The Stortford tea traders trying to get us to turn over a new leaf
Eleanor Scotchbrook meets the Bishops Stortford and Takeley couples causing a stir by blending their skills to put the tea in arteasan
With more than 165 million cups consumed in the UK every day, tea has been synonymous with the British way of life ever since the much-loved beverage was first introduced to the nation almost five centuries ago.
However, despite frequently topping the list of our favourite drinks, the art of the traditional brew has dwindled in recent years, with teapots and strainers consigned to the back of the cupboard in favour of the more convenient teabag.
However, a Bishops Stortford company is on a mission to encourage tea drinkers to bring their teapots out of retirement and help restore the custom of a traditionally made cuppa.
Artisan tea blender Tealicious was founded in 2011 by best friends Louise Cliff, 56, and Katie Hamilton, 52, who despaired at the difficulty of finding a decent loose leaf tea served in a proper teapot.
Uninspired by the teabag-dunked-in-a-mug approach taken by so many cafes and restaurants, they decided to collaborate to create Tealicious, a family-run brand with a focus on loose leaf blends, ungimmicky flavours and expertly-sourced ingredients.
Having enlisted the help of former hair salon owner Katies husband Nigel Adams, who has spent his career working as a tea taster, buyer and blender, and Louises other half, Simon, with his background in sales and marketing in the food industry, the four believe they have the perfect blend of skills for their business.
Tealicious now boasts a range of 11 teas, including Assam, Chamomile, Ceylon and Darjeeling as well as favourites such as Afternoon Tea, Breakfast and British blends.
It has also created several special blends, including Herts Delight, a rich, strong and full-flavoured tea blended for the countys hard water, and 19th Tea for Great Hadham Country Club.
And its bespoke Tea 17 blend is available to buy at Bishops Stortford grocer-cum-eatery Eat 17, which is not only a stockist but also sells Tealicious tea in its caf.
With a career steeped in tea, Nigel, a former director of primary tea buying for Tata Global Beverages, believes there is no single factor behind the drinks enduring popularity.
I really couldnt say why we Brits love tea so much, other than it covers all bases, said Nigel, who started as a trainee tea taster at Lyons Tetley.
If youre cold it warms you up, if youre hot it cools you down and if youre tense it calms you. If ever theres an accident, a tray of sugary tea is the first thing to be brought out.
Coffee has fought hard to gain ground, but next to water, tea is still the most popular drink in the whole world.
Nigel, 64, who has visited most tea-growing countries, including Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Kenya, Burundi, Turkey and Russia to name a few, credits Tealiciouss success to the growing consumer trend for authentic products by artisan producers.
I think provenance is becoming more and more important to people, said the South Street resident. Increasingly were finding that people want to buy something thats been made on their doorstep by someone whos absolutely passionate about their product, cares how it is made and spends time sourcing the very best quality ingredients.
Predominantly, Tealicious supplies the catering trade, its first and longest-standing customer being Pearces farm shop on the A10 near Puckeridge. It was a natural progression to start retailing its range of teas, available to buy in 100g packets and caddies, so people could also enjoy it at home.
As well as being available to buy in shops and online, Tealicious was recently selected for inclusion in luxury hampers made by Stortford gift company Artisan Lane.
The company is considering producing sachets of tea as wedding or party favours, while longer-terms plans could see the development of a teabag for the takeout market.
In the meantime, Tealicious continues to bring loose leaf tea and the ceremony of a freshly brewed pot to the masses by regularly appearing at county shows across the region and exhibiting at markets and food fairs, including Bishops Stortfords farmers and Christmas markets.
Simon, 61, who lives with Louise in Takeley, said: There really isnt anything better than getting people to taste the tea for themselves. Its not until theyve sampled it that they realise just how different it is to what theyre used to drinking.
Yes, its a bit more involved than using a teabag, but definitely worth it. One of the main differences is you dont get that film that can often appear on the surface of tea thats made with a bag.
The clarity of loose leaf tea brewed in a teapot is so much better it looks healthier and more appealing, especially when we know people eat, and drink, with their eyes.
Stortford MP Mark Prisk is a fan and recently made a stop at Tealiciouss offices in South Street as part of a summer-long tour of local food and drink specialists to get people talking about and tasting the variety of local produce available.
Tealicious is a brilliant local example of an innovative drinks company, he said. Their delicious blends make specialist teas accessible to everyone, and their expertise is second to none. Every tea drinker in the constituency is heartily encouraged to sample their creations.
For more information, see www.tealiciousltd.co.uk.