Tea Time in Sparta:
Established by Quakers in 1813, the tiny village of Sparta Ontario, hasn't lost it's small town charm. With wonderfully rustic buildings, clean streets and proud people, many of Sparta's over 200-year-old heritage buildings still stand, including the Sparta House Tea Room, which was built in the 1830's.
Only a short drive from St Thomas, the Tea Room, which is owned and operated by Norma & Ken Roberts, has stood in its currant configuration since 1996, after the Roberts fell in love with Sparta and renovated the sprawling manor, which has served as hotel, general and hardware store and even funeral home before becoming a tearoom.
"Sparta is a hidden gem, it really is, there is nowhere else like it in Ontario," says Norma Roberts. "The structure alone is very, very interesting. It's a beautiful building: I knew I was meant to have this building."
But its not just the building that attracts customers from all over the world - Roberts says that being British herself draws a lot of United Kingdom folks, but the pull extends both closer to home and further afield than that. It's the tea, scones, British fare and atmosphere that brings people in.
Be sure to stop into the tearoom and say 'hello' to the Roberts, walk in's are encouraged and welcomed.
In addition to having the largest teapot collection in Southwestern Ontario - numbered at over 450! - Sparta House has a wonderfully unique selection of offerings for those who want to get in touch with their English roots.
"People's taste buds change with the weather, but all my dishes are popular; we make all our dishes here on site."
Those dishes include roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding, with all the trimmings on Sundays; the daily quiche creation: chicken, veg, steak or steak and kidney pie, with traditional puff pastry; scouse, which is a Liverpool variation of Irish Stew; a variety of soups, sandwiches, and salads; and the very British Cornish Pastie; bangers and mash and ploughmans' lunch, which includes a selection of cold cuts, bread, cheese and pickles. The later is wrapped in a checkered cloth to reflect the tradition of farm wives wrapping their beloved's lunch in such a cloth to take into the fields.
adapted from an article in Elgin Tourism Guide 2015
Being a tearoom, they also serve different manners of tea, be Afternoon Cream Tea - which is more relaxed and served with raisin scones, layered in cream, preserves and fruit - or High Tea. High Tea, which is a grander affair often surprises customers. "It blows their mind, it really does," says Roberts. "They take photographs of it!" Tea paired with a selection of eight to ten bite sized samples of deserts or sandwiches, which are served on tiered cake stands, making photo opportunities too good to pass up.
The Sparta House also does a special Mystic High Tea & Tarot, where the delightful lunch is paired with a tarot card reading.
Roberts also hosts other special events during the year, such as Downton Abbey, and Coronation Street themed events, baby or wedding showers for royal arrivals and nuptials, trivia and 'Brit' nights with live entertainment.
Roberts is quick to put in a word about all the wonderful attractions to see in this small community. "Everyone is so friendly and we all work together as local merchants and support each other," she says. "That's one of the good things about living in a small community, everybody is here to help each other."
So, "leave the rat race behind and discover the timeless village of Sparta."