouse Teas.

“I taught at the North Island College in the culinary arts department for 15 years. I then took a leave of absence to buy the business and I ended up staying on full time as an entrepreneur,” Christine says.

“It was an easy transition for me because I was very familiar with the business.”

Since becoming owner five years ago, Christine has added indoor and outdoor seating and has expanded the “tea wall,” which is home to a huge selection of tea varieties.

“We always have 120 teas available and then seasonally, I bring in five or six different flavours. We are working on our blends for the summer right now, which will be iced-tea focused,” Christine says.

“Seasonal teas that become really popular make it onto our tea wall.”

Unique tasting experience

While Christine does not grow the tea herself, she has an extensive network of tea suppliers from Canada and the US who supply quality loose-leaf teas. Once Christine has the flavours she needs, she creates new and familiar blends.

“Since taking over the business, I started doing signature blends,” Christine says.

She approached a couple business owners about making teas that represents their businesses.

“That launched me into the Campbell River tea, which I created two years ago. I had a panel of people from Campbell River help me create the taste and feel of Campbell River,” she says. “That was an exciting one to do. And then we made a Campbell River Fog, which is now served in 12 places in Campbell River.”

When it comes to a favourite tea, Christine is hard-pressed to choose just one.

“I have new favourites all the time. It depends on whether it’s morning, afternoon or evening,” she says.

“One that I go to regularly is called stress reliever. It has lots of lemongrass and it is a very calming tea. I would sip on that all-day. And I always have seasonal favourites. I try to jump around.”

Specialty beverage experts

As the name implies, the main focus of Stonehouse Teas over the last 26 years has been loose-leaf tea. However, Christine and her eight staff members have built up the beverage side of the business in recent years.

“There was a big calling for hot and cold beverages so, we’ve specialized in both and have become more of a café,” Christine says. Stonehouse Teas also offer iced teas, cappuccinos and bubble teas.

In addition, “we make our own pastries and desserts, we have a full retail section with loose-leaf teas accessories and we serve amazing coffee that is roasted locally on Quadra Island.”

Stonehouse Teas offers customers a cozy place to sit, chat and enjoy the flavours of tea and Campbell River’s downtown core.

Teamwork makes the dream work

Christine loves how Island businesses work together to support each other. This aspect has been highlighted even more during the pandemic.

“There is a real support to stay on the Island, to buy from the Island. That has been amazing to see,” she says.

The COVID-19 situation opened her eyes to the vast amount of goods that are produced on the Island and in Campbell River.

“I serve coffee from Quadra Island and sell honey from Nanaimo and chocolate bars from Denman Island. I started looking internally to what I have and realized that we have quite a few Island goods that I never really thought about. I don’t grow tea, but I am unique because I have blends that aren’t available anywhere else,” Christine says.

Collaboration is helping Christine expand the tea market on the Island and raise consumer awareness that tea is more than just a hot drink with milk and sugar.

“I paired with a brewery next door and we started putting tea in beer and I work with a local soap company. We started putting tea in soaps,” she says.

Now, Stonehouse Teas are sold in over 30 coffee shops, spas, yoga studios and cafes in Campbell River, Comox, Cumberland, Port Alberni and Gold River.

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