Her trademark – taste sensations

By Sari Väyrynen / Translation: Richard Foley / Photos: Arto Liiti

The aroma that envelops you when you enter the shop will have you craving a coffee. The atmosphere transports you to an idyllic European shop, even though your location is most decidedly north. Blanka Schusterova, proprietor of the coffee and tea emporium Mandragora, greets you brightly with the question, "Coffee or tea?"

Friends of gourmet delicacies in Rovaniemi such as myself actually have Blanka’s mother to thank that there is now a shop in town where you can get coffee and tea to suit any taste.

"She always sent me tea from Czech and ultimately suggested I should open my own shop", Blanka says.

And so her daughter became the only importer and retailer in Finland for the Czech coffee and tea wholesaler Oxalis, and opened her own shop in the centre of Rovaniemi. In addition to coffee and tea, Mandragora offers a selection of fine chocolate, as well as coffee- and tea-brewing supplies.

Lapland: What a difference an exchange makes!

What brought Blanka to Rovaniemi originally – four years ago – was the opportunity to spend a year as an exchange student at the University of Lapland. The North made quite an impression on her.

"It was the best part of my student years! Soon after I returned home, I finished my master’s degree and wanted to work abroad. Coming back to Finland was an easy choice."

The best way to find work was to start up one’s own business.

"This has given me the opportunity to experience and be part of Finnish culture", says Blanka, in fluent Finnish.

Genuinely enthusiastic about her work, the coffee and tea merchant has begun planning a web shop, and is thinking of opening stores elsewhere in Finland somewhere down the line.

"But right now there is no better place for me than Rovaniemi. Here I’ve had room to look for and find myself", she says with a smile.

Nomen est omen perhaps? Mandragora (the mandrake plant) is beneficial to one’s health when used in moderation – just like coffee and tea.

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