Do you sell green tea?

It seems to me that at the moment, a fair few of you are buying sample sizes of lots of our green teas, so this might just be the moment to tell you more about the green teas that we have in stock.

Remember, if you have any questions, just fire them over, and we’ll do our best to answer them.

Green tea is a huge area, and lots of people come in and tell us that they’ve never liked green tea. Admittedly, green tea can be quite distinctive, an acquired taste maybe, and certainly nothing like the usual tea we drink here in the West, especially if we drink it with milk and sugar.The first thing to remember is that the secret is in the brewing – brew it cooler than your usual, as over 75 degrees can make it more bitter. If you’re a newbie to green tea, we recommend starting with something mild, even flavoured if you like, just to ease you into full blown green teas.

We have a wide range of good quality Japanese and Chinese green teas, and it’s worth thinking about the differences between these, before going much further.

Japanese tea field, with shaded bushes in the background, with cut bushes behind the uncut ones – these are Yabukita varietal

Japanese green teas are often shaded, which will increase the chlorophyll in the leaves, which leads to them having a deeper flavour, more intensely ‘green’ if you like, and Japanese green teas are often described as having a ‘seaweedy’ flavour – I tend to think of it as being a combination of seaweedy and grassy, as if you’re walking in a meadow by the beach. The actual varietal makes a difference to the taste as well, and at the moment we are fortunate to have tea grown by our favourite Japanese tea farmer, Ryo Morisaku. We have each of three different varietals, each prepared as sencha, so high quality tea, and each tastes slightly different. Yabukita is the most common varietal in this particular area, but Okumidori is a much better quality varietal. These are both grown from cuttings, so are true varietals. The other sencha we have is called Zairai, which essentially is a seed grown varietal, so the breeding cannot be guaranteed. Each of these tastes slightly different, so the best way to taste the difference is to have a Japanese tea session, with samples of each of these. Each infusion can be resteeped several times, increasing the temperature with each infusion.

Zairai tea plant growing at the edge of the tea field
Hand rolled Gyokuro

One of the characteristic features of Japanese green teas is the shape – that rolled needle shape is quite distinctive, but we have another tea, a Chinese green tea which is produced in the style of a Japanese needle shaped tea, called Pine Needles and has that distinctive smell and taste.

Rolling machine

So moving on to Chinese green teas, we have some excellent quality green teas, ranging from first flush to later harvests.

One of the most famous of Chinese green teas is the Dragonwell, and while there is only one reputed ‘dragon well’ there are in fact several teas which are called Dragonwell. We have two currently, the Early Spring Yunnan “Bao Hong” Dragon Well Green Tea and the Premium Grade Dragon Well Tea From Zhejiang. The recommended way to brew Dragon Well tea is to use approximately 4 or 5 grams of tea for 250ml of water, in a glass cup or glass cha hai pitcher. Though some may prefer to slightly rinse the first infusion, the most common way is to NOT rinse the leaves. Use water that is about 80~90 degrees and infuse for 1 to 2 minutes before drinking. Once the water in the glass/pitcher reaches halfway, pour more hot water and fill to the top. This can be repeated several times, mostly retaining the original flavor of the tea. No filter is needed and many enjoy chewing on or eating the tender leaves. Traditionally Dragonwell type teas are drunk in the summer.


Another unusual tea which is brewed ‘grandpa style’ in a long glass or pitcher, is Tai Ping Hou Kui, one of my favourites. This is a tea where the leaves are roasted, then pressed, currently between wooden blocks coated with paper, but traditionally between fabric, to the extent that the weave of the fabric can sometimes be seen in the leaf. I find this tea tastes floral and sweet, and can be brewed several times.

Tai Ping Hou Kui

As mentioned earlier, we have a Chinese green tea processed in the Japanese style, the Laoshan Village ‘Pine Needles’ green tea. The varietal is Long Jing, and the process involves hand-processing (hand-frying, hand-rolling, and hand-drying in a wok) gives this tea an incredibly thick and bright viscous tea soup, alternating umami and sweetness and satisfying invigorating cha qi and long lasting mouth-feel.

Laoshan Village Pine Needles
Mao Jian

One of my current favourites is the Imperial Xinyang Mao Jian, one of the top ten of Chinese famous teas (信阳毛尖) and it is a famous and ancient green tea produced in Xinyang township of Henan Province.  and has a history of more than 2300 years.   Mao Jian means furry tips.  The tea is small and needle like , green with white furry strips on the inner side of the leaf. The taste is classically small leaf green tea with sweet and umami taste, the aroma is grass and pine, the feeling in the mouth is thick and pungent, and it just feels perfect for these cold wet days.

