Thursday, 5 June 2014

A meeting with the Rajah of Darjeeling!


Yesterday I met with Rajah Banerjee from the Makaibari Estate in Darjeeling, India. Well only just anyway! He was in London for a day and we decided to meet at a coffee shop in St Pancras International Station before he caught his train back to Paris that day. Unbeknown to both of us, there were two coffee shops with the same name and the Rajah was in one and myself in the other! I managed to approach three people asking them if they were 'the Rajah', which prompted some very perplexed, if not slightly worried faces. After a few email exchanges via our phones (his network wasn't working in the UK) we realised what was happening and I ran downstairs to meet him - luckily we had some time to chat before his train was due to leave.

The Makaibari Estate was the worlds first tea factory, established in 1859. Rajah Banerjee became the fourth generation owner and turned the estate into an incredible, biodynamic plantation that for every acre of tea has two acres of wild rainforest. This holistic approach inspired by Rudolf Steiner has resulted in a uniquely healthy soil that produces some of the finest teas in the world. Fully organic and Fairtrade certified, the Rajah Banerjee has created an exemplary model of not only how to grow tea, but how to live sustainably and create a model that benefits everyone involved, including the environment.


The first thing that strikes you about the Rajah is his charisma. He has an infectious smile and a sharp sense of humour. Unsure which place to suggest we a drink, I let him make the decision - which was straight over the road and in to the wine bar! After ordering a straight whiskey for himself and a rather nice glass of red for me, we toasted and sat down to discuss...well, almost everything apart from business.

I mentioned briefly what our plans were, before the Rajah began to tell me about the tea plantation, how everyone thought he was crazy when he decided to turn it organic back in the 80's, and his plans for the future which were ambitious to say the least, but somehow I felt confident he is going to make them work. You get the impression that he is a very well connected and influential person, not only in the tea industry but in textiles, herbs and spices. At one point things got quite deep, touching on spirituality, the concept of ownership and the universe itself!

Before we knew it our glasses were empty and it was time to leave. As we were walking to the platform I asked him how he would like to continue. He suggested we come and visit the Makaibari Estate in Darjeeling, kindly mentioning it is as much ours as it is his. I asked a few standard logistical questions about order quantities etc. but his response was 'Whatever you need we can make it happen.' 

So after a firm handshake and a wave he set off on the Eurostar and I left feeling positive about the beginning of what we hope will be a very long and fruitful relationship.

- Dave x

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

A mission and a brand!



So we've been thinking a lot about how to brand Leafy. How should we look, what should our website do, what is our personality? (OK, that makes us sound a bit like an insecure Philosophy student!)

As you may be aware (because you are here), we finally got our domain name - leafy.org! Thanks to Chris from Seven Creative in Sheffield who kindly guided us through the process of acquiring it - your tea is in the post Chris.

But we decided that the most important thing was to define what our mission is. Why are we doing this and what do we want to achieve? Then, once our mission statement is in place, the branding can be moulded around this to help communicate who we are and what we do to the big wide world. 



So why are we doing this, we hear you cry?! Well, apart from being really exciting and the fact we get to drink loads of amazing tea, we also want to change things for the better and make a positive (if not slightly disruptive) impact in the tea industry. Even if it is a small ripple in a vast ocean of tea, we want to change something, for the better.



We have done our research into the tea industry. Whilst there are some exciting new companies emerging, the vast majority is still controlled by large corporations whose focus is solely on top line profit, or smaller companies who purchase from large wholesalers.



Wholesalers and large companies often store tea in huge warehouses, sometimes for years at a time. When it finally reaches the store shelves, it still has to sit there waiting to be purchased. Sometimes the wholesalers even buy off other wholesalers in the tea's country of origin.


While this system can make sourcing tea easier for these companies, it ends up making your tea taste, well, a bit rubbish. Also, because everyone is taking their cut along the way, it also inflates the price which has the effect of squeezing wages for the farmers and producers. 

We want to change that.We think customers deserve a better cup of tea, they deserve to know where it came from, how it was grown and who it was grown by. 


We think there are better methods of farming and that you don't need to drink tea with higher amounts of carcinogenic pesticides when there are so many organic farms producing the most amazing cups of tea you have ever tasted! 


