A MALTON couple are on a mission to help people take things a little more slowly.
Drew Jemmett and Clare Hanson are the owners of Forleaves Tea Company. They sell a wide variety of tea, with leaves sourced from around the world then blended by the couple into an array of different products, from white tea, through green tea and oolongs, to a range of black teas, as well as herbal and fruit infusions.
The loose-leaf tea they offer is slightly different to the quick functionality of a swift British "cuppa" - although they are quick to point out there's nothing wrong with that way of drinking. Instead, they are simply promoting a little more languidness, a touch more quiet ritual in today's noisy, hyper-connected world.
Clare said: "It's the process of it, the taking time out from the busyness of life."
Drew agrees. "Even things like work tea breaks, people have a quick cup at their desk. Traditionally a tea break used to be that you had a stop and a sit down and a chat. Tea, to us, feels like it shouldn't be rushed. You have to give it time. People have busy lives, but if you can try and find the time somewhere, it's really beneficial."
They say that, although they are also coffee-lovers, it's a strong, extrovert of a drink. Tea, on the other hand, is "like an introvert," Clare says. "But when you get to know it, it's so much more complex."
The couple moved up from Leicester last year, drawn by Malton's reputation as a food and drink hub and by its location. They had spent a bit of time in Spain, and liked the slower pace of life there.
Clare, a qualified tai-chi instructor, said: "We liked it there that families all get together in the evening, they all come out and sit together. We came back and immediately noticed that we're missing that culture. And around that time we started tasting and sampling teas and we thought 'there's really something here'."
The couple set up a business, teaching themselves how to do it, learning about accounting, marketing and branding as they went along.
Drew said: "We do everything. Pack the tea, blend it, everything. It's a business and it has to make money but it's also about the mission for us. Sometimes too much so that we forget... 'oh, we need to charge someone for that'."
The couple have accepted that the business is growing, but predict it will stay small enough for them to manage. That suits them. "I can't imagine running around being CEO of some big company," Drew says. "That would send me over the edge."
We try some teas. First up is their Russian caravan blend, a subtly-scented black tea which, though it lacks the smokey lapsang souchong which would traditionally be blended in, has a touch of woody smoke and slight sweetness; fitting for autumn. Their "gypsy caravan" is the full smokey deal. Clare says the story goes that, in centuries gone by, it would slowly imbibe its smokey flavour from the campfires of the merchants bringing it to Europe from the far-East.
Next up is their citrussy Earl Grey blue variant. Drew explains that all tea leaves are taken from varieties of one plant, Camellia sinensis - the tea bush. The huge variety of different flavours come from the extent to which these leaves have been oxidised. This Earl Grey is blended with tangy black Ceylon tea leaves, with Italian bergamot oil, dried orange peel and cornflower petals. It goes brilliantly with a mini mince pie.
Finally we go for their No.9 oolong tea, a green tea made of hand-rolled leaves which unfurl in the water. When making the tea, Drew uses water that is slightly below-boiling from a temperature-controlled kettle, and employs a little timer in order for the leaves to infuse for just the right amount of time. It is a far cry from my own traditional tea-making technique: splashing some scalding water on a cheap teabag then bashing it roughly around with a spoon. The oolong is great; almondy and floral.
Tea is an almighty market. According to the UK Tea and Infusions association, we British drink 65 million cups daily, or 60.2 billion cups per year. Many of these cups are drunk as a quick and convenient brew, knocked back while we're doing other things. But the Forleaves ideal, of taking some time, switching off and letting some whole leaves unfurl in hot water, is one we should definitely get behind. There are real rewards to be had.
Forleaves Tea Company sell their tea online at forleaves.org