Russian tea shop in Bacup, Lancashire
PUBLISHED: 08:33 26 May 2010 | UPDATED: 17:17 20 February 2013
Siberian Olga Penney has just opened a Russian tea room in Lancashire. Will it be a nice little urner, asks Emma Mayoh
A Russian tea room is an unlikely addition to a town more famous for its cotton than it samovars. But Olga Penney has introduced some Siberian hospitality to the small Lancashire town of Bacup.
The 45-year-old, who came to Lancashire after meeting husband Steve, has run her own tea shops in Moscow as well as working as a teacher in Kazakhstan. She has loved the tradition of making tea since she was a girl - a tradition that still thrives in Russia today. Now she wants to fulfil her lifelong dream and to transfer her knowledge to encourage people to indulge in the art of taking tea.
Olga, who works as a translator, said: Everyone is always busy. Its important to sit down, take a breath, close your eyes, smell the tea or coffee properly and think of the pleasures in life. Take time to enjoy this moment.
In Russia, people gather around a samovar and take tea together. Its an important tradition and its a chance keep up with your family and friends. People arrive, you have tea. It is a lovely time to spend.
It could take hours to choose from the 59 teas and 25 coffees and hot chocolates. There are black, white, herbal and flavoured teas as well as unusual blends including one made out of the leaves of ancient trees - which apparently taste like a dark beer - and rare teas. These include an ebony flower tea, made from the black tea flower where the leaves are hand tied and sewn together, as well as a Thousand Days Red Jasmine tea. This hand-tied green tea flower comes from the Fujian province of China and is infused with jasmine petals.
But the most prominent tea is a Russian Caravan house tea, a blend of Lapsang Souchong from China with Assam tea from India and Ceylon black tea, served at Russian dinner parties. Historically, it was the most important drink in Russia, after vodka. During the time of the Czars the tea was transported to the country in a chest on camelback. It has a smoky smell which was absorbed from the campfire along the long journey.
Many of the teas are brewed in a traditional samovar, Matryoshka Dolls can be seen around the tea room and traditional Russian dishes including Borsch, Stolichnyi, Moskovskyi and Reissian are cooked by Olga in the kitchen.
The rich, dark and imposing interiors of tea rooms in Moscow - something Olga wanted to avoid - have been replaced with quirky teapot shaped lampshades and a large floral mural - elephants have also played a key part of the design as a reminder of teas Indian roots.
Some people may not think that Bacup is the most obvious place for a Russian tea room. But Olga, born in the Siberian town of Kurgan, already has a tea room bursting with satisfied customers even though she only opened in March.
Why should I not have it in Bacup? she said. We get many different people coming in. They love my tea room.