Among other green teas we have currently are a first flush Mao Feng, and unlike other greens, the leaves are not rolled and the leaves and buds stay largely unbroken. The very downy leaves mean that the mouthfeel is amazing. The flavor is bold and nutty but if not over-brewed is smooth and satisfying.  Very tender and tippy with vibrant umami and sweet that will soothe and stimulate, the taste is green and vegetal, with notes of green chestnut and fresh flowers.  Sweet aftertaste and nice mouth watering effect! This is the highest grade Yunnan Mao Feng available!  

So, links to the teas I’ve mentioned,


Fifty Shades of Earl Grey

Wherever you go in the world, there’s an assumption that the most popular British tea is Earl Grey, and to be fair, it probably is one of our best selling teas here at Seibiant. Believe it or not, ‘Earl Grey’ as it applies to tea is not a registered trade mark, which probably accounts for the huge variation in the types and quality of tea which is called Earl Grey.

Let’s start by looking at the history of the tea called Earl Grey, to see how we end up with the tea which we have now. Traditionally Earl Grey was made using Chinese Keemun tea, with the addition of Oil of Bergamot, and was intended to be drunk without milk. More recently though, Earl Grey is made with Sri Lankan tea, which is stronger, and better suited to milk and sugar. Nowadays, ‘Earl Grey’ flavour is added to green tea, rooibos and even oolongs.

Wild Grey
Wild Grey – Chinese Sencha with Earl Grey flavourings

A “Grey’s Tea” is known from the 1850s, but the first known published references to an “Earl Grey” tea are advertisements by Charlton & Co. of Jermyn Street in London in the 1880s. It was assumed to be named after Charles Grey who was the 2nd Earl Grey, and was a British Prime Minister in the 1830s and was the author of the 1932 Reform Bill. It is likely that he was given this tea as a diplomatic gift, but legends abound about this. According to one legend, a grateful Chinese Mandarin whose son was rescued from drowning by one of Lord Grey’s men first presented the blend to the Earl as early as 1803. The tale appears to be unlikely as Lord Grey never set foot in China and the use of bergamot oil to scent tea was then unknown in China. However, this tale is subsequently told (and slightly corrected) on the Twinings website, as “having been presented by an envoy on his return from China”. Jacksons of Piccadilly claim they originated Earl Grey’s Tea, Lord Grey having given the recipe to Robert Jackson & Co. partner George Charlton in 1830. According to the Grey family, the tea was specially blended by a Chinese Mandarin-speaking individual for Lord Grey, to suit the water at Howick Hall, the family seat in Northumberland, using bergamot in particular to offset the preponderance of lime in the local water. Lady Grey used it to entertain in London as a political hostess, and it proved so popular that she was asked if it could be sold to others, which is how Twinings came to market it as a brand.

A survey in 2010 found that a significant minority of people in the UK associate drinking Earl Grey as being ‘posh’!

Earl Grey Blue Lady

There a numerous variations on the Earl Grey theme, including Russian Earl Grey,

Russian Earl Grey
Russian Earl Grey

which includes citrus peels and lemongrass,

Cream Earl Grey

which has vanilla flavouring.

A strange member of the family is Lady Grey; tradition has it that this was the tea that Lady Grey asked Twining’s to produce and market, suggesting that it is older than Earl Grey itself. However, the truth (maybe?) is that Lady Grey was developed in the 20th century for the Scandinavian market, because traditional Earl Grey was too strong for the Scandinavian palate. Lady Grey is indeed a lighter, more citrussy version, which we often struggle to source!

Have fun trying these teas, and let us know what you think!

There’s a tea for that …

You may have seen a little infographic that was on our Facebook page recently, about a range of teas for your mental health, so we decided to do a blog post just about the reported health benefits of some of our teas. It’s important to point out that none of us at Seibiant are herbalists, so we can’t prescribe any herbs for you, but we are happy to provide herbs, so long as you’ve done your research. The benefits of all of the tisanes in this blog are well known. We’re not even going into the benefits of the camellia siniensis proper teas in this blog – we’ll save that for another day.

