My first taste of tea came at a very young age and must have been from an unattended cup belonging to one of my parents. I would love to say that this first experience started me on my tea journey, but it didn’t. More experiences followed in my early twenties from politely accepted cups offered by a variety of equally polite hosts. Sadly, the conclusion was the same. I didn’t like tea. In fact I would go as far as to say I disliked it. To me it was bitter and not at all pleasant. Even meeting my tea enthusiast wife couldn’t persuade me otherwise. Tea just was not for me. Give me a nice rich hot chocolate or just a water, anything but tea.
Now, if you have read the previous blog post you will know that I somehow ended up in Darjeeling, the classic tea region in northern India, where I was converted to the joys of a good cup of tea. I haven’t looked back.
However, despite this conversion my battle with tea did not end in Darjeeling. Once back in the UK and eager to explore loose leaf tea, I soon hit a ‘lack of knowledge’ wall. Infusion times, multiple infusions, fermentation, Gong Fu teapots and a multitude of fancy named teas all made me wonder where I could possibly start. Luckily, Michelle was able to help me but it still took me quite a long time to feel confident in the world of tea. Thankfully I did not give up along the way.
These experiences have definitely had an impact on our business. My turn around happened due to several important reasons. The first was that the tea served was loose leaf. It seems that is is the taste of the standard tea bag that is not for me, rather than tea as a whole. Now, 95% of the 165 million cups of tea drunk in the UK each day are from tea bags (UK Tea Council). Obviously we would be foolish to say that they are all wrong, so we would instead say that loose leaf tea is, for us, essentially a different drink.
Loose leaf tea, of course, is a drink that requires a bit more attention than the regular tea bag, but with a little knowledge this is not generally as complicated as it may appear. We therefore make sure that we gather and share such information with our customers to ensure that there are no ‘walls’ in the way of making a good cup of tea.
Another reason for my turn to tea was that I accepted the cups in Darjeeling with an open mind. It was hard not too, sitting in the actual tea estate where the tea came from, opposite Mr Banerjee the owner! This lead to an acute understanding that sharing the story and provenance of our tea is vital to making sure our customers get the most out of it.
The final point was that the whole tea experience was relaxed and unforced. We sat and chatted with Mr Banerjee for a long time. He is a very unique man and the conversation was consequently very interesting. It was certainly not a repeat of those early awkward silences over an unwanted cup of bitterness. So we will always recommend that when making loose leaf tea you take the time that it demands, both in the brewing and also the drinking.
We hope that our approach helps our customers appreciate tea as the fascinating and delicious drink that it is.