Unique Cornish tea-room and cafe up for rent

A riverside café which actually warrants the description ‘unique’ is being offered on a ten-year lease – it is Smugglers Cottage at Tolverne, near Falmouth in Cornwall, which is available for what the owners call ‘the first time in living memory’. One of the remarkable features of the business is that it is part of the Tregothnan estate, which is of course the site of the only commercial tea plantation in the UK. It follows that the successful operator will have the reflected glory of working with Britain’s only home-grown tea brand.

There are only two ways to approach Smugglers – one is by a lane through one of Cornwall’s most picturesque areas, and most customers arrive by boat, as it is one of the most popular cruise destinations in the area.

The main part of the property is a 15th-century cottage. In previous centuries this was popular for an entirely different reason – it was the landing-place for brandy and various other items of contraband which were brought in by sea-going vessels which could get right up the extremely deep creek to unload. At the end of the second world war, it was the embarkation point for the D-Day landings.

The café has been known as a tourist spot for many years, but most recently it has become known as the tea-room which is part of Britain’s only commercial tea plantation.

This is because it is part of the estate of the Boscawen family, who hols the title of Lord Falmouth. It is a private botanical garden of vast importance – in the 1800s the family were Victorian explorers who brought back, rare trees, shrubs and plants, including probably the earliest planting in the UK of camellia sinensis, the tea plant. The garden is an official ‘safe site’ for the keeping of rare or endangered trees from all over the world , and has cultivated the Willomia pine or ‘Dinosaur tree’, a prehistoric species thought to be extinct until 1994 when a handful of trees were discovered in a remote Australian valley.

It was under gardener Jonathan Jones that experiments were made to cultivate tea in sufficient quantity to sell – the first ‘English tea’ was sold to Fortnum and Mason in 2005, and it is now a very popular, and quite expensive, product.

The estate has recently refurbished and re-equipped the tea-room, which now has restaurant, bar, tearoom and barbecue facilities together with terracing to hold around 200 people, and increased car parking… and increased mooring facilities as well.

The closing date for expressions of interest and proposals for the site on a new ten-year lease is 31st October. Details from Jonathon Jones on 01872 520000 or jjones@tregothnan.co.uk

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This story is from Boughton’s Coffee House, the leading magazine for the UK coffee trade. The story also appears on the Caffe Culture Portal, the news site allied to the coffee trade’s leading exhibition.

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