One of our best selling teas at Seibiant is Bedtime #2, so we’ll start by talking about a range of herbs which are known to help with insomnia. Several are featured in this infographic. There’s a lot of evidence that camomile is useful for mild to moderate anxiety, and we find that lots of people use it to aid sleep. Add to that some lemongrass, or lime flowers, and you get even more benefit. Bedtime #1 contains these, together with hibiscus and liquorice, hibiscus is reputed to lower blood pressure, but liquorice is to be avoided if you have raised blood pressure. Both our current bedtime teas have oatstraw, which is traditionally used to relieve stress, anxiety and depression, but as an adaptogen, it is also believed to have benefits for several systems of the body. Rose and lavender are common floral teas which are often added to teas for insomnia – lavender is well known in aromatherapy to be relaxing, but as a tea, on it’s own, it doesn’t taste pleasant and can be quite bitter, so we use very little of it. The main active ingredient in our Bedtime #2 is valerian root, a stinky herb, but very effective, reducing the time it takes to fall asleep, and improving the quality of sleep. It is a natural analgesic, and muscle relaxant. We’re currently working on Bedtime #3, if we can stay awake long enough …

Bedtime #1

Bedtime #1

Bedtime #2

Bedtime #2

Hibiscus is a flower used in several fruit teas, because it brews with a bright colour and sour flavour. High in antioxidants and vitamin C, it is helpful for managing high blood pressure, common colds and urinary tract infections. It is rich in minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium and zinc. The best hibiscus comes from Egypt, where they drink it constantly. We have two grades, full calyx and cut, and we use it in a blend with rosehips, as well as in our Bedtime #1. Rosehips actually have 6 times the amount of vitamin C than oranges – does anyone remember having Rosehip Syrup as a kid?

Mint teas are very popular, and we have quite a variety, depending on your needs. Peppermint tea is very well known, good for the digestion, but did you know that Spearmint tea is milder, and actually gentler on the tum. A little known apparent benefit of Spearmint is that it’s good for reducing hairiness! We have a blend of peppermint, liquorice and fennel which we call Millie Mollie Mintie, and is very popular for the digestion – each of these spices and herbs are well, and are used in traditional chai for their specific benefits.

Millie Mollie Mintie

Millie Mollie Mintie

We’re big fans of chai at Seibiant, and at home, we play around with the spices for specific health benefits – ginger for anti-anflammatory, anti-nausea, cinnamon for memory and brain function, cardamom and black pepper for digestion (did you know there’s a shortage of cardamom at the moment – the price is likely to shoot up!) and cloves – superspice – said to have anti-viral, anti-tumour qualities.

Assam Masala Chai

Loose Leaf – Why and How?

So this past year we have all seen the media focus towards the environment and especially the amount of plastic that we use. This is turn has led people to question/realise the use of plastic in commercial tea bags – we won’t go into the quality of the tea inside them in this blog!

A Canadian team found that steeping a plastic tea bag at a brewing temperature of 95degrees releases around 11.6 billion microplastics – tiny pieces of plastic between 100 nanometres and 5 millimetres in size – into a single cup. More information can be found here DOI:10.1021/acs.est.9b02540

This alone should cause anyone who drinks tea made with this type of tea bag to seriously think about reevaluating their tea drinking habits. Which is where we come in! Loose leaf tea isn’t just plastic free, it really does taste better. Being in a bag stops the leaves from being able to open up and come into contact with as much of the water as possible, thereby halting the flavour. Invariably the quality of leaves found in bags is much lower than those bought loose – which also improves the all important flavour.

Below is a list of the top 5 everyday teas drunk by us at Seibiant 2019, but in loose leaf form! Each one can be easily made with any type of infuser, strainer or teapot (all available on the website)

Seibiant Brecwast

The archetypal British brew, unheard of in almost every other country in the world, yet an absolute cornerstone of English (British) society and culture. Very difficult to brew incorrectly, especially when taken with milk.

5g of tea to 300ml of water, just off the boil – 95 degrees if you’re being technical. If you take milk, 4 minutes should be long enough, 2 minutes if not.

Earl Grey

Another classic, yet this time a little more well known abroad, this bergamot scented black tea is a perfect rainy afternoon tea. Often made from Sri Lankan tea, resulting in a sweeter, lighter, more floral brew, perfect for an afternoon tea.

Brewed in the same way as an English Breakfast Tea.

5g of tea to 300ml of water just off the boil, 2-4 minutes.

Late Harvest Sencha

Green tea is one we get a lot of negative comments about, but almost 100% of the time, the reason people don’t like green tea is because it has been brewed incorrectly. Green tea has been processed in a much gentler, shorter way than black tea, meaning that the leaves are more delicate and sensitive to heat. Green tea has a huge list of health benefits, and is full of antioxidants and nutrients, so well worth a try.

