The range of organic iced teas produced by Hampstead Tea (Oolong with Elderflower, Oolong Tea with Peach, Green Tea with Lemon and Green Tea with Raspberry) offers independent retailers an ethically sound alternative not only to carbonated drinks, but also to the iced teas produced by major tea companies. These sugar and extract-laden drinks, says Hampstead Tea’s founder and owner Kiran Tawadey, bear no relation to the iced teas she has added to her range of entirely bio-dynamically grown teas. The drinks are, she says, “great-tasting, on-the-go impulse buys. They’re great with a sandwich or for popping in a picnic or lunch box. This is a perfect product to drink after after a game of tennis and a great alternative to carbonated drinks.” It’s a plus for a lot of consumers that each of the 330ml packs contains only 75 calories.
The iced teas in this newly-rebranded and repackaged line are, Kiran says, “made from brewed tea; we don’t use tea extracts, which have no benefits or food value whatsoever.” Much effort has been spent in choosing the optimum tea/flavour combinations for this range. “We decided to use Oolong, (a semi-fermented tea which is between a green and a black tea), and green teas as our bases,” Kiran says, “These are under-represented within the soft drinks category. Also, Oolong is full of antioxidants and possesses amazing health properties, so it’s a real super food.
“Elderflower goes very well with Oolong because it is delicate and mild. The infusion of elderflower juice that we use is purely organic and it is absolutely amazing! The Elderflower iced tea is a really refreshing product, and it’s selling very well. Elderflower is very much a flavour of the moment. We decided to try a peach flavour because we found that customers associated tea with peach; a lot of teas have a kind of peachy overtone. This is a new product, but early feedback is highly positive. We also combine green tea with lemon, a combination which is easily understood, but also with raspberry, which is another superfood full of antioxidants. We tried combining it with green tea and it worked well. We’ve had some really good responses, and last year, we won a Great Taste Award.”
The products sit on a sound ethical foundation, and the company has long been practising Fairtrade principles. “Having grown up in India,” Kiran says, “I felt it was important for the producer to get a piece of the action. All the value was created at that end of the cycle, and so I felt there had to be a way of ensuring that the producer could have a stake. This is why all of our products were, and still are, Fairtrade.” As important as this is the company’s interest in biodynamics, a method of growing in which, Kiran says, “you put more into the soil than you take out.”
It was Kiran’s interest in organic tea – or the dearth of it available – which sowed the seeds of Hampstead Tea. “I started the company 14 years ago,” Kiran says, “when I found that you couldn’t really find organic tea products in the UK market. I was concerned about pesticide residues in drinks.” Around this time, Kiran says, “I happened to run into an amazing chap called Rajah Banerjee, who owned a tea garden which had been in his family for four generations. He told me how he was growing his tea without any additives, fertilisers or chemical pesticides. I said, ‘why don’t you tell people?’ but these were pre-internet days and this wasn’t so easy. Rajah said, ‘if you feel so strongly about it, why don’t you tell them?’
“So I started selling his tea in bulk to various tea packers. It went really well, and six years later, when my children were a little older and I could spare more time, we decided to launch the tea under our own brand, so we could have more control over the end product. I began supplying a few health food shops in North London and then, in 1998, we won the Organic Food Awards at which Prince Charles was the chief guest. This was brilliant. We got lots of press coverage and received enquiries from many stores asking for more product and also for different products. After this, we started to diversify and that’s when the Oolong tea came along.”
The company now produces “a full range of black teas (which are fully fermented teas) and green teas, and then we have herbals as well,” Kiran says. All teas are produced, she adds, “to the same high standards and organic credibility.” Hampstead Tea also offers “leaf teas, so we are a real tea company, not just a teabag producer. We really believe in our loose teas. We offer products like First Flush, which is the first picking of the season, Darjeeling leaf teas and Muscatel Darjeeling. We consider ourselves real tea people.” The company intends to focus its attention on the UK market in upcoming months and promises new products for this Autumn. “Watch this space!” Kiran says.