It's been far too long since I shared an interview on this blog and I'm so excited for the first one back to be with the lovely owner of a tea shop nestled in away in Dorset. So here is what Jo and I from The Gilded Teapot got chatting about recently;
CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE MORE ABOUT YOURSELF JO?
I’m Jo, founder of The Gilded Teapot - Dorset based tea hunters. You can find our tea shop nestled in an old tobacconists in Dorchester on the south coast of England, which has been our home since 2010.
AND A LITTLE MORE ABOUT THE GILDED TEAPOT?
In a sense, we’re a tea library. We source nearly one hundred different teas and infusions from all over the world – and we blend some in our shop, too. We’ve built everything from scratch, growing our tea range, finding great teaware, and bringing in some fantastic coffees from a local roaster.
WHAT WAS IT THAT MADE YOU WANT TO SET UP THE SHOP?
Most people get in the habit of having the same kinds of tea bags, pop it in a mug, and that’s that. But – fun fact - there are over 52,000 exciting varieties of teas in the world today. I wanted to help people explore these different tastes, types and blends of tea from far-flung corners of the globe and make a friendly connection with the infusions, the process and the makers.
AND WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE THINGS ABOUT RUNNING A TEA SHOP?
Having your own business where drinking tea is a prerequisite is great fun - but first and foremost for me, its all about the people. We've been lucky enough to meet all kinds of fantastic tea lovers who come into the shop for a good chat, pick up our teas online, or get in touch with us on social media.
Overall, the most memorable parts of my job are meeting the growers, sampling the harvests from the new seasons, and tasting something I have never experienced before that takes my breath away. I’ve been a tea specialist for ten years but there is always something new to learn, it never stops.
AS YOU OBVIOUSLY KNOW TEA QUITE WELL, WHAT FLAVOUR WOULD YOU SUGGEST TO UNSEASONED TEA DRINKERS?
For the curious tea drinker who fancies giving loose leaf a try and is looking for a place to start, there are some great teas I can recommend – nothing too outlandish, just damn good tea. For instance, if you like a good cuppa with a slug of milk, we have a lovely blend called Dorset Brew that really hits the spot. Coming in from a chilly day to a mug of it feels absolutely lovely.
And if you’re looking to explore herbal infusions or choose caffeine-free options, our hand blended Lemongrass & Ginger is beautiful. Loose herbs and spices give such a fantastically rich depth of flavour, so you should definitely take it out for a spin. The lemongrass has cleansing qualities, and ginger is great for digestion, so I drink a lot of it come January!
YOU HAVE SOME SUPER INTERESTING TEAS IN YOUR SHOP, HOW DO YOU SOURCE THEM?
We source our teas from all over the world. From small family tea gardens in Japan to Nepalese oolong from a Himalayan hill station, we hunt teas from all corners of the globe. I was in Taiwan at the end of October visiting tea growers, and selecting which teas we would like to include in the shop – we’ve decided on the ones we like, and they’ll be arriving next month. As well as sourcing our teas directly from growers, we also work with growing cooperatives and importers from pretty much every continent.
AND FOR ALL THE SERIOUS TEA LOVERS OUT THERE, WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR PERSONAL FAVOURITES?
If you’re a tea obsessive like me, there are some that I would love to introduce to you. Personally, I find Japanese teas particularly fascinating – and utterly delicious. The teas from the first tea garden I ever visited will always be special to me. These leaves are from an incredibly skilled tea grower, Shigeru, and his family, who grow and process their teas in Miyazaki (his wife Haruyo who drives their little tea harvester makes amazing homemade white miso!). They specialise in organic farming, and the teas they produce are simply out of this world – their Sencha Superior is always a winner, and we are also fortunate enough to have their Bancha and famous Matcha teas.
And keep your eyes peeled – arriving in the next few weeks are some great teas from a grower we visited near Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan. His Ruby Black Tea is well worth the wait, along with a couple of others which, right now, are top secret…