As mentioned earlier, the brewing of green tea differs from black tea. For green tea, we need to control the temperature and there are a few ways to achieve this. In Japanese tea culture, they say that once the water has boiled, each time you pour it into a different container, the temperature drops by 10 degrees. Whilst not entirely accurate, this method does work well enough to not spoil the tea – we would suggest adding just one more change of container for luck.

5g of tea, 200ml of water at 80 degrees. Multiple infusions of this tea are possible, raising the temperature of the water for each infusion.

Vanilla Rooibos

One of our favourite rooibos tisanes, this caffeine free infusion is flavoured with vanilla, and contains almond slices, and safflower petals. Rooibos only grows in the Cederberg mountains of South Africa and is a herb which has been drunk for years.

5g to 200ml of water just off the boil, brew for 2-4 minutes, ideally taken without milk, and generally sweet enough that you don’t need sugar.

Bedtime #2

Possibly our best seller, a sleepy blend of oatstraw, calendula, camomile, lavender, rose and valerian root.

A proper bedtime tea! Valerian has been used as a medicinal herb since at least the time of ancient Greece and Rome. Hippocrates described its’ properties, and later Galen prescribed it as a remedy for insomnia … turns out he was right.

This tea take half an hour before bed will send you into a proper deep sleep.

As I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, 5g of tea for about 400ml of water just off the boil. Leave the flowers in the water until the water is close to drinking temperature, then pour. Don’t think you need to drink the whole 400ml!

Nos da!

Matcha Magic

Before going to Japan last year, we’d had some matcha – or so I thought – in the shop, but sadly I had no idea how to prepare it or what it should taste like that I was selling people some absolutely rubbish stuff – I apologise unreservedly for this, and if you were one of the people I sold it to, please forgive me and call into the shop so that I can show you what matcha should be like.

When I say what matcha should be like, let’s face it, I only spent two weeks there, only had a few cups of matcha, and a few sweets made of matcha, so I can’t call myself an expert. But I do know more than a fair few people in the area, and I’m ok at wielding a chasen these days. So, I guess it’s worth calling into Seibiant to have a try of our range of very fresh matcha.

There are a few secrets to keeping matcha – once you’ve been brave enough to buy your own. Make sure that you keep it in the fridge, in an airtight jar, and use it within three months. The date on our packs is 12 months, but after three, I think the best you can do with it is make cookies or ice cream, or use it in a smoothie.

At Seibiant, we have three different matchas, and the cultivar makes a huge difference in taste. My personal favourite is Gokou cultivar, which is smooth, creamy and has a distinct broccoli taste. We also have Samidori, which is described as having a flavour of banana and rosemary, and then we have an organic matcha. At the moment we buy our matcha from Obubu Tea Farms, but the as Obubu don’t farm organically on the whole, the organic matcha comes from the Nakai farm, which is also in Wazuka. Organic matcha has a less intense colour, due to the farming methods.

Matcha Ice Cream recipe

360ml whole milk

165g caster sugar

1/4 tsp salt

2-3 tbsp. matcha

480ml whipping cream

Much of the method depends if you have an ice cream maker or not, I don’t so simply put my mixture in a container in the freezer, taking it out from time to time to stir. If you have a machine, then follow the instructions for your machine.

Combine the whole milk, sugar and salt in a medium sized saucepan over a medium heat. Do not let the milk come to a boil, stir until the sugar dissolves. Turn off heat.

Sieve the matcha into a bowl. Transfer half a cup of the warm milk to a small container, add matcha and whisk vigorously until incorporated. Pour this mixture into the rest of the warm milk. Pour in the cream and stir to combine.

If you are using an ice cream maker, you will have had your bowl in the freezer for 2 hours. In the meantime, cover and refrigerate your mixture for at least two hours. Place your frozen bowl in the base of the ice cream maker and turn it on. Give the chilled mixture a good stir, before pouring it into the frozen bowl. Churn until desired consistency.

If you’re not using an ice cream maker, put your chilled mixture into a container in the freezer, taking it out to stir from time to time.

Serve, sprinkled with some sifted fresh matcha!

Matcha and White Chocolate Cookies 

This is the perfect recipe for matcha which is less fresh – the one you bought because it was cheaper, or you thought might be good for you, but which has been sitting in your cupboard for ages!

