See often asked questions about our leaf teas
or tea generally :
Q. Should I use bottled water
to prepare leaf teas?
A. Don't use mineral water with leaf teas, its mineral
content will alter the taste. You can use spring water which is ph neutral,
but we would instead recommend filtered water. It will cost less and
is more environmentally friendly. Water constitutes 99% of the cup so
it’s a good question ! If you like the tea as it is, you don't
need to worry about this at all. If you had in mind to buy a new kettle
soon, you could pick a kettle that has an integrated filter.
Q. Does it matter how long I infuse my leaf teas?
A. Yes it does. Most delicate teas like white or green teas
are usually about 3 mins and about 5 mins for stronger teas. Every tea
we supply has its optimum infusion time on packaging. We like this infusion
time, it’s so pleasant to watch the leaves unfurl and transform
your cup ! See it not as a time to wait but as a time to stop for a moment...As
a general rule, don't let it infuse more than recommended or it could
develop a bitterness or exaggerate some of its character. But try the
same tea a few times and you will soon know how you like it, and that’s
Q. And what about temperature of infusion? Does
A. Yes it does, if you like delicate leaf teas like white
or green tea. For these the hot water should be stopped when you see
or hear the first bubbles forming so that it doesn't go all the way
to boiling, which could damage the delicate leaves. If you're really
into your delicate leaf teas, why not buy a see-through kettle, perfect
to keep an eye on the bubbles...
Q. We see more and more green tea available. Is
green tea recent ?
A. Green tea might be new to people but it is in fact the
oldest form of tea and the form still most popular in China. Green tea
and what we call black tea (most english tea is black) come from the same
tea plant but they are processed in a different way. Black tea becomes
black after its leaves are left to ferment, developing a strong taste
and colour. Green tea receives less preparation and is closer to its original
green leaves, and more delicate and green in taste. Tea that was first
exported to the UK and Europe generally was green. It is believed that
the process of fermentation was discovered by mistake when a stock of
tea arriving in Europe in the 17th century had naturally fermented during
transport! (we're not sure about that!)
Q. What are the different sorts of tea?
A. There are thousands of teas differing in quality and
taste. But there are 5 main families of tea, defined by the process they
||Difference in process
||From China only. The simplest and most natural form
of tea. After picking, leaves are slightly withered with great care,
and left to dry.
||The most delicate: soft, silky, slightly flowery, discreet,
very subtle and refreshing.
||After picking, leaves are left to dry under the sun
on huge bamboo trays. After a few hours leaves are heated in a copper
dish to kill enzymes that could start a fermentation. Then “massaged”
and dried again.
||Delicate, refreshing, green tea is a meeting with nature,
often with tastes of grass, sea salt, clay, humid soil, or even vegetables!
||Similar to green tea process but they have a very short
fermentation, giving it its golden colour
||Very delicate too, developing a subtle sweet fruity
taste compared to white tea which is more flowery.
||Called blue teas, because in between green and black
teas…they are partially fermented (also called oolong)
||Yellow or orangey in the cup, it develops a stronger
flavour, with notes of exotic woods, minerals or even fruits.
||Black because their leaves become black in the fermentation
||Red, copper in the cup, with the strongest flavours,
impact, body and astringency. Varying tastes: spicy, flowery, woody
Q. Are flavoured teas a recent invention of Western
A. No…scenting tea goes back a long way. At the end
of the Tang Dynasty, Chinese people mixed jasmine flowers, roses and chrysanthems
to green tea to soften its taste. Mongols or even Tibetans added spices
and dried fruits. And in North Africa they have been adding nana mint
to their tea since the 19th century. But it's true that flavoured teas
have really developed in the last few years. But beware, that’s
where the gimmick can start ! Most flavoured teas or infusions found in
supermarkets are not natural. They contain “nature identical”
flavours, derived from nature but manipulated. They are used because they
are stronger in taste and cheaper. At Leaf we refuse to use those.. We
use only 100% NATURAL ingredients. Our scented teas are either scented
with real petals, fruits, flowers or using natural liquid flavours (eg
vanilla extract) that are lightly sprayed to the leaves.
