Emilie Holmes is not a coffee drinker. While many were enjoying the new level of coffee culture that was pouring through the UK in the late 00s and early 10s, Emilie was frustrated by the quality and care given to preparing a coffee compared to the disappointing cup she was almost always presented with when she ordered tea.
So in 2012, she founded Good & Proper Tea to bring that same quality, variety and consistency to the tea offering – in coffee shops, restaurants and home brewing. Sourcing distinct, high quality, single-origin teas from around the world and giving people the know-how to brew them, Emilie is on a mission to make sure we’re all drinking a delicious cup of tea, every time.
Now that you can add some Good & Proper Tea to a greeting card order to make it an extra special gift, we thought it was high time for a chat with Emilie. So we put the kettle on to have a good and proper talk – and learn Emilie's tips to make the perfect cup of tea.
Can you remember your first cup of tea, Emilie?
I would love to say yes but my family have been big tea-drinkers for as long as I can remember so I can’t remember any one particular cup. That said, I can remember visiting tea estates in India when my family lived there when I was about 6 years old. I am sure having seen the leaves being plucked at origin played a role in my curiosity about what goes into a delicious cup of tea.
"It can be a very mindful moment in your day - the act of simply putting the kettle on, spooning the leaves into your pot and then watching them dance around as they slowly infuse."
Do you think people in the UK think about tea in too narrow terms?
That is certainly the challenge that I set out to take on when I first started the business 7 years ago, but since then we have come a long way. We still have a long way to go and breakfast tea still makes up a huge proportion of any tea sales, but so-called ‘speciality tea’ has seen significant growth over the last 5 years while ‘standard’ black tea sales have begun to stagnate. There is a younger, more discerning tea-drinker now who is looking for a greater variety of teas – something different for morning, afternoon and night.
Just like with craft beer or specialty coffee, once you have tasted the flavour of a really good cup of tea, it’s hard to go back...
How would you like people to view tea?
For me it’s nothing more than wanting people to taste for themselves how good tea can be, when it’s done right. If a breakfast tea with milk is how you start your day then why not make it a really good one with plenty of flavour…
Do you think the ceremony of brewing tea should be embraced more in modern western culture?
Tea is steeped in tradition and almost every culture around the world has their own take on the brewing and preparation of tea. I think it’s important to recognise those traditions, particularly when enjoying a tea from that region, but in the end all that really matters is that you get the best flavour out of the leaf. There is some science to it, but for the most part how you do that is just a personal choice. I do think, however, that introducing some ritual to brewing is part of the pleasure of drinking tea.
It can be a very mindful moment in your day – the act of simply putting the kettle on, spooning the leaves into your pot and then watching them dance around as they slowly infuse. The reward, of course, is the delicious cup of tea at the end.
What more uncommon tea do you think people should try?
Tea is so varied it is hard to recommend one thing to everyone. Oolong teas offer an amazing spectrum of flavour, sitting anywhere between fresh, floral green teas and rich, robust blacks. I’d also always recommend people to try a good quality green tea and brew it a little cooler than they might be used to – around 75 degrees. Green tea can be smooth, floral and delicately sweet, but low quality green tea brewed with boiling water is often bitter and unpalatable. Most people mistakenly think they don’t like green tea for that reason.
What's your favourite tea?
I couldn’t possibly answer that – I go through phases! I have a bit of a soft spot for Assam, a rich, malty black tea that is delicious with or without milk but I also love our Hibiscus to perk me up mid-morning and always end the day with a honey-sweet Chamomile so…
When is your favourite time for tea?
You can’t beat the first cup of the day, in bed. Ideally made by my husband : )
What are you favourite pieces of Papier and what do you use them for?
I’m a total sucker for stationery, always have been. I can’t resist a diary or planner. I usually have weekly, monthly and yearly planners on the go. I love visualising the weeks and months to come in order to help me plan, both at work and personally. They’re looking decidedly blank at the moment though so I’m desperate for the moment I can put something in!
Emilie's tips for making the perfect cup of tea
1. Get yourself some good quality, whole leaf tea.
2. Choose loose leaf to give the leaves as much room as possible to infuse.
3. Fill up your kettle with freshly drawn water (it has more oxygen and so will brew a brighter cup).
4. Get your water temperature right depending on the type of tea – just off the boil for black teas or herbals, a little cooler for greens, oolongs or whites.
5. Pour the hot water over your leaves for 2-5 mins depending on the guidelines for your tea.
6. Remove the leaves to ensure it doesn’t over extract.
When you next send a Papier greeting card to a loved one, you'll be able to make it an extra special delivery by adding Good & Proper Tea and Pump Street Chocolate before you get to the checkout.