250g plain flour
1 tablespoon matcha 
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
220g soft brown sugar
170g unsalted butter, melted
100g caster sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
270g white chocolate chips

Prep:15min › Cook:10min › Ready in:25min
Preheat oven to 160 C / Gas 3. Grease baking trays or line with baking paper.
Sift flour, matcha, bicarbonate of soda and salt together in a bowl. Beat brown sugar, butter and caster sugar together in a large bowl using an electric mixer until blended; beat in vanilla extract, egg and egg yolk until light and creamy.
Mix flour mixture into creamed butter mixture until dough is just blended; fold in chocolate chips using a wooden spoon. Drop cookie dough, 1 heaped tablespoon per cookie, onto the prepared baking tray 5cm apart.
Bake in the preheated oven until edges are lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Cool cookies on the baking tray for 2 to 3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.



Is Tea Drunk a Thing: Tasting Sheng Pu-erhs

Those who are interested in tea, beyond the English Breakfasts and Earl Greys may have heard of the concept of ‘tea drunk’, maybe even ‘tea stoned’. This doesn’t involved alcohol or drugs, no tea cocktails or tea infused spirits. Some people think it involves caffeine, and may be related to the caffeine buzz that you get, but this isn’t even to do with that, so let’s have a bit of a biochemistry lesson.

Tea produces a number of amino acids and neurotransmitters which work together to give you certain effects. Yes, we have caffeine, which we know about, and which gives you that buzzy feeling, energy, makes you feel a bit wired  (that’s wired, not weird). For some people this isn’t a pleasant experience, especially if you experience anxiety, or heart problems. You may experience nausea, dizziness, shakiness.

Add to this caffeine though, the amino acid called L-theanine. When used on it’s own, the L-theanine induces a calm and even sleepy state, and as a drug, it’s used for managing anxiety and stress. It crosses the blood/brain barrier and affects dopamine receptors, leading to you feeling relaxed, better mood and arguably generally more creative. When taken with caffeine, they work together to keep you alert, but also calm and meditative.

Let’s add to this combination the fact that L-theanine causes the brain to produce more GABA (technically it converts to GABA).  While ingesting GABA is not a very effective method of increasing GABA levels in the brain, L-theanine causes the brain to produce more GABA itself. This is much more effective and is the reason why tea does not give as harsh a caffeine buzz as coffee. GABA is a sort of brake on the nervous system, so works to manage pain, as well as to relax you, and improve the way your brain functions generally. Some teas naturally contain greater levels of GABA, and some processing methods can increase the level of GABA.

The fourth element in tea is Catechins, which bind to endocannabinoid receptors, which gives you a further ‘feel-good’ boost. I’m saying no more about that here! Suffice to say it’s entirely legal.

So all in all, tea contains things that stimulate and relax you at the same time, they work together – or synergistically – and this is the sensation we were seeking, to see if tea could make us feel different.

Over two tea tasting sessions, we introduced guests to three young sheng Pu-erh teas, all from 2018, spring and summer, and then moved on to an aged sheng. The young shengs all came from Jalam Teas, a tea sourcing and retailing business co-founded by Jeff Fuchs. His prizewinning documentary film The Tea Explorer is worth a watch. Jeff combines his love for tea and the mountains, and sources teas from small farmers on the Tea Horse Route from Yunnan to northern India, and Myanmar via the Himalayas. His Instagram account @jefffuchstea is filled with accounts of his teabreaks with Sherpas, and the farmers he meets, stunning photography and great tea stories.

With only two hours to pass, we limited ourselves to 4/5 infusions of each of the young shengs, each of which would have gone on much longer if we had the time. With each subsequent infusion, the buzz in the shop became palpable. At our first tasting, things got louder and more giggly, conversation increasingly silly. This differed from the second session, where people were more focussed on the odd experiences, visual and sensations, that they were getting. The session was less loud than the first, but certainly odder and more bizarre! People described sensations such as time slowing down.

After 4 infusions of the three 2018 shengs, we moved on to the 2003 sheng, of which I had recently bought two tuos. One had been bought by a customer a couple of days previously, so this one is particularly precious. More details of each of the teas will be given at the end of this post.

It was immediately apparent that this tea was having a dramatically different effect – the room became silent, meditative, I found myself just leaning on my hand, telling people to pour their own tea! It was a strange reflexive kind of effect, which others were clearly also experiencing. The second session was different, with people opening up about their experiences.

I warned people about taking care driving home, Iwan who hosted the first session with me said that the had felt quite odd driving home, and I know I’m always very aware of the quality of the light, particularly electric lights!

So here are the teas we drank. These are not on sale in the shop as they are from my private stash, but call in, and you may well be invited to partake in a cup r two of sheng with whoever is working.

