Drinking a cup of tea is perhaps the most English thing one can do. So to celebrate our caffeinated culture, here are five excellent tea companies based in England.
Our favourite thing about the teapigs website is their ‘mood-o-meter’ – it chooses a tea for you based on how you’re feeling, from lemon and ginger for ‘bloated’ to chai tea for ‘fussy’ and matcha green tea for ‘hungover’. Well worth playing with!
Nick and Louise started teapigs in November 2006, basing the company in Brentford. Their mantra is ‘no airs, no graces, just fine tea’ and they only sell whole leaf tea from selected estates, which is then presented either as loose leaf or in ‘tea temples’.
They have an overwhelming selection of teas on offer (well over 20) and flavours range from simple ‘everyday brew’ (blended from three whole leaf black teas – Assam, Ceylon and a Rwandan) to herbals like ‘mao feng green tea’ (which has a very romantic story behind it) and the downright bizarre, including ‘popcorn tea’, ‘chocolate flake tea’ and ‘liquorice and mint’. Between them, the teapig teas have won 13 Gold Great Taste Awards.
Price: around £4.49 per box (of 15 ‘tea temples’)
Founded in 1886, Taylors of Harrogate is an independent family business ‘dedicated to the pleasures of good tea and coffee’. Based in Yorkshire, Charles Edward Taylor was a Quaker with two sons, Llewellyn and Charles, and both young men were sent to Ashby’s in London to learn the art of loose tea buying.
Charles, the younger son, opened ‘kiosk’ tea and coffee shops with tasting rooms in Yorkshire’s highly fashionable Victorian spa towns, Harrogate and Ilkley, and the business boomed from there. Generations of Taylors ran the family business, but in the 1960s it was bought by Betty’s tea room, also in Harrogate, who wanted to keep Taylors of Harrogate close to its Yorkshire routes.
More recently, Taylors of Harrogate became the founding members of the Ethical Tea Partnership, which helps producers meet internationally recognised standards. They now produce around 30 different blends of tea, and their Yorkshire Tea blend has grown to become one of the most popular teas in Britain, and can now be found in stores all over the world.
Price: around £2.49 for a box of Yorkshire Tea, containing 80 tea bags.
Tregothnan has been home to the Boscawen family since 1335 and the estate in Cornwall is internationally known as the home of English tea – because it even grows its own tea leaves.
Tregothan began supplying England’s first and only homegrown tea (Camellia sinensis) in 2005, although it is also believed to be the first place to grow ornamental Camellias outdoors almost 200 years earlier. They produce and sell ‘Afternoon Tea’, ‘Earl Grey’, ‘Classic Tea’ and ‘Green Tea’, as well as a herbal range including ‘Chamomile’, ‘Lemon Verbena’ (called ‘The Holy Herb’ in ancient times), ‘Peppermint’ and ‘Fennel’.
Price: £5 for a 25g loose leaf caddy.
Imporient is the only UK independent tea company to handle tea at all levels of the supply chain, from point-of-origin through to point-of-sale. David Graham, owner of the company, has two sons who joined the business in 1994, making them the 5th generation of the family involved in the tea trade.
The team is based in London and Mombasa, Kenya, where the weekly Mombasa Tea Auction is held. They also own the Pfunda Tea Estate in Rwanda, which in 2011 became the first tea garden in the country to earn Rainforest Alliance certification. Furthermore, Imporient provides annual support to a large orphanage close to its Rwanda tea estate, and a percentage of the profit on every packet of tea bought online goes directly to it.
Imporient produces black, herbal, single estate and fruit teas, and also has an excellent gift section on their website where you can buy ye-olde styles boxes of Buckingham Palace Tea, or Shakespeare’s Blend Tea.
Price: £4.50 for a box of 80 tea bags.
Farrers is one of the oldest independent blenders and roasters of the finest teas and coffee, established in 1819. The business originated from a tea shop, John Farrer and Co., which has now become Farrers tea online, where you can buy a huge range of loose leaf teas.
We recommend their Lakeland Special Tea Blend (Farrer’s is based in Kendal, right in the heart of The Lake District), but ‘Keemun’ (a mellow, velvet smooth tea with a lightly scented flavour), ‘Green Gunpowder’ (a crisp, fresh, green tea with clear, golden liquor) and ‘Formosa Oolong’ (a semi fermented black tea from Formosa, China) are also worth a try.
You can also buy Rainforest Alliance coffee on their website, plus fancy tea and coffee gadgets, and cafetieres. Their biscuits look pretty nice too.
Price: around £4 for 250g of loose leaf tea.
Silver Lantern encourages you to 'make your own tea blend' with a variety of their loose leaf teas. 'For instance,' they say, 'if you love a strong, malty breakfast tea, why not create your own blend with extra Assam?' They have a whole host of suggested blend recipes online (just mix a teaspoon of that with a teaspoon of this, then brew in a 'tea ball infuser'), and a shop too where you can buy everything from ceylon to jasmine pearls, oolong, silver needles, yunnan green and gunpowder - all sold as loose leaf teas.
Silver Lantern is all about taking the time to really appreciate tea. 'There's nothing quite like watching those beautifully big tea leaves unfurl as the hot water envelops them,' they say, and we couldn't agree more. As a starting point, our favourite blend so far has to be their 'afternoon' blend - one teaspoon of assam, another of ceylon, and one more of darjeeling makes one of the best brews we've ever had.
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