“Calming in times of national peril. Fortifying when courage is required” – the tagline on Rare Tea Company Royal Air Force blend probably expresses perfectly how the Brits see their tea. And British-born and -bred Henrietta Lovell is no exception. Since founding the Rare Tea Company in 2004, she has gone to great lengths to discover the world’s best teas, the most arduous of which is probably for the prized silver tips, new leaves harvested only during the beginning of spring, when they are mature yet still furled in buds. For them, she endures a 23-hour journey of two flights and a long overland drive to a plantation in the highlands of Xiamen in China.
Lovell is a self-proclaimed “tea lady”, or more plainly put, a tea expert. For the most hard-to-get varieties, she charges a premium price that can go as high as £1,000 (RM5,355) for 100g.
Lovell also offers consultations, tea pairing sessions and bespoke tea blending services for her clients. Book a session with her and you’ll walk away enlightened with nuggets such as “the best trick with cucumber sandwiches is to roll them with a rolling pin”, and “if you don’t like black tea, try it with a cucumber sandwich. As the butter melts in your mouth, it makes the tea taste deliciously creamy”. Yes, the humble cucumber sandwich holds plenty of secrets.