  1. Spring 2018 Bada Wolf Sheng – Harvested from 100-200 year old tea trees from the Bada region in Spring of 2018, by Hani cultivators and tea makers
  2. Summer 2018 Mang Ngoi “Orchid” Old Tree Sheng
  3. Spring 2018 – He Kai Old Tree Sheng
  4. 2003 Ji Nian ‘Memorial’ Sheng

A Tasting of some First Flush Spring 2019 teas

Last week we had our long awaited April Tea Tasting, which was of five first flush teas

hoto from Yunnan Sourcing,
Zhu Ye Qing

Welcome to our Flight of Teas, which included 5 very special, very fresh teas, all first flush teas, and all harvested in the Spring of 2019. These teas have been sourced by Seibiant from sellers in India and China, and were presented on this evening, eagerly anticipated!

We started off the evening with a white tea,

Early Spring Snow Flower Bi Luo Chun

This early Spring white tea is made from newly sprouted buds – hence the masses of little hairs, which give an amazing mouthfeel. A special varietal grown in Mojiang county of Simao. Picked just twice a year, in spring (mid February) and in autumn for a three day period. This tea was gentle, and delicate, as you would expect from a white tea, but the smell of the tea field was apparent – as you know, this is absolutely what I love about fresh teas.

Beautiful green colour when brewed, malty with hints of fruit and cane sugar, brew at 4g/200ml at 80° for 1 minute – normally you would brew white tea even cooler than this, but we found that this tea can cope with much hotter water, bringing out more of the flavour.

Source: Yunnan sourcing
In this photo of the Bi Luo Chun you can see the little downy hairs

First Flush Mao Feng Yunnan Green Tea

The second tea was Mao Feng Green tea from Yunnan, a large leaf varietal. This tea is not rolled, and the leaves and buds stay largely unbroken. The flavour is bold and nutty, and if not overbrewed, is smooth and satisfying. This is the highest grade of Yunnan Mao Feng available.

Taste-wise, very tender and tippy with a vibrant umami and sweetness that both soothes and stimulates! Green and vegetal with notes of green chestnut and fresh flowers. Sweet aftertaste and nice mouthwatering effect.

Small batch, hand processed, harvested late February

5g/100ml at 60° water. Multiple infusions possible. Brew loose so you get the little hairs from the buds, which adds to the mouthfeel.

Zhu Ye Qing

A green tea from high in the mountains of Simao, processed in a similar way to the small leaf varietals elsewhere in China, but as this is a large leaf varietal it retains the distinct characteristics and bolder taste. It is high in catechins which give it a penetrating vegetal aroma and strong umami flavour which coats the mouth and throat.

Best brewed in a tall glass or chahai which shows off the tendency of the leaves to line up vertically, some floating and others sinking.

3-5g/100ml at 70° water for 2 minutes. Multiple infusions possible. Green tea from Yunnan, a large leaf varietal. This tea is not rolled, and the leaves and buds stay largely unbroken. The flavour is bold and nutty, and if not overbrewed, is smooth and satisfying. This is the highest grade of Yunnan Mao Feng available.

5g/100ml at 60° water. Multiple infusions possible. Brew loose so you get the little hairs from the buds, which adds to the mouthfeeln

Pure Bud Bi Luo Chun Yunnan Black tea

Source: Yunnan Sourcing

This exquisite black tea is made from first flush spring harvest tea leaves, harvested in March. The buds are processed with great care to produce this lovely rolled Bi Lo Chun. The name means ‘green snail spring’.

Legend tells of its discovery by a tea picker who ran out of space in her basket and put the tea between her breasts instead. The tea, warmed by her body heat, emitted a strong aroma that surprised the girl.

The taste is potent but smooth with hints of sugarcane and milk chocolate.

This tea was probably the favourite of the Chinese teas, those warming flavours of chocolate and malt are well suited to the chill evenings of spring.

4-5g/100ml at 90° water.

Singell Morning Mist – Darjeeling FTGFOP1 2019

Micro-batch tea, from the first flush in the third week of March. Carefully hand picked dried leaves consist of the most tender leaves and an abundance of silvery buds. The leaves have been given a gentle roll to preserve the full leaf appearance.

Fruity and floral, the infused liquor is light gold in colour, suggesting that the leaf has undergone very little oxidisation, so offering a light cup with all the hallmarks of a pure Darjeeling First Flush.

Picked from trees that are around 150 years old, in the Heritage section of the Singell Tea Estate.

