As in any food you buy, it's important to know the supply chain including how the product is produced, raised and handled. Our quality statement will give you some insight into our products and where we get them from.
Where do you get your teas?
It is very difficult to keep track of tea origins when considering large, mass-produced bagged brands. Often the teas are purchased by the palette, from a variety of sources. Embedded within those can be lower quality teas grown in less than desirable areas, and with more likelihood of contamination either through improper use of pesticides or pollution in the holding areas. This also applies to nearly all bottled forms of tea, and green tea extract.
We purchase our teas from a trusted merchant/blender that has direct relationships with the estates and having worked as a manager of a family estate in Sri Lanka. The estates are in many cases family owned or local cooperatives that harvest from very specific regions. Therefore, when you buy one of our teas it is not from a random location, they are all produced and harvested from the same area or estate. Additionally many of our importers have a presence on the ground that checks for product integrity, working conditions and processing methods.
Some teas are blended with other teas or ingredients. In almost all cases only natural, pure ingredients are used to blend the teas. (i.e. fruit, nuts, flavor oils). In addition, we custom-blend some of our own tea recipes.
Should I avoid non-organic teas?
It doesn't mean all non-organic teas should be automatically avoided. Many teas are grown at altitudes that do not require the use of any sort of pesticide. Some teas use natural fertilizers, but because of the remote and small scale of operation, do not get 'certified' organic although they follow organic practices. Other areas use nitrogen fertilizer pellets. The logistical problem with this is that if these farms do not use the fertilizer, they will get about half the yield. There are social ramifications, in that many tea growing regions rely on tea as their sole income. Halving the yield means fewer workers are required, and this leads to problems of how they will make a living. Our vendors carry out periodic tests on all non-organic variants to verify that any pesticide residue is below EU standards. And over time, we are seeing better implementation of organic farming practices.
In summary, any non-organic tea you purchase from us still undergoes testing and quality control. Just like tap water, it is tested to ensure it complies with standards. Small batch buying ensures that tea doesn't get contaminated along the supply chain with other inferior or potentially contaminated lesser types.
What about natural flavors?
Teas can be flavored in a variety of ways. Flowers such as jasmine can be layered into the teas which absorb the flavors. Other flavors use derivatives suspended in ethyl alcohol. A few tablespoons of flavoring is all that is needed to infuse a large barrel of tea. Think Vanilla Extract as an example. Once it is tumbled with the tea, the alcohol evaporates and the flavor remains in the tea. A tea blender may want to use a strawberry flavor, the flavoring used may be strawberry, but it also may contain carrots, beets or ingredients that are combined and blended to achieve the target flavor. In almost all cases, the ingredients are 100% natural with no synthetic chemicals used.
What about Soy and Gluten?
Some chocolate teas contain soy lecithin. Most chocolate contains soy lecithin - a by-product of soybean oil. It's the ingredient in chocolate that keeps the cocoa butter and cocoa from separating. There is nothing inherently wrong with it, unless you have a soy allergy. Occasionally a tea that contains chocolate will also contain soy lecithin. It's printed on the ingredients, and most soy allergic people know to look for soy in anything chocolate.
As for gluten, all our teas are currently gluten free.
What if I have a nut allergy?
There are a number of teas that contain nuts or nut products. All these will be listed in the ingredients. Additionally our blenders make the nut related blends at the end of the shift, and clean all the blades and impellers thoroughly to reduce the possibility of cross contamination.
An ongoing process...
We are constantly on the cutting edge of the latest tea trends. We drink the teas we sell in our restaurants and our cafe, and are confident they are of the highest quality. We remain in constant communication with our suppliers to ensure that are all products are great tasting and safe.