Q. So how do I know if the flavoured teas or infusions
I already buy from supermarkets are natural?
A. If a product claims 100% natural, you can be reassured.
If it doesn’t say so, have a look at the ingredient list. Does it
say “flavour” in the list or does it say “natural flavour”?
If it doesn’t say natural, that means you’re drinking something
artificial or nature identical (see above). It doesn't make sense to us
to be using a natural product like tea and then ruin it with non natural
Q. Is buying quality tea contributing to a more
sustainable fairer tea trade?
A. That's the vision we believe in. Quality tea comes
from tea gardens where the focus is on quality delivery, which enables
them to command higher prices for their efforts. Less subjected to price
crashes and pressure from the mainstream market, these gardens have
managed to develop their own sustainability. They are in control of
their prices not the other way around. This is not to say that these
gardens have no issues but they are in a much better position to manage
more efficiently their gardens. Bearing in mind over 60% of a tea garden
cost is employees salaries, employees are the first to suffer when prices
drop. A model that is based on high prices fairly justified by high
quality can only be a good thing for the entire supply chain. We believe
that by stimulating the demand for higher quality you are helping more
gardens to upgrade and mainstream brands to raise their standards. Mainstream
brands don’t do things by conviction but by demand…Your
choices dictate the market. Small players like Leaf can be catalysts
to lift standards, that’s the vision we believe in.
Q. Is quality tea affordable for everyday use?
A. Yes :-) It is incredible to think that one of our most
expensive tea on our website is available for the equivalent of 47p
a cup ! The same as a can of soft drink yet nobody wonders if a can
of soft drink is affordable... Our camomile, far superior to mainstream
ones, is only 5p a cup... Quality tea is very good value. Standard tea
is cheap beyond acceptability, it is below what it should be, definitely
below the value of the people and hard work put into it by growers and
pickers. This is the harsh reality. Tea is the food crop that employs
most people in the world after rice, so what you drink everyday can
have an impact on millions of people.
Q. is Leaf anti teabags?
A. Not in principle. They have good sides, mainly convenience.
They have bad sides 1) you don’t see the tea in them. Most people
don’t even know what tea looks like, and forget that tea are leaves
that come from a plant that grows in certain regions of the world. People
are detached from the product, contributing to devaluing it, that’s
a big concern. Big companies you find in supermarkets are teabag companies
more than tea companies nowadays. 2) Then there is the environment.
In England, over 150 millions cups (most from teabags) are consumed
each day, that’s a lot of teabags waste 3) There is also the inevitable
fact that lower qualities are used in most teabags. But we like traditional
teabags, like those made of renewal source like cotton, and we’re
thinking we might launch a quality teabag one day..
Q. Do you think everyday standard tea tastes bad?
A. Taste is relative and personal. It tastes good, because
it’s the taste people have grown up with, it is familiar and everything
about it is comforting. But quality leaf tea can open up a whole new
world of taste, definately worth a try.
Q. If you had to have one make of supermarket
teabags in your cupboard at Leaf, which one would it be?!
A. mmm....It would have to be Yorkshire Gold, the best
tasting everyday tea you will find in supermarkets and very importantly
it is using higher quality tea than the 'everyday' lot and paying a
higher price to the tea growers for this grade. If Tetley and PG / Lipton
raised to the same quality we probably wouldn't even need Fairtrade,
the market would be on its way to sorting itself out!
Q. How long has tea been around?
A. It is astonishing to remind ourselves that tea has celebrated
more than one millennium birthday. Some people believe tea was born in
China thanks to king Shen Nong who reined between 2737 and 2697 before
JC. A fine botanist, he encouraged the population to boil the water to
avoid certain epidemics. One day, sitting under a tree, a few leaves fell
in his bowl, colouring the liquor and developing a flavour. Tea was born,
so people believe! This is just one of a few legends!