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questions & answers

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 what matters!

Q. And what about temperature of infusion? Does that matter?

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 have received:

Family Difference in process Character
White teas 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.
Green teas 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!
Yellow teas 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.
Blue teas 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 teas Black because their leaves become black in the fermentation process Red, copper in the cup, with the strongest flavours, impact, body and astringency. Varying tastes: spicy, flowery, woody etc


Q. Are flavoured teas a recent invention of Western countries?

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 ingredients.

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!

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Leaf offers different types of leaf teas and herbal teas/infusions , all 100% natural, artisan and of high quality, sold as loose leaf, simply hand packed in our London workshop. Together with a lovely selection of tea accessories, tea gifts and a few textile gifts for the home we hope you will find everything for an afternoon at home with a cup of tea.

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