We’d advise you to put the kettle on for this Q&A, as it seems only right when talking about the origins of a company focused on creating a ‘Good & Proper’ cup of tea.
Founded in 2012 by Emilie Holmes, Good & Proper Tea was born out of the desire to bring better cups of tea to London. Committed to sourcing the best possible whole leaf tea from around the world, the British tea brand’s English Breakfast tea bags are 100% compostable and plastic-free.
Emilie talks to us about what inspired her to start her own business in the tea industry, and how she makes sure her company does all they can to be sustainable in the world today.

F. Can you tell us about how Good & Proper Tea started?

EH. It all started, as so many businesses do, because of a personal frustration. I don’t drink coffee so could never understand why such quality and care was given to my coffee-drinking friends’ drinks compared to the disappointing cup I was almost always presented with when I ordered tea! I wanted to change that by bringing better quality, variety and most importantly theatre to the experience of drinking tea when out. With plans to first convert a 1974 Citroën-H van into a mobile tea bar, I took the idea to crowdfunding platform Kickstarter and 372 backers made that dream come true. The first cup of tea was brewed in Shoreditch on the 3rd December 2012 and now, many years later and thanks to the ongoing support of our wonderful customers, friends, partners and suppliers, we’ve had a flagship retail site, got a growing online business and, perhaps most excitingly, we now supply over 400 of the best cafes, hotels and restaurants in the UK.


F. What makes your tea different from the tea we find on the shelves at supermarkets?

EH. We look for predominantly single-origin, whole leaf teas, that are produced using traditional ‘orthodox’ methods. That means that, after being plucked, the integrity of the leaf is maintained throughout the production process, ensuring that as much as possible of the delicious, complex flavour remains intact. Most supermarket teas undergo a different process called CTC (cut-tear-curl), in which the leaves, by contrast, are macerated into smaller pieces in order to deliver a faster-brewing, stronger, more homogenised cup. Not all CTC teas are created equal and there is certainly a time and a place for a quality cup of CTC Assam, for example, but there’s no doubt that whole leaf teas, while slower to infuse, offer a more complex, flavoursome cup. Put simply, we hope our teas will give you a more delicious cup of tea!


F. If you could tell our readers one fact we probably don’t know about tea, what would it be?

EH. Perhaps the most interesting thing that most people don’t know about tea is that whether black, oolong, green or white tea - it all comes from one plant, the camellia sinensis tea plant. Wherever you are in the world, it is down to the plucking of the leaves and the production that takes place after those leaves are plucked that determines which tea type it becomes. Another good fact is that brewing temperature matters! Green teas, for example, require a lower brewing temperature - around 75 degrees. It’s worth getting right (or at least not using boiling water) in order to bring out the sweetness in your cup rather than any unwanted bitterness.


F. Sustainability is something that is becoming increasingly important in the products we consume today. Can you tell us about your approach at Good & Proper Tea?

EH. Doing things properly is something we work by. It means taking time to get things right - sometimes that means it takes longer, or is a path of more resistance, but it means nothing is by accident. It might seem simple but there’s an honesty and authenticity to it that has earned us the trust of our customers and partners and it becomes increasingly important as we grow that it remains at the heart of how we do things. Though we are a small business, we hope to have a big future ahead of us and as part of our commitment to doing things properly, it is therefore important that we play our role in protecting that future. That means ensuring that the net result of us doing business is a positive one, beyond just providing our customers with a delicious cup of tea. We need to make sure we are growing a business that is sustainable from an environmental, social and economic perspective.

The reality is that every bag of tea we sell leaves its mark – from the leaves being plucked, processed, packaged, shipped, stored, blended and ultimately consumed, there is an impact, whether environmental or social, every step of the way. It is therefore our responsibility to reduce any negative environmental footprint (perhaps by finding better packaging solutions, importing our teas by sea or minimising our waste), as well as ensure that any social impact (for example around how we work with our tea producers and the communities around them) is a positive one. It’s not easy and it’s certainly not perfect but the important thing is to keep reviewing and keep improving as we go, with sustainability playing a central role in all of our decision-making.


F. Do you have any unusual ingredients you like to use in your tea?

EH. We focus on sourcing delicious, single-origin teas, so the true hero ingredient for us is simply tea! It is an extraordinary plant that once processed offers a vast spectrum of flavour, from fresh, floral and fragrant to rich, smokey and chocolatey. It is also a fantastic ingredient for making things beyond just a cup of tea and we love playing around with tea-based recipes - from Hibiscus Margaritas to Earl Grey Lemon Drizzle cake, spiced Chai Lattes to Rooibos & Orange Iced Tea. All of our favourite recipes are in my new book, Good & Proper Tea, which covers everything from leaf to cup and how to get the most out of your tea.


F. Can you describe or give tips on the best places to eat, drink, source ingredients in London?

EH. I love eating out - it is hard to be spontaneous now my husband and I have a 1 year old but it does make it even more exciting when you do have a plan to go to a new restaurant! Particular favourites of late include Levan in Peckham, Lyles in Shoreditch and Pidgin in Hackney. And of course being based in Brockley I get all of my weekly produce from the lovely Brockley Market.


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