This week’s ‘We Love Local’ feature is thanks to Clare Jones of Bellevue Tea in Wandsworth. They produce some cracking tea – Bellevue Belter being one of my personal fave’s!
I’ve always loved ‘a nice cup of tea and a sit down’ so was delighted to chat to Clare about all things tea…
How did Bellevue Tea come to be?
Bellevue Tea came into being out of a desire to share our love of tea with more than just our close circle of friends. Mike, my husband had been involved in the tea trade for over 20 years and we were always talking about tea to friends and giving them tea to sample. So it seemed like a natural progression to use our know-how and share our knowledge with a wider audience.
The name Bellevue comes from Bellevue Road in Wandsworth, close to where you live and run the business. Why are local products important to you?
I think local relationships are very important especially in a big city like London. The wonderful thing about Wandsworth Common is its strong sense of community. By buying locally, we are reinforcing those relationships, building networks and friendships which bring all sorts of benefits, not least that you can usually walk or cycle to buy these local products. Win win!
A new wave of tea shops seems to be popping up on every trendy street corner. Why do you think tea has become so ‘cool’?
I think people have woken up (rather late we would say!) to the huge variety that tea has to offer all sorts of tastes. On the back of the growing café culture, it’s probably only natural that someone should think that tea should be there as part of an offering. Of course, the tea offering includes herbal infusions which mean that there are naturally caffeine free drinks to offer as well which all links into the growing awareness of tea’s health benefits.
Ah! See above! It is something to do with the health benefits of green tea and the desire for caffeine-free alternatives. In addition, tea is very versatile and people like variety. This versatility has been exploited/used by tea companies to widen their product range. I know from the experience of meeting people at consumer events that for every time we asked someone what kind of tea do they liked there might be 10 different answers. Then even if they like same tea, some will like it weak or strong or with milk or without, other will only drink caffeine-free infusions or heaven forbid, they never drink tea at all, only coffee!
Worldwide consumption of tea grew by 60% between 1993 and 2010. There are very real threats to the future of tea production, so much so that the major players put their competitiveness to one side in order to protect its long-term future. How serious do you think these threats are and what do you think the future holds?
Production, particularly in East Africa (the main supplier to the UK), is also increasing. The largest consumption increases are occurring in both countries with the fastest growing populations eg Egypt and Pakistan, as well as in the largest producing states, China and India. It is quite likely going forward that India particularly will become an importer of tea which is likely to create more pressures on producers. Major brands, particularly in developed countries are increasingly entering into long-term contracts with producers to ensure both volumes and also quality of supply. There is plenty of available tea land in Africa that could be developed if the financial and political will existed.
How do you take your tea?
It varies according to the time of day. I have a strong cup of belter with milk brought to me in bed – I can barely move without this first mug of tea. Then later in the morning I drink a large refreshing pint mug of green tea. I might refresh the same leaves with another pint of hot water – definitely no milk with this.
Anything I drink after lunch will be caffeine free and I like changing what it is. Rooibos is especially good as a night-time drink if I have had maybe one glass of wine more than I meant to!
What is your favourite tea?
My favourite tea is our Nilgiri silver tip leaf tea which is drunk without milk. It is very sweet tasting and refined. It comes from a beautiful part of south India high up in the hills which is quite nice to remember as you drink the tea.
We like brewing tea in a teapot even if it is bags. Water must be freshly drawn from the tap and then freshly boiled to ensure that the water is well oxygenated. Then, almost as importantly for me is that it should be served in a fine bone china mug or cup with a thin lip.
What is your most popular product and why?
Along with English Breakfast tea, our most popular product is our Earl Grey tea bags. I think this is because we use the best quality Ceylon tea in the blend and this provides a distinctive flavour which people like.
I’ve been in situations where a nice cup of tea really has made things seem better, why do you think us Brits have this association with tea?
Tea was fairly well- established as our national drink by the beginning of the 20th century and during both world wars the government took steps to make sure that tea was available to all. Tea was rationed in the Second World War and would have been very much part of the ‘keep calm and carry on’ mentality in the face of danger and bad news. The ritual of tea making gives us something to do in times of crisis and the tea itself has been found to actually have scientifically proven calming properties.
If you could make a cuppa for anyone who would it be and what would you serve?
This is a hard one. I would quite like to have a cup of tea with my Granny again. She lived to be 96 years old which was very old 30 years ago. She was very with it, though very deaf, right up until she died. She had spent time in India but she died while I was visiting India and I never had a chance to talk to her about it. I would like to make her a cup of one of our speciality teas from India or China and to talk to her about her time in India but also the teas she liked drinking when we had tea together.
What plans do you have for Bellevue Tea in the coming year?
In the past year we have expanded our range to include popular herbal infusions like camomile and ginger & lemon, we are about to be able to offer Organic breakfast and green teas. To these, we are planning to add a flavoured green tea probably with ginger.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
At Bellevue tea we want everyone to enjoy their cup of tea, however, they like drinking it, whether it be builders or speciality tea. It’s surprising how many people apologise for the sort of tea they drink. We love all tea drinkers and that’s why Bellevue tea has a range of tea bags and leaf teas and infusions to cater for all tastes. Please do contact us if you have any specific requests, we’re very happy to talk tea.