2-3g/200ml at 90° for 3-4 minutes. Multiple infusions possible

The Big Step!

Since we opened Seibiant nearly 3 years ago (really???) we have been steadily moving towards having as tiny a carbon footprint as we possibly can. We even got to be a finalist in the Green Business of the Year at Conwy Business Awards last year! We’ve always composted our organic waste, so all our tealeaves, coffee grounds, food waste, gets composted either by us or by our friendly allotmenteers. Paper we recycle, plastic we recycle – milk cartons are fortunately effectively recycled locally. We even have a couple of Ecobricks on the go! Tetrapacks for our non-dairy milks are recycled. Lots of us are doing the same thing – and these numbers are growing daily. We reuse and recycle everything we can, from those hessian coffee sacks to pallets that our kit arrives on, and as you know, our counters are all made from upcycled scaffolding planks!

Made by Laura

Our biggest bugbear though has been single use cups for takeaway coffees and teas. Now we don’t sell hundreds of takeaway drinks, we’re not a café after all, but we were very much aware that our specially selected compostable cups and lids, were ending up in standard bins around Conwy. Now we’ve effectively composted these in our own compost bins, and in summer they really do break down completely in 12 weeks, but we found it really frustrating seeing our proudly stamped cups in the bin! Did you know that only 1 in 400 (0.25%) of the estimated 2.5 billion plastic coated coffee cups used in the UK each year are recycled. 4%, approximately 500,000, are littered every day. The rest (95.75%) go into landfill. We should be truly ashamed.

This has motivated us to take The Big Step – and we are now a no more single use takeaway drinks shop. Our customers have known for a long time that we were working towards having no single use takeaway cups at all, and we used our very last one yesterday. We may lose some custom, but we at Seibiant think that this thing is bigger than just us, and we have to a) set an example and b) give you a bit of a kick up the backside to do the right thing.
So does this mean that you can’t have a takeaway drink from Seibiant? No of course it doesn’t. But you do need to be more prepared – how many of us have at least one reusable cup at home (I’ve got 3), or in the car, but forget to bring it, and end up getting a single use cup of coffee?

We are going to make it easier for you though, and have three options when you want a takeaway coffee or tea
1) Come prepared with your very own cup – we absolutely don’t mind what this looks like – we already fill a huge variety, from the prettiest china cups from Blush, to a selection of bamboo cups from Blink, to fancy metal cups from Vinomondo. We also don’t mind if it’s dirty from last time – we will give it a quick rinse if you want, but don’t mind if you don’t!

2) You can buy one of our bamboo cups, with our own logo on it – to remind you where to get your coffee from. These are £4.50, your first drink is free. The cups come from our friends Sional in Llanfairfechan We will also have a more expensive range of reusable cups over the next few months.

3) And if you’re one of these people who has a cupboard full of reusable cups which you keep forgetting (shame on you!! – I have three, I feel your pain!) you can rent a cup from us for the same price, but you don’t have to keep it – and you get your rent back in full when you bring the cup back to us! We will then wash the cup, and it’s back on the shelf for the next person who wants to #rentacup!

Now, we have a transition period, during which we have no single use cups, and we have no bamboo cups to buy or rent as yet. So what’s the plan?
If you’re a regular, you’ll know that we have a lovely selection of mugs in the shop that you can rent for £1, bring it back, and get your quid back – or if you choose not to, you’ve got a lovely mug for £1! The mugs all come from charity shops, so everybody gains! Any £1’s left over in the pot at the end of the month goes into one of our charity boxes in the shop, so to Idlewild Animal Sanctuary or OneHeart – the homeless charity in Bangor.  And if you fancy doing a Marie Kondo KonMari on your mug cupboard, to paraphrase Emma Lazarus “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”, so long as they’re unchipped and unstained – we can give give them a new life!



Tasting Organic and Biodynamic Teas … or did we?

Gong fu brewing

So we started off last evening’s tea tasting by confessing that this was going to be as much a conversation about organic and biodynamic teas, and where they actually fit in the tea story – ours personally, our customers’, and where they fit in within the context of tea, from daily tea to speciality tea.

Iwan and Carissa spent the summer picking grapes in Germany, on a natural vineyard, lots of bugs, wildlife, and the resultingly amazing different wines, that had nothing added – not even yeast, and nothing taken away – seriously clean farming. I joined them after the harvest and got fired up about how this method of farming also applied to tea.  After my trip to Japan, I was already getting more into the idea that we should be moving towards organic farming, but really knew very little about it. So we started off last night confessing our ignorance, and hoping that the people who had come along, might be there because they’re interested in organic and biodynamic farming, and could add to our knowledge.

