Modern Coffee SeriesS1. Ep3. Good & Proper Tea
Brodie Roberts | Head Barista Spitalfields
Modern Coffee Series | S1. Ep3. Good & Proper Tea // Emilie Holmes
The Challenge of Specialty Tea, making the leap from commodity to craft.
"Serious about tea yet refreshingly unpretentious, Good & Proper Tea will make you want to rediscover the glorious possibilities of the humble cup of tea." - Caffeine magazine
Tea was first introduced in Britain in the early 17th century by the East India Company. It was an expensive product and often kept under lock and key. Fast forward to the 21st Century and it is the most favoured hot beverage throughout the UK. The International Tea Committee reports approximately 100 million cups are consumed daily compared to an estimated 70 million cups of coffee. Brits will always hold the drink close to their heart but is specialty tea a thing? Where can we find it?
Above: A selection of the Good & Proper tea range
Look no further; Good & Proper Tea.
Company founder Emilie Holmes was on a mission to offer the same quality and variety that coffee drinks are provided throughout London and the UK. Having bored her friend for years she decided to make a change. Having crowdfunded the project, she turned her 1974 Citroen H van into a tea bar and was brewing the first cup in Shoreditch 2012. The business has now blossomed into a flagship Tea Bar, an online store with a growing network of hospitality partners and has recently released a book.
Emilie was kind enough to join us in Episode 3 of our Instagram Live Modern Coffee Series and provided us with some insightful tips and tricks to brewing the best cup of tea. We had so many more questions to ask the tea guru:
1. What are the key materials you use to brew a great cup of tea?
The most important components of a good cup of tea are good quality, whole leaf tea (ideally loose leaf), filtered water and a teapot with plenty of room for the leaves to unfurl as it brews. A timer is handy too to ensure you get the perfect extraction.
2. Where do you see the tea industry going?
It’s a very exciting time to be in tea as, thanks to specialty coffee, craft beer and a plethora of other wider food and drink trends, quality and provenance have rightly become synonymous with delicious flavour. And we are, it seems, in an endless pursuit of flavour. In short, that means there is a greater appreciation of good quality, carefully sourced teas that deliver a more delicious cup of tea. Where the industry will go now post-pandemic is anyone’s guess, particularly with a recession looming, but we have seen very high tea consumption during lockdown, partly because people have more time to care about the little things, but also because we often to turn to familiar comforts during times of crisis.
3. The concept of tea bags is often associated with low-grade black tea. Can you tell us more about the use of tea bags in G&P?
Teabags were originally designed with speed and convenience in mind. The CTC production method was then invented in order to fit the tea inside those bags, as well as to speed up the infusion by increasing the surface area. As a result, the tea used in tea bags all too often prioritises speed, strength and dark colour over quality and flavour. That said, the two are not mutually exclusive. Our teabags are not only plastic-free, which many low-grade supermarket tea bags are not, they are also filled with the same quality, whole leaf teas you’ll find in our loose range - as well as more room than standard tea bags to unfurl. Loose will always brew a superior cup of tea, but our tea bags can brew a delicious cup of tea from the same carefully crafted leaves.
Read more about G&P's packaging on their blog post here.
Above: Good & Proper plastic-free tea bags.
4. What is the difference between orthodox and CTC production methods?
So-called ‘Orthodox’ teas undergo a process akin to the traditional method of hand-rolling. A rolling machine gently presses the leaves, bruising and twisting them in order to break down the cell structures in the leaf. The leaves are never overworked, but instead the rolling encourages the enzymes in the leaf to react with oxygen and begin the process of oxidation. This is the favoured method of production for smaller producers or when producing high quality, whole leaf teas at scale, as it focuses on protecting the integrity of the leaf throughout production. Large scale production, by contrast, uses a process called CTC, which was designed in the 1950s to meet the demand for tea bags. The leaves are fed through large rollers with sharp teeth that crush and shred them. The process is repeated until the leaf is broken into small, uniform pieces. Tea destined for commercial tea bags is almost always treated in this way, thanks not only to the efficiency of the process but also because it prioritises strength and speed of brewing - sometimes to the detriment of quality and flavour.
5. Can you tell us about your monthly tea tastings?
We miss them! Before the lockdown, we would get together one evening every month for a couple of hours to taste our way through a range of teas. Originally we hosted these at our own Tea Bar in Clerkenwell but since handing the keys over, we now host them at friends and partner sites from within our Wholesale family. The idea is to invite both Wholesale partners and their teams, as well as customers interested in learning more, to learn the basics about tea. We cover everything from where tea is grown to how it is produced, the different types of tea and how best to brew them. We then taste our way through a range of black, oolong, green and white teas, as well as some of our favourite herbal infusions. The idea is that guests leave with a better understanding of what tea is and how exciting it can be - and most importantly as ambassadors for a better cup. It’s always a great evening so we can’t wait to be back up and running when it’s possible to do so again!
Above: A brewed Brockley Breakfast Good & Proper tea.
6. What is your favourite non-traditional tea beverage?
In winter I’m a big fan of a Rooibos Latte - it was my treat whenever I was in the Tea Bar for when I wanted something more indulgent. Made using a South African herb, Rooibos or Red Bush, it is naturally caffeine-free and with oat milk it makes a deliciously creamy latte - rich with warm woody notes and a hint of vanilla.
In the summer months, I become obsessed with iced tea. In fact, during lockdown we’ve been working on lots of new recipes which I can’t wait to share - my favourite being a Sparkling Four Seasons with Honey and Lime.
We love getting creative with tea beyond just your typical infusion, whether making iced teas, cocktails or lattes or even baking with tea - my book Good & Proper Tea is full of recipes we’ve discovered and enjoyed over the years.
7. Do you have a favourite story to share about tea? OR is there anything that you are excited about for G&P and would like to share?
The sun may have gone in for now, but starting this week we’re releasing a new Iced Tea recipe every week so do keep your eyes peeled on our social channels. We love seeing other people’s creations too so we’re hoping our own recipes will inspire lots more. Our fiercely competitive annual Big Iced Teaser competition was, of course, canceled this year, but perhaps baristas will still turn their hand to some recipe development at home...
Keep your eye out for our very own bespoke Watch House Breakfast tea, made by the tea masters at Good & Proper.