2020 – our big news…!

Dear Ely customers,

We have some sad news, and some good news.

As some of you who enjoy checking out property listings (don’t we all?!) may already know, our building in Ely is being sold.

When Covid-19 was reported to be spreading in the UK, we closed the café doors – some time before the Government instructed us to.
We had been busier than ever for quite some time at that point, with regular queues out of the door, and a wonderful friendly buzz about the place every day. The last few years have been really really busy, which has been so great. In fact at the beginning of the year, we had just spent a bit of time renovating to make the space more effective for the large number of visitors we were experiencing!

Weirdly, we had discussed ages ago what we would do if a pandemic ever happened, and had always known we would immediately close to protect everyone.
Our café was in an extremely old, narrow building which made for a wonderfully cozy and atmospheric space in the pre-covid era; but with no windows and barely two metres wide in parts, there was no chance it could function in a safe way with a pandemic going on. It would have been a health and safety nightmare to attempt to keep the building open to the public.

The idea that an establishment can declare itself to be “covid safe” without any professional health and safety inspection and risk assessment is simply not valid – in the same way that we don’t get to declare our own Environmental Health rating, but are subject to random spot checks by professionals who decide if we are safe or not. We’re following the science (we recommend Independent Sage for their regular briefings) – and we certainly couldn’t have been deemed “covid safe”; being indoors with no ventilation in such a small space.

We are so happy that we had been closed for a couple of weeks of renovation early in the year, because we retrospectively found out that at that time, the virus was circulating in Ely and people we know were getting sick, and so in a strange way we had managed to minimise the spread by being closed for renovation work.

Protecting the community, our staff, customers and neighbours was always going to be our major priority.
We would never put profit before people’s health – it would be unacceptable to us personally but also go against what we stand for as a company.

So – we worked really hard to launch our new website (and all-new biodegradable tea packaging!), which includes our extensive online shop featuring all our 140+ loose tea blends, as well as our coffee, teaware and other products.

We have been delighted with the response we’ve had to the site, all the nice messages and all the orders placed so far – thank you!
The website crashed on launch day due to the high number of people placing orders, which was honestly more than we could have ever hoped for, and sent our tech support into a bit of a panic!!

We now offer delivery across the UK via courier, but are also doing weekend deliveries to Ely (Saturdays – free of charge) and selected local areas (Sundays – £1) which we’re happy to say include our homemade cake options too!

This has been a really exciting opportunity for us to take our business online, and to reach a wider customer base across the UK for our loose leaf tea brand.
We’re really lucky to be in a position to be able to do this, and for it to be going really well.

As such, we won’t be reopening our Ely café.

We have had a wonderful almost-decade in Ely, but with the uncertainty of the pandemic, it would not be the right time for us to sign a new lease when we are unable to safely reopen for the foreseeable future – especially with winter ahead and the likelihood of further lockdowns and health risks. We think that the new owner of the building will most likely have their own use for the space we’ve been in, which compounds our decision too.

From a business point of view, the idea of re-opening in a massively limited capacity and buying stock, hiring staff, buying perishable ingredients, paying rent and utilities and insurance and everything else that comes along with running a café, only to have to suddenly close again at the drop of a hat were a customer, staff member or supplier to report that they have the virus, meaning that we, our staff and customers would then all have to quarantine and get tested etc, creating uncertainty and health risk, financial loss and food waste, does not make any sense to us.

A side note – Alex Rushmer (of Vanderlyle)’s eloquent article in the guardian explained this issue in depth back in June – https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jun/23/restaurant-reopening-4-july-boris-johnson-hospitality-businesses

We know this is going to be really sad news for lots of people, but we would like to let you all know that although we will of course miss seeing everyone, the upside of all this is that we are genuinely really excited to continue to grow our business on the new online platform.

We hope you will continue to support us by ordering from our website, and sharing the link with any friends who may be interested!

We’ll always retain our local connection, with our local deliveries (see website for specific info) and custom cake orders etc, but we’re happy to be entering the digital space in order to offer our huge range of speciality teas to a wider audience, in a truly safe way that also makes sense business-wise.

We have plenty of fun promotions, seasonal specials, gift options etc lined up, and will be increasing our social media and web presence.

We’ll really appreciate your support in helping us with our evolution of Samovar Tea House into a nationwide loose tea brand!

Thank you all for your custom, enthusiasm, and friendship over the last 8+ years…and thank you in advance for ordering from us when you fancy a nice cup of tea in future!! 🙂

Make sure to look after yourselves and your loved ones.

With gratitude for all that has been and optimism for what’s to come,

Sofia & Lizzy
Samovar Tea House

Local delivery customers, we’ll see you at the weekend! 🙂