Tchai-Ovna House of Tea was first cobbled together in the year 2000. It was the brain child of the Fell brothers (Robin and Martin) and Kenneth Shand. The Fells, having spent some time in their ancestral city of Prague exploring the local beverages and hostelries, decided, with the help of friends, the community, and Student Loans (Martin and Kenneth were 2nd year students at Glasgow University at the time) to start a tea shop inspired by Czech “Cajovny”. In those days we only had a mere 35 teas and were obscure to the lease. Today we can boast an extensive list of 100 teas which not only represents the tea culture around the world but the unique multicultural heritage of Glasgow – and allot of people seem to know us.
One of the defining concepts of the Czech Cajovna is to bring the exotic and otherness of far off places to our doorsteps. Hence one can step from the dreich Glasgow weather into Tchai-Ovna and it feels like stepping into a Turkish Chaikhana, or a Bedouin cave, or even a Japanese tea house, and in our experience everyone appears to find something here to which they can relate – be that a nice comfy sofa or an Afghan Chai Zanjafeel.
Another key part of the Cajovna ethic is the rejection of the culture of big business over the small, mass production over home production. For this reason we have always aimed to provide a food menu that represents the origins of our teas, but also is as home produced as is possible. Don’t come here and expect to find your favourite fizzy pop! To this end we have long supported and worked with local artists and craftspeople.
From the very beginning, and perhaps to do with our personal connection to the arts (Martin’s a Jazz Sax player, Kenneth is a writer), we have hosted events – live music, drama, story telling, alternative therapies, art exhibitions… the list goes on. Our alcohol free environment means that people of all ages and faiths can attend these events contributing to our aim to be as inclusive and welcoming as possible.
It is very important for us to not only ensure the quality of our products is high, but also to take into account concerns for the environment and for ethical trade. We also believe that ethical trade starts at home. There are too many businesses that trade in ethical, fair trade products as a kind of sales gimmick, but don’t practice ethical, fair working conditions in their own businesses. At the Tchai-Ovna we try our best to look after the environment and those who work for us; we recycle everything, we use our bike trailer to do all our shopping, and offer good working conditions and pay for our staff. Also we operate a scheme of lifelong free tea and shishas for any tchaiovnik that has worked in the shop (for a respectable amount of time!)