Q&A with Jing tea’s MD, Catherine Archer
What was the highlight of 2017 for you?
A real highlight for us in 2017 was bringing to market the UK's first single origin, single cultivar Matcha green tea, which we believe to be superior to anything previously sold in the UK or Europe.
As with all of our teas, we recognise how influential the terroir or individual origin is in the delivery of taste and after a long search, we found the perfect tea garden in Kagoshima, Japan, one that's in conversion to organic status (a process that can take up to three years) and where the tea bushes are cultivated without pesticides and fertilisers. This new Matcha is exceptionally creamy, sweet and without that hint of bitterness or soapiness that can be experienced in lower grades.
In order to ensure the superior flavour profile of this special tea reaches our end consumers, we source small batch quantities and the high quality tencha base leaves are kept in cold store and transported to Uji – home to traditional Japanese mikage stone mills – where they are finely milled to order.
With all the talk about the health benefits of tea, what's the ONE biggest benefit of drinking tea that you would like more people to be aware of?
It depends on if you're referring to the one health benefit, or overall benefit. Regarding health, we have never pinned our hat on bold medicinal claims, but insist that the best tea for you is the one that you enjoy and savour the most.
Not just a great source of antioxidants, tea is also a drink that delivers an amazing level of complexity and variety that can be explored by the average tea drinker and connoisseur alike.
There are countless different varieties of loose leaf teas from the rarest Taiwanese high mountain oolongs, to the famous Longjing green tea of Hangzhou, China. Beyond the 'British Cuppa' there's a whole world to explore, discover and enjoy.
What do you think will be the tea hero for 2018?
Origins will be increasingly important as people understand the impact the terroir can have on taste, much in the same way as people now realise the impact they have on wines. The fascinating stories of great, ancient skill and how this, along with provenance, can really inform the flavour profile of a tea will inspire new generations of tea drinkers.
For example, our unique Red Dragon black tea has been cultivated from a cultivar usually used in oolong teas from the famous region of Yunnan, China, known for its black teas. Skilled tea masters have processed the leaf in a way that renders a deeply complex and fruity black tea, with a syrupy finish.
Biggest challenge for tea companies in the next 12-18 months:
Across the market, the need to demonstrate how the tea they are selling is protecting and enhancing the lives of those working within the industry will become increasing critical. Consumers are highly conscious of the impact that their purchasing habits have and companies will have to be transparent on this.
In the words of our founder, Ed Eisler: "We believe that sourcing and selling tea that provides the best taste experience for consumers and the best future for the people and places that make the tea is the only way to truly enjoy tea at its best."
Who or what inspires you (tea-related)?
The artisanal producers are a true inspiration – marrying the history and heritage of this category which has inspired the world for thousands of years with their detailed knowledge and skill to produce teas with outstanding and unique flavour profiles.
What's your favourite cup of tea and why?
High-mountain oolongs from Taiwan, like Ali Shan and Li Shan, because they are both intensely complex with delicious floral flavours and they are accessible – refreshing, thirst quenching and easy to drink.
- Catherine Archer recently joined Jing tea as managing director from Unilever, where she was the global director responsible for developing and delivering the premiumisation strategy for the tea category, from new brand and business model launches to acquisitions.
- Jing tea will be exhibiting at European Coffee Expo (Stand C9) on May 22-23 at London's Olympia. For more information please go to www.EuropeanCoffeeExpo.com