Earl grey tea

Categories: Product of the week

An aromatic blend of ceylon, bergamot essence and lime peel from Sri Lanka

“We are tea growers,” says Arianna of Organic Life. The various pots and paper bags of aromatic leaves—green, black and all in between—laid out on the stall are not teas of indeterminate origin, garnered from nameless plantations and pickers the world over and processed and packaged by a faceless corporation: “They’re from our estate in Uva, Sri Lanka.”

They’ve been handpicked—“you can see from the length of the leaves. The fact that they’re unbroken, it’s a mark of quality”—before being dried, then packaged in Organic Life’s own “teahouses”, by workers who are paid a fair wage for their careful work. The estate itself is a sight to behold; there are no manicured lines of tea plants on levelled, curated planes to be found here. Rather, Organic Life works as much as possible with the environment—trees, rocks and undulating hills and all. “It’s a wild-looking estate, which I think is really nice,” smiles Arianna.

The altitude, combined with a cool climate, rich mountain soil and ocean winds, creates the perfect environment for tea-growing—and Organic Life does little to interfere. “We work as naturally as possible, without pesticides or big machines to pick the tea,” says Arianna. If they don’t produce something themselves—“the spices for our masala chai, for instance”—they get them from neighbouring farms. “We only work with those who follow our philosophy, so organic and fair trade,” she continues. “These are then mixed with the leaves in the teahouses on our estate.”

Sweet and nutty
In the case of the earl grey, Organic Life’s black ceylon tea leaves are combined with bergamot essence, as in the traditional recipe, and lime peel. “Each teamaker has its own earl grey recipe. Some will use things like cornflowers; we use natural, dried lime peel—you can see it among the leaves,” says Arianna. “It gives it a unique flavour.” Typically, big companies blend different types of tea in order to get a really strong flavour, but in the process, the tea acquires a bitter, tannin-y profile. “Our earl grey is sweet and nutty,” Arianna continues. “Because it’s single estate, it’s premium quality. It’s also much more delicate than commercial black teas.”

Brew the leaves for three to four minutes for a full-bodied drink, and serve it with milk if you want—but you don’t need to: “It is,” Arianna says, “far better black.”