Churchill’s Fine Teas inspires people on their tea journey, an approach appreciated in Cincinnati where the shop was named Best Tea Shop/Selection in Cincinnati by City Beat Magazine’s readers five years in a row. This year, Churchill’s was included in the Best of Cincinnati by Cincinnati Magazine for the first time.
The owners take into consideration every aspect of the customer’s experience, from the location to the teas they order and the special events they produce.
Kathleen Kern, co-founder of Churchill’s Fine Teas, grew up in England. “I could never get good tea here, it was always mass-produced tea bags,” she said. Kern relied on her relatives to bring good tea when they visited Ohio. In 2003, after working a 25-year career in executive search, Kathleen decided to open a tea shop with her daughter, Katherine Kern.
The demand for the tea shop’s Afternoon Tea service led the Kerns to move to a larger space in 2009 in Cincinnati’s Findlay Market—Ohio’s oldest surviving municipal market house, which has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1972.
“People were encouraged to try different teas and find different things that they liked,” Katherine said. “Then they found tea that they loved and started buying it to make it at home.” Now, Churchill’s Fine Teas is more focused on being a tea store and Afternoon Tea is offered during special events like the upcoming Holiday Afternoon Tea and Tea Tasting in November.
They opened a second location, in November 2017 at Rookwood Commons, which is a lifestyle mall in suburban Cincinnati.
Both locations have a sample wall of teas where customers enjoy the sensory experience of breathing in the teas’ aromas. “It’s a very experiential environment that you don’t necessarily get in other retail stores,” Katherine said. Tea samples are always available to introduce first-time customers to tea. The Kerns are eager to provide guidance to those who need help in finding their preferred flavor profile. The stores consistently carry about 265 teas, plus some limited edition and seasonal teas, bringing the total to around 280. They also do custom blending.
One popular tea is a Lemon Drop blend that won a Gold Medal in the 2017 Global Tea Championship in the Black Tea – Flavored category. It is a mix of black tea, lemon myrtle, and lemon rind.
To source great teas, the Kerns work with importers and travel to Asia. “Part of the fun is to go for unique, limited-edition teas that we can bring back,” Kathleen said. China, Taiwan, Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Japan, and Malaysia are familiar destinations. Katherine added, “You’re there to learn about something that is very central to most of those cultures so they’re excited to share it with you.” In-turn, the Kerns educate and share the world of specialty tea with customers.
They also introduce customers to teas through their tea clubs. Customers are sent four to five new teas each month with accompanying information and sometimes recipes, too.
They host several on-site events each month, one of which is called “Around the World in 15 Cups of Tea,” which is a three-course series with tea tastings. They also do off-site events at the Summit Hotel and in Findlay Market. Additionally, they work with local breweries to create tea-infused beer.
“For a 5,000-year-old product, tea has really just come into its own,” said Kathleen.
A tea tasting at the Rookwood Commons location.