Unless I’m travelling I start every day with bed-tea: White Silver Tip Tea in bed. I tiptoe to the kettle, still half asleep and take my tea back to bed. Those first fragrant sips whilst I listen the birds and gently wake up starts the day beautifully.
It’s always White Silver Tipbecause it really is the most gentle, sweet and delicate tea. During the course of each day I drink many, many cups of all kinds of tea from deep, dark black teas to umami oolongs. I have no favourites – I select all our teas because I love them and believe they are the very best that can be found. But drinking these delicate spring buds in the morning is an exquisite pleasure.
I spend more and more of my life visiting tea gardens, tasting the wonderfully idiosyncratic leaves of each new place and each new harvest. Often I take a photographer with me to capture the unique beauty of the garden. It helps show my customers the people and the great care they go to grow and craft our precious leaves.
Those are the very best days, waking up on a remote mountain side without knowing what the day might hold. I visit each of the farms we work with – small independent gardens dotted across the globe. In this way I can ensure not only the best tea but that we only work with people who farm sustainably; both for the land and the people that live and work on it to thrive.
My day will consist of visiting the fields and meeting the people – watching and learning how the leaf is crafted and finally choosing specific harvests. The tea from each varietal, from each field, from each time of plucking will differ. I taste each small batch that has been crafted through the season. Sometimes I try 20 teas at a time to compare and evaluate carefully.
I usually stay on the gardens with the farmers and nights are spent discussing crafting techniques, future plans and some of the many challenges they face in their remote corners of the world. I try to tell stories of the places that their tea ends up – to build hope, pride and confidence that what they are doing is truly appreciated. It’s strange to be in the foothills of the Himalayas explaining what Afternoon Tea at Claridges is like – or how important and wonderful a little restaurant in Copenhagen called Nomais.
If we can get people around the world to appreciate tea like wine – to buy it for exquisite flavour and the generations of skills and expertise in the crafting – then hopefully our farmers will thrive like vineyards. Sipping my tea at home in bed I always remember that. I have a great responsibility to my farmers – to build the reputation and appreciation for fine hand-crafted tea – so that they will have a market and a future.
Blending is still one of the most important parts of my job. I set aside quiet afternoons in the tasting room to work on blends. I have created bespoke blends for chefs like Fergus Henderson, and as well as for the Royalty of Hollywood, the Premier League and Palaces. Each season the blends need to be re-worked as harvest change. Tea blending is more like wine than perfume, with the blend constantly needing to be re-worked to maintain the flavour profile.
My days in London are spent with chefs and restaurants and hotels – helping them chose the right tea and explaining how best to serve loose leaf. The finest leaves need care and effort to make really beautiful tea. Chefs and sommeliers and great front-of-house staff understand that. It’s just like any recipe – you need to get the proportions, temperatures and timings just right. We’ve recently been creating videos for our online and retail customers too – so that they can get the best out of their leaves.
Now that we are exporting around the world I travel to meet our customers as well as our farmers. I just got back from LA where I was helping launch our Rare Tea at The Chateau Marmont in Hollywood (Sister to London’s Chiltern St Firehouse where we also do the tea). While I was in LA the lovely people from Olmeca Altos Tequila took me out to thank us for some award-winning tea cocktails. I work more and more with bartenders and brands, consulting and creating bespoke cocktails using tea. Nights can get messy sampling and celebrating these delicious concoctions. For my health and dignity I should probably stick to tea – but cocktails are so much fun and working with flavour is always fascinating. I recently created a bespoke blend tea to be served alongside Johnnie Walker Blue Label.
All in all my days and nights are packed full. I wouldn’t get through without plenty of tea. And plenty of help from my amazing team. And the invaluable support of all my customers.
For more information, visitwww.rareteacompany.com