What do we really mean by GOOD TEA

I truly believe good tea should be good in three ways:

The first is taste; it has to taste amazing.

There is no comparison in the taste between a loving crafted loose leaf Earl Grey with real bergamot oil from a bergamot fruit and an industrial teabag with natural “flavourings” and maybe some blue, completely tasteless cornflower petals to make it look natural.

Second it has to be good for us.

No nasty chemicals, no beaches, no bags and no strings hanging menstrually over the side of your cup.

Lastly and most importantly it has to be good for the people who make it.

There are many labels and stamps printed on packaging that do a good job of green washing. But the harsh reality remains: the vast majority of people who live in tea growing communities live in very real poverty.

Most of the tea we drink in the UK does not come from China, or Japan (where they pay high prices for quality tea.) It doesn’t come from Yorkshire. It comes from India, Sri Lanka and East Africa. It comes from places where life expectancy in tea can be as low as 40s and rarely exceeds 50s. It comes from people who barely survive so we can have a cheap cuppa and the vast multinationals can maintain vast profits. It comes from exploitation of marginalised farming communities and relies on us turning a blind eye.

So when people call decent loose leaf tea, bought for quality over price, direct from a farmer “posh” you have to wonder where class comes into this? Is decent wine posh? Or cheese? Or bread? Isn’t the good stuff just a bit more expensive for a reason? When it comes to tea we only have to pay a few pence more, cup for cup. Not pounds like wine. When you think what we are happy to pay for a high street coffee on our daily commutes, does a few pennies really make a difference? Posh? Isn’t the real betrayal not our class, but our brothers and sisters in India and Africa?

We can be complicit in our ignorance or we can help change the world, a little bit for the better. Our choices matter.

I have spent the last 18 years travelling the world to work directly with farmers. I don’t dictate prices. The farmer sets what is fair for their farm and their community to flourish. We pay 12-20 times commodity prices for better quality tea - a real fair trade. We return a direct percentage of our revenue (not profits that can be fudged) back to the farms through Rare Charity – supporting educational scholarships. We are trying to do things differently. Just like the farmers who craft our tea we don’t expect you to support us just out of the goodness of your heart but because their tea will flood your life with pleasure.

It’s a pleasure revolution and I would love you to be part of it.

Henrietta (@raretealady)

All the best,

Image Henrietta Lovell
Rare Tea Lady
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Since 2000 Henrietta has been travelling the world, working directly with independent tea gardens, from the Shire Highlands of Malawi to the foothills of the Himalayas. Lovell is at the forefront of the tea revolution. She founded Rare Tea Company in 2004 to champion responsible and ethical relationships direct with farmers. In 2016 she founded Rare Charity pledging a direct percentage of Rare Tea revenue to their partner farms, supporting tertiary education scholarships. In 2019 Faber & Faber published her first book – "Infused - Adventures in Tea", named the New York Times book of the year and was awarded the prestigious Fortnum & Mason award. She is currently working on a documentary series.