We're working on refining this down to a sentence or two so we can have a clear mission statement. A couple of friends have offered to help us with our initial branding (cheers!) which we will begin as soon as our mission statement is complete.


Eventually we need to build our website and have been chatting to some amazing people already who have taken an interest in our company (the power of a good brew is sometimes underestimated!) We are planning to create something super smart and slick - watch this space! 

That's all for now, see you soon!
Dave and Kasha

Saturday, 24 May 2014

The problem with tea bags

We've been thinking about how to package our tea for a while now. At the moment around 95% of the UK population drink tea from bags. We want to change that! Here's why...


Tea bags were never really intended to be used in the way we do today. Back in 1904, a New York coffee merchant by the name of Thomas Sullivan began marketing tea sold in hand sewn silk bags that were intended to be removed by the customer and the loose leaf tea inside brewed in the normal way. However, people found it easier just to leave them in the bags and thus the tea bag as we know it today was born.


So, what's the issue? Tea bags are easy to use and we've been using them for over 100 years! Well, let's take a look at the different types of bag and the potential problems that surround them....


Flat paper bags usually contain fannings or dust, which is basically a very low grade of tea. Its cheap and infuses well in a small tight bag because of its larger surface area. This is the everyday tea we are used to drinking and marketed by the large multinational companies such as Tetley (Tata) and Unilever.




Pyramid style bags are currently either made of nylon or a bioplastic derived from corn starch. They allow the tea to move around more freely than a flat bag. However, Nylon is not biodegradable and when mixed with hot water it can actually release toxins, which are not welcome in our cuppa thanks very much! The bioplastic option, although an improvement on nylon, is still not biodegradable, even though many companies are actually actively marketing it to be so (naughty!)

Muslin cloth bags are our favourite  tea bag option. They are fully biodegradable and organic cotton could potentially be used (although we haven't come across anyone who does as of yet.) However they are expensive to manufacture and some people report an inferior taste, plus the shape doesn't allow the tea to move around freely which hampers infusion.



With these potential issues it begs the question - why do we actually use tea bags?!

They were born out of convenience and us humans are a bit of a lazy bunch, anything that saves a few seconds here or there or requires just a little less effort is usually welcome! But is making a tea with a bag actually any easier than brewing loose leaf tea?

With the bag method, you throw the bag in a cup or teapot, pour in your hot water, quite often losing the little paper tab in with your tea whilst doing so, let it brew, pull out the bag, drip water all over the floor and throw the bag in the bin, which may or may not end up clogging up a landfill site (or your garden compost) depending on the type of bag.


To brew loose leaf tea using an infuser, you fill the infuser up with tea, place in the cup/pot and add hot water, then empty into your compost bin by squeezing the handles once your tea has brewed.










If your teapot has a built in infuser, you add the tea and empty the infuser when you are done. Sounds pretty straight forward to us! One thing brewing loose leaf tea does rely upon is that you own the right kind of teapot or an infuser, so we need to make sure all of our customers can get hold of one or the other easily.








With all this taken on board, we think loose leaf is the way to go. It's the best way to get a good tasting brew, its the most environmentally friendly and it doesn't require any more effort than using tea bags. We may have to work hard educating the 95% of tea bag drinkers out there, but we are committed to creating an honest company that improves the way we drink tea, what tea we drink and the impact of the tea industry on the environment. If that means leading a crusade to educate the masses then so be it!

What are your views on tea bags vs loose leaf? Do you see loose leaf tea as more effort to brew? Let us know in the comments section below!

In other news, we have got some very exciting organic tea samples on their way over to us as we speak - we'll be reporting back soon with some pictures!

Stay Leafy!

Dave x

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Ahoy!


Hi, we're Leafy! We are in the process of launching our tea company and currently sourcing sustainably grown, rare and beautiful teas from all over the world.

Subscribe to our blog and join us on the journey. There will be some amazing highs and most likely some low times too, but with your help we believe we can build something together and have a positive impact on the environment, the producers, our community (that's you) and everyone else who drinks our tea.

More soon, but for now, stay Leafy.

Dave & Kasha x
Leafy