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Family traditions go back 200 years

High tea is an old custom, one that seems suited to a family celebrating 200 years in Canada, a milestone recognized with congratulatory messages from Queen Elizabeth and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The Lewis family’s history dates back to 1819 when William Lewis and Edith Leach came to Canada from Wicklow, Ireland.

“We originated from Wales, United Kingdom,” explained Janice Lewis. “There’s a lot of royalty in that family tree. So we came here quite prominent. Our ancestors took up crown property in Wellington North, where the family was established.”

Descendants of the family worked in many different industries – Henry Lewis (born 1845) served at Canada Post, George Lewis (born 1871) helped to construct roads and buildings shaping Canada, while his sister Barbara Lewis (born 1874) was an entrepreneur.

William Lewis (born 1906) dedicated his life to agriculture building, and George (born 1933) helped to build the unionized construction industry. The family has descendants all across Canada and America. In the present day, Janice’s daughter, Vittoria Tinchi, works at the Homewood Hotel Suites in St. Jacobs as a director of sales marketing.

“I’m very proud of [Vittoria]. She’s really done amazing things for this area,” said Lewis. “She’s really established our family once again.”

One of the ventures at the hotel is the high tea experience, served on Thursdays and Saturdays. The traditional mix of tea, savouries and sweets is aimed at group events –bridal showers, corporate meetings or bus tours to the nearby theatre, for example – and features the likes of finger sandwiches, scones, fruit preserves, desserts, and loose leaf tea.

“We do utilize the St. Jacobs market to source our produce,” said Tinchi. “So we try to use a 100-kilometre philosophy in all of our food and beverage, whether it be banquets or just our complimentary meals. So we really like to highlight Woolwich as much as we can.”

Since its inception three years ago, the St. Jacobs high tea has been served to more than 1,200 people. The Lewis family had prior experience operating a tearoom in Mount Forest before doing so here in Woolwich.

“Our guests are our top concern,” said Tinchi. “We like to make known that we’re here. We want to make friends with people in our community, we want to make those partnerships, and we want to do it to enhance our experience that we give our guests.”

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