It was always coffee, thought Emilie Holmes. Every high street had a coffee shop, whether good, bad or indifferent, but what about the tea drinkers?
In Britain, we manage to get through 100 million cups of tea a day, only the Irish and the Turkish drink more than us. (We know, tea drinking seems so essentially British, but people in Turkey consume over a kilo more tea, around 500 cups, per person per year. We live and learn.)
“An imported culture of skinny lattes and frappucinos-to-go has meant coffee has dominated our high streets for over a decade,” says Emilie. “And although tea remains the nation’s favourite hot drink, the quality on offer is more often than not distinctly average.”
Emilie decided tea drinkers needed what coffee-lovers had: a choice of different blends and passionate staff who knew how to work with the product. She crowd-funded enough to buy a small 1974 Citroen-H van, nicknamed it Watson, and hit the road in December 2012.
Good & Proper Tea have worked with cafes and restaurants across the UK, but the pandemic meant it was time to take tea in a different way. They now sell single-origin and blended teas to home drinkers. The company also works with suppliers across 13 different tea producing countries, supporting sustainability initiatives and paying prices above the Fairtrade standard.
They’re being good and proper in terms of their packaging too: their tea bags have been plastic-free for years and are made of a corn starch derivative, meaning every bag is fully compostable. Even the plasticy-seeming stuff keeping the tea bags fresh will biodegrade; it’s actually a material called Natureflex and is made from wood pulp.
All of this means every tea leaf reaches you in the best possible condition, ready for some boiling water and a moment on the sofa.
Why they are different
This will be the best cup of tea you’ve ever had, one that feels like it fixes all ills. Their English Breakfast blend is the furthest thing possible from dropping a no-name bag in a chipped cup in your office kitchen (remember that?). It’s a mix of Kenyan, Assam and Ceylon teas, punchy and golden. Who wants to put the kettle on?
Why they are kind
Their direct relationships with suppliers mean they can address issues at a local level. In Malawi, standard tea is a traditional crop, so it’s still grown by many small farms, but prices are low and unpredictable. Good & Proper Tea started to source all the hibiscus for their herbal tea from a group of farmers in Malawi. Now their business accounts for more than 40% of Malawi’s hibiscus and farmers have a higher-value crop to sell.