Choosing a flavour at Parkermanns Fine Tea Co. is part of the fun. With over 100 varieties, it doesn’t feel right to try the same tea twice, at least not for your first cup. Located on King Street East in Olde Town Stoney Creek, Elana Laing and Kaz Simaitis are the couple behind Parkermanns. They took it over less than a year and a half ago, after selling an A.Y. Jackson piece (from the Group of Seven) passed on by Elana’s late father to fund the shop. When Elana would visit her father at his Comic 1 Books store across the street (which is still in business today), she would visit Parkermanns. She was excited to finally have a local place on the street besides Tim Hortons. In fact, she originally didn’t realize it was a tea shop. She always came for coffee.
“One of the things we’ve always loved to do is find cafes and tea shops in different small towns and make a point to pop in and enjoy the space.” says Kaz. “There’s such a cafe culture in Hamilton.” They cite The Cannon, Mulberry Coffeehouse, Cafe Oranje, and Relay Coffee Roasters as some of their favourite java spots in the city.
Parkermanns was founded by two couples in 2012: the Parkers and the Manns. After the Manns left the company, Sara Parker and her husband John continued to run the business. Sara studied at the Tea Emporium alongside David from David’s Tea. When Elana and Kaz caught wind that the Parkers were looking for a buyer, Kaz jumped in. “It just felt so right in my mind, but Elana thought I was crazy.”
Elana and Kaz both have a degree in music and met at Mohawk College. The opportunity came at the right time, when their music school business was going into their fourth year, leaving their days free while they taught music lessons at night. Kaz is a guitarist and Elana is a vocalist and pianist. They still teach and perform, and once in awhile, pull out the bench in the shop to entertain patrons.
Parkermanns teas come from all over, but they are currently working on a partnership to source green and black teas from the Darjeeling tea plantations in northern India. Some of their most popular – including the Hamilton Harvest blend, Niagara Ice Wine, and Ontario Berries – give a nod to local flavours. There are also ingredients available like apple pieces and cloves that people can mix and match to create their own concoctions.
In the summertime you’ll find iced teas — and year-round, Parkermanns satisfies the coffee lover with Relay Coffee. Parkermanns has a weekly delivery of Cake and Loaf treats and makes their own scones every morning. Flavours are always changing, but you may find white chocolate almond, cheddar jalapeno, lemon poppyseed, blueberry, and earl grey in the display.
While the scones are Kaz’s specialty (he learned from Sara), Elana makes the soups. Cheddar cauliflower, potato leek, mac and cheese, kale-chorizo-black eyed peas, and tomato bisque are just some examples. They also offer paninis – and a delicious gluten-free black bean brownie.
At Parkermanns, you can enjoy a brew from an eclectic mix of tea cups donated by the community, surrounded by reclaimed wood and sunshine beaming through the windows. Whether you’re a tea drinker, coffee drinker, or want a quick treat or lunch, there’s something for you in this small shop, without the pretension of tea time.
You can also find a selection of Parkermanns teas at Papa Leo’s, Lake Road Restaurant and Twisted Lemon, Cake and Loaf, Relay Coffee on Concession and in the Hamilton Market, The Hamilton Store, and Cafe Oranje. But I encourage you to venture to downtown Stoney Creek for a visit. While you’re there, you can also discover the nearby shops: Sprinkles On Top, Yellow Iris, McGee’s Landing, and Bella Biscotti are some of Elana and Kaz’s recommendations.
Parkermanns Fine Tea Co has events like tea leaf reading the last Friday of every month. Check their Facebook page for updates. I recently visited to hand-make some greeting cards, and as much as I wanted another cuppa blueberry tea, I stuck to my rule and tried something new.