OUR STORY BY SAM SAMEEN - FOUNDER OF THE TEA MAKERS OF LONDON
TEA & EARLY YEARS
Tea is more than just a drink to me; aroma of a freshly brewed Ceylon tea could transport me to so many wonderful memories and nostalgia. My earliest memory is, I must have been around four years old, playing hide and seek with my cousins among the tea fields in my granddad’s plantation bungalow. Throughout my schooling days it was my favourite holiday destination, where I spend carefree days playing and getting up to all sorts of mischief in that scenic part of the world.
I was born in the central hills of Sri Lanka, and not far away from the ancient city of Kandy, surrounded by lush green tea fields. Seeing tea pickers walk to work with the basket on their backs. Tea factories in full swing, processing the previous day’s harvest with the sound of the machinery in operation. The fragrance of the freshly processed tea filling the cold morning air. Men gathering at the local tea shop for a cuppa before they start work. This is a typical scenery on a misty morning in the tea country.
Fast forward 15 years, as a young school leaver I was considering my career options and there is no surprise that I was naturally drawn to the tea sector. I decided to embark on a career in tea and train as a tea planter. Over the next decade I have fully immersed myself in the world of tea, that included all aspects of managing a fully functional plantation with its own resident workforce, a tea factory and acres and acres of tea fields covering the hills as far as your eyes could see. I was fascinated with the whole tea making process, where science and craftmanship coming together in making the finest and flavourful tea the world has come to know as the Ceylon tea.
A TEA MAKER IN LONDON
In order to fulfil one of my other passions, which is traveling, I decided to take a temporary break from tea. Traveling has taken me to few nooks and corners of the world, but after completing my masters, I found myself living and working in the city of London, which I think is the most vibrant, diverse and cosmopolitan city in the world. My experience however with tea was very different when I was away from home. Most importantly having a great cup of tea, that I have taken for granted all my life, was something of a novelty. I kept wondering, where does all the good teas end up, certainly they are not in any of the shop shelves. To my surprise, what was available in abundance was poor quality blended tea packed into a teabag, that is capable of offering a tannin filled strong cup in 30 seconds, however, these teas lacks the flavour and authentic characteristics expected from a good cup of tea. That was when I decided to do something about it.
The Tea Makers of London was born in 2010 with a handpicked selection of authentically made single origin teas from Sri Lankan and a handful of devoted customers. With my background in tea making and the love for the city I live in, The Tea Makers of London seemed to be the most appropriate name for the company. Since those humble beginnings, today we have grown into one of the trusted tea brands offering a wide array of authentically made speciality teas. Built on the team's rich history and heritage of tea making, our selection of teas are carefully sourced from the most revered tea gardens around the world. We work closely and sustainably with local tea gardens and artisan tea farmers, to ensure we bring the finest quality teas to our customers. Tea is not just a drink to us, but an experience that should be revelled, enjoyed and passionately explored.
JOURNEY OF EXPLORATION AND LEARNING
While we set off on this amazing journey of exploration and learning during our tea travels around the world, we realise how diverse, rich and complex the teas produced in different regions of the world. Although they all derived from the same plant that is Camelia Sinensis, depending on the cultivar, terrier, micro-climate, they develop unique and distinct characteristics and flavour compositions. Furthermore, depending on the time of harvest, processing methods and level of oxidisation, they become known as black tea, green teas, oolong teas, white teas and so on.
Tea regions that we source our teas are different in terms of how tea gardens are owned and managed. Largely in India and Sri Lanka, there is a considerably proportion of the well-established tea plantations owned by companies, however it is refreshing to see growing numbers of small-scale independent tea farmers creating beautiful teas. Japan, China and Taiwan are countries where there are abundance of small cooperatives of farmers and small family owned tea gardens. Some of these farmers cultivating on their ancestral land for centuries. We have developed great partnerships with these farmers over the years and we have learned to appreciate the hard work and skills that goes into make these authentic teas. It gives us great comfort to know when we source teas from them, that these farmers are not exploited, and they are paid a fair price for their labour.
OUR TEAS EXPLAINED
What excites me is to make authentically crafted single origin teas with distinct flavours available for everyone to enjoy and take our customers thought this journey with us. We understand everyone’s tea journey start at different levels and wanted to welcome all tea lovers from beginners, explorers and those who consider themselves as somewhat a tea connoisseur. To this end, we have a great selection of single origin whole leaf teas for everyday tea drinkers with our extensive range of breakfast teas, earl greys and green teas and herbals. We are proud of the fact that majority of these classic teas have won numerous awards at the annual Great Taste Awards (Guild of Fine Food). For those who are adventurous and wish to further explore, we offer them a more refined supreme versions of these fantastic range include Silver Needle, Dragon Well, Gyokuro or Ali Shan Oolong and many more. Finally, for those tea connoisseurs, who are always looking for something divine, we offer a small range of rare and hand-crafted micro batch teas that are only available in small quantities for a limited time.
We source our teas directly from the farmers during the prime harvesting periods. We practically taste countless batches to make sure the teas that finally end up in our collection meet our three core requirement, which are sustainability, authenticity, and flavour.
TEN YEARS ON & LOOKING AHEAD FOR THE FUTURE
Looking back as we celebrate our 10th anniversary this year (2020), one of the most fulfilling part of our journey so far has been countless tea related interactions and conversations we have had with our customers over the years. Be it, offering guidance when selecting the teas, explaining the source of the teas and its flavours, health benefits or simply how to brew a perfect cuppa; we have enjoyed every moment of it. We have also enjoyed sharing our customer’s tea journey and taken onboard any feedback to improve our services during those conversations. Our small team of passionate tea buffs are always on hand to assist and it is just a matter of picking up the phone or sending us an email.
During this period, we have seen tea take back its pride of place it deserves. Interestingly enough, not just any teas, but teas with character, authenticity and flavour. We have also seen the traditional tea drinkers have shun the cheap commodity teas for better-quality loose-leaf teas. One of the significant and exciting shifts we have observed was the steady growth of younger demography of customer who are looking for healthy alternative drink, and with tea, they are bound to find their possibilities are limitless.
This is an exciting time for what I would like to call proper tea, when we turn our next chapter and we look forward to continue serving our customers flavourful delicious teas, so that they can truly enjoy and savour every cup.