We talk to Good & Proper founder Emilie Holmes about the inspiration behind her business and what makes the perfect cup of tea… Plus, there are some recipes for iced tea, perfect for those long summer evenings
Cold-brewed Hibiscus and Mint
1ltr filtered water
A sprig of mint
Plenty of ice
Cold brew for 12-15 hours. Serve over ice with a sprig of fresh mint.
Cold-brewed Darjeeling and Elderflower
1ltr filtered water
Plenty of ice
Cold brew for 8-12 hours. Add elderflower cordial to taste – approximately 10:1 Darjeeling to Elderflower. Serve over ice.
Emilie, what inspired you to set up Good & Proper?
The business was born because I was a frustrated tea-drinker – I don’t drink coffee and couldn’t understand why when I went for a ‘coffee’ with a friend, they always got something beautifully crafted by an expert barista, while the tea was always a disappointing afterthought.
I complained about it to family and friends for years, before finally realising I was going to have to be the one to change it! I wanted to create a destination for tea-drinkers – a space where you could expect the same dedication to quality, variety and care in preparation for your tea that you have now come to expect in coffee shops.
The world of tea is much more exciting than I had anticipated and just like with wine, you never stop learning. I also lived in India when I was young, so had visited tea estates which played a role in my passion.
How did you feel when you raised enough money on Kickstarter for it to happen?
I couldn’t believe it really – it was very surreal. I had heard about Kickstarter as a funding platform but, at the time, it was only in the US, so I was still working out how far my personal funds would go and what options I had.
Then, one evening, Kickstarter announce on Twitter that they would be going live in the UK and were now accepting UK-based projects – it felt serendipitous. Although no-one I knew seemed to have heard of crowdfunding – it was a completely novel concept in the UK at that time – it was my best shot so I had my ‘project’ on the site ready to go the day the platform went live and then crossed my fingers and hoped for the best!
Within five days we had overfunded to around £14k and my dream, that had only existed on paper prior to that moment, had suddenly become a reality. More important than the funds pledged was actually the support – it was overwhelming. I had emails from people all over the world offering advice, skills and words of encouragement, which as a sole founder in that angsty first phase of a business, was hugely reassuring. All these people believed in my idea and were rooting for me to make it happen and that continues to be a source of support even now.
What sets Good & Proper tea apart from other brands?
We talk a lot internally about what Good & Proper means, and what’s exciting is that it is something that goes well beyond just the tea. In its simplest form, it describes our approach to everything we do – from finding, tasting and selecting the teas to custom-brewing them for our customers to bring out the best possible flavour in each cup.
We keep it simple – we look for teas that are the best possible examples of their type, taking into account both the quality of the leaf and the flavour in the cup, as well as the way the customer will experience it. We then focus on every detail of that experience, whether it be in-store or at home.
By keeping it simple, getting the details right and most importantly taking the customer on the journey with us, we hope to change the way people think about and drink tea. It is an exciting, growing market and there is so much going for tea as part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle so it is great to see more and more buzz around it.
Why do you think Earl Grey is such a popular tea?
It never ceases to amaze me how much people love Earl Grey! It is notoriously divisive as those that don’t like it, really don’t like it, but those that do often refuse to drink anything else! Earl Grey drinkers often have it as an alternative to English Breakfast, considering it to be a superior, more flavoursome brew than your average cup of ‘builder’s brew’.
It is true that when faced with poor quality choices, Earl Grey is usually a better option as the bergamot lifts an otherwise flat cup of tea! It is certainly lighter and a popular option for those who don’t take milk too. It is also very traditional, so many have a real nostalgia attached to it. Perhaps their parents or grandparents drunk it, so the aroma and flavour brings back memories. The bergamot has such a unique and distinct flavour that it gets people hooked…
What made you organise a survey to discover how people felt about Earl Grey?
We had years of Earl Grey anecdotes from four years of serving tea every day (one lawyer who triple-bagged his Earl Grey, another who added ground pepper on top of his!), but wanted to hear more formally how people felt about it. Why did they like it, how did they take it and just what is it about Earl Grey… it was really interesting seeing the responses.
What is the benefit from having loose leaves instead of tea bags?
Believe it or not, as recently as 1968 only 3% of Britain’s households used tea bags. Can you believe that?! A culture of convenience came in and stole the show, but loose leaf is now a growing trend once again.
There are many reasons to drink loose leaf – it is cheaper (the cost per cup is almost always less than a tea bag, however good the tea), and it is better for the environment. However, the most important benefit is simply better flavour. The best tea is produced using ‘orthodox’ methods, meaning the integrity of the leaf is maintained from the moment it is picked to eventually being brewed in your cup.
When kept whole, the leaves brew a more complex cup, with all the nuances of flavour that makes each tea so unique. More often than not these large, whole leaves won’t fit inside a convenient bag format, so instead go through a process called ‘cut-tear-curl’ in which the leaves are cut into smaller pieces. Losing much of its aroma in the process, this ‘dust’ is built for speed and strength, not flavour. So for the most delicious cup, you want whole, loose leaf.
Similarly, it is during the process of tea leaves unfurling in hot water, known as the ‘agony’ of the leaves, that the full flavour and aroma is released. In order to get the best possible cup, it is therefore important that they have the room to fully open up and move around.
Finally, the process of making a pot of loose leaf tea, much like preparing a cafetière of coffee, is an important part of the ritual. Measuring the leaves into your pot, pouring the water and watching the leaves dance around, slowly unfurling to release their flavour… it is all part of the tea-making moment and this mindful preparation surely makes the resulting cup taste all the more delicious!
What are future plans for Good & Proper?
We have finally got a fantastic team in place, which is exciting. We started brewing and serving tea on a rainy London kerb from a 1974 Citroen H van and now, just over four years later, Good & Proper Tea has grown to a flagship Tea Bar, an online store, a growing network of café and restaurant partners – and, of course, the van. So there is plenty to keep us busy growing each of those parts of the business and raising the profile of tea as we go.
However, at the heart of the business is the Tea Bar and we hope to open more Good & Proper Tea Bars in locations across London and beyond, giving more of our customers access to what we believe is a unique experience. It is in our own physical space where we are best able to help our customers understand what we do and why we do it, as well as let them experience the product.