As the nights draw in and a chill spreads through the air there is nothing better than lighting some candles and snuggling up on the sofa with a hot mug of tea and a new boxset (I just started Narcos last night and I’m obsessed!).
I’ve been a big fan of tea for a long time and have recently really started to appreciate my loose leaf teas. It’s not just the taste but the whole ritual of tea making that I love. From waiting for the kettle to boil, to seeing the tea change colour as it brews and watching it flow from the pot to the cup, in my mind tea making allows us to slow down and really focus on the present.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing a friend of mine (and the Queen of puns) from the wonderful tea company Parched Tea. Here’s what she had to say…
How did you get into the tea industry?
I always wanted to open a cafe bar and someone said I should open a small stall to start with so I opened in the Arndale Market Food Hall with the condition that I had to serve a specialist product. I didn’t want to do coffee so I decided to do tea because Mintel had said that there was a new tea trend coming so I jumped on that and I was one of the first specialist tea shops in Manchester.
And how did it go from being a cafe to what you do now, which is more wholesale and individual sales?
I was in the Arndale Market for 6 years and through that time I developed the range of teas from tea bags to loose leaf because there were more health benefits to loose leaf, it was better quality and better tasting. I sold up in 2012 and set up the wholesale end so I now supply restaurants, cafes and delis, as well as selling online and attending markets and festivals.
How long did it take from initial conception to launch?
I was researching prior to opening the cafe for two years, getting the concept and the branding together, and the name.
How did the name come about?
I suppose I was brainstorming lots of words for thirsty, and it’s a real Northern word ‘parched’. ‘I’m reet parched me’
What’s your favourite thing about owning a tea business?
I get to try all the tea! I like being my own boss and the freedom it has. It’s also very social and always changing which I like
What’s your favourite tea?
At the moment? Because it does change. It’s Sencha Cherry Rose Tea. It’s a Japanese Green tea – but it’s not actually from Japan anymore because of the radiation, so they make it in China to the Japanese specification. Unlike Chinese green teas which are pan-fired, Japanese green teas are steamed giving them a more ‘vegetative’ or ‘leafy’ taste. It also contains cherries and rosebuds.
Do you make your own flavour combinations?
I do blend some of the teas, from my own taste and customer suggestions. I blend a lot of the herbal teas and some black ones such as the Chili Chai.
What are the health benefits of tea?
Generally, tea is from the tea plant – Camellia sinensis which can be black tea, green tea and oolongs. Tea has many active ingredients that affect our health. It is particularly rich in antioxidants and vitamins. It is known to improve our immune system, to control blood sugar levels, reduce damage to cells and prevent cardiovascular diseases. Green tea can help to detox the body, Oolong is known to be a slimming tea as it burns fat and speeds up the metabolism. Black tea when drank black (without milk) is an antioxidant. Some researchers say that tea relaxes blood vessels (improves flow-mediated dilation), but tea with milk does not. They say that some proteins found in milk, form complexes with Catechin’s in tea, its most important flavonoids.
Herbal and fruit teas aren’t from the tea plant but each have a vast array of health benefits.
So is there an optimum time for brewing tea?
Yes there is, each tea is different. Black tea about 3-5mins at 100° and green tea at 80-85°. Black teas can take it but green tea is a bit more delicate. In China they actually drink the second flush, so they wouldn’t drink it the first time, they would pour it out and drink the second cup as it tastes better – we’re very lazy in Britain though so we don’t do that.
What are the health benefits of some herbal teas then?
Bamboo leaf contains silica which is good for skin, teeth and nails. It also contains soluble fibre so is good for people with IBS.
Linden flowers are a mild sedative, which can help you sleep. We do a ‘Sleepy Tea’ which is a mix of linden, rosebuds, lavender and chamomile.
Rosehip and hibiscus tea which is known to lower blood pressure and is often called a slimming tea.
Nettle tea has around 29 health benefits, one being that it is known to lower blood pressure.
Recently you’ve done your first tasting evening? How did that go?
It went really well, we held it at Inspire café as part of the Levenshulme food and drink festival. I did a presentation and then we went through the benefits and sampled the tea. Hopefully we will do some more in the future.
Talk me through some of the tea you sell.
We sell about 60-70 varieties of black, green, herbal and fruit teas. We also have high-grade teas which are higher quality – ‘quali-tea’ (queen of puns remember). Then we have the blended teas which will be a blend of tea from different countries. We have blends such as the White chocolate mousse Black Tea which has white chocolate chips, and Vanilla Chai which is a spicy black tea, so there are lots of ‘varia-teas’ from Kenyan black tea to Chinese green tea. Then we have herbal ones such as peppermint, spearmint and bamboo leaf. From, South Africa we have Organic Rooibos tea which is naturally caffeine free with flavours such as Crème Caramel Rooibos, Spiced Rooibos and Cranberry and Pomegranate Rooibos. Certain high grade teas aren’t certified organic as they are grown so high up there are no pests so they don’t need pesticides.
Decaf tea is never fully decaffeinated so if you wanted a proper decaf it would have to be herbal or Rooibos/Redbush
Matcha seems to be the ‘superfood’ of the moment, do you sell that?
Yes we do, Matcha is the actual tea plant which is ground into powder, it’s known as a superfood as it contains beta-carotene as well as vitamins and minerals. The beta-carotene is actually 130 times more than in spinach – you can put it in apple juice, have as a shot a bit like wheatgrass, make a matcha latte or use in juices and smoothies.
I’ve also heard there has been a beer made with your tea?
Yes, when I was at the market a small independent beer company asked if they could make a beer out of my tea, they did it a few times but then my friend who owns BlackJack brewery got in touch and he said he was interested in using the Jasmine Dragon Tears Green Tea to make some beer. It’s very refreshing and tasty. You can see a vlogger review here
Where can we find your teas?
Also head to www.parchedteabar.co.uk and get in touch if you want to buy wholesale or you can also buy online to be sent to your home.
What’s the future of Parched tea?
The plan is to expand the wholesale range outside of Manchester and to build up our online customer base.
So I’ll see you soon – off to put the kettle on!