Yes, it really is that cloudy – just like cloudy apple juice

Tea as a crop is thousands of years old, originally growing as trees in forests of tea trees probably in Yunnan, and families would tend to their own trees, picking leaves, and making their own tea, mostly for medicinal purposes. In fact, the story of the origin of tea as a drink is of the man who sat down after battle, boiled some water, and a leaf fell from the tree into his hot water, hence the first cup of tea! The story of how tea came to be a worldwide drink has many versions, one being that tea plants and seeds were smuggled out of the country, and eventually were grown in other countries. The British were a significant factor there and established huge plantations in India and Africa with commercial production of tea in India beginning with the arrival of the British East India Company, at which point large tracts of land were converted for mass tea production.

Non-organic tea field in Wazuka, Japan

So tea went from being a wild plant, living in a biodiverse environment, where the geography, climate, other plants, in other words, the terroir, resulted in a very different drink each year, and on different sides of the same mountain, to a monoculture, where consistency and volume were the main requirements. In order to achieve the maximum crop, tasting exactly the same from one harvest to the next, it was necessary to eliminate all those things which create the difference. The only way to do this is by controlling the environment.

We started by welcoming guests with an organic chai from Assam, which we buy direct from a small farm.  The next tea was Russian Caravan, overall a fairly consistent, generic tea blend, which we have tended to buy from a wholesaler in our usual quantities, so we assumed that this was produced in a fairly standard way. We had also managed to source an organic Russian Caravan, so served them together, so guests could compare – in general, people preferred the organic.

Organic Assam Masala Chai

We then moved onto another of our direct trade Assam teas, a whole leaf Assam from the same farm. We found this farm while searching for small growers and co-operatives, who could prove that they were providing their pickers with good pay and living conditions. We were impressed with the transparency of this farm – they even have an Airbnb on the farm, and you can get as involved as you want with the farming. The farm has always been organic, and farmed according to Ayurvedic principles, which we found as being similar in motivation and techniques as biodynamic farming. The Assam from this farm is certified as being organic, but they also supply us with a Darjeeling from a farm which farms organically but does not have certification. Part of the issue is the cost of certification, which prevents small farmers from achieving this, even though it is likely to increase the saleability and price of their tea.

Queen of Assam

We then tried Da Wu Ye, an oolong from a tea grower who we contacted via various social media platforms. Again, we have no certification, but they market their tea as being organic based on the fact that the village is far from any areas of pollution.

Wild Tea Trees

Taking our teas full circle to the way tea was originally grown, we moved on to Pu-erh teas, initially drinking a Sheng Pu-erh, from my personal collection. This was a raw Pu-erh from 100 year old trees, which I get from a tea subscription from a tea explorer who has invited me to visit Yunnan with him when he goes to source teas. This again has no formal certification, but the trees are wild, growing in inaccessible areas. One of the teas we drank is described as orchid-heavy, so clearly influenced by the other plants growing in the area.

We talked of many other teas and the impact of being farmed organically on the flavour, particularly matcha, where the flavour is often negatively impacted by being shaded but with fertilizer not being used, and of teas grown in the UK, with the difficult conditions for tea growing.

If you want to try more oolongs and Pu-erh teas, please book for the tea tasting at the end of February.

Who picked my tea? The problem with Assam …

Regular shoppers and people who follow Seibiant will know that we care passionately about our teas and coffees, and a big part of what what matters to us, is that we need to be as confident as possible that the people we buy from are taking care of the environment, the workers and us, you and me.

Nestled in the north-east of India, bordering Bhutan and Bangladesh, the state of Assam is almost synonymous with tea. Around the time of India’s independence in 1947, Assam was one of the richest states in India, but today it is one of the poorest. Assam’s rise and fall can be explained in part by the development of the tea industry, first by the British colonial power and later by the owners of the tea estates and the big brands they sell to.

Today, around 52% of the world’s tea is grown in Assam. Nearly 1 million workers and their families are directly dependent on the tea industry for their livelihoods. Most of the workers who pick tea are women.

Last week, we attended a talk which was organised by Traidcraft Exchange, about the conditions that tea pickers in Assam are having to endure, and what we as tea drinkers and tea suppliers can do to help make sure that they are getting a fair deal.

The focus isn’t on Assam by accident, there are good reasons for the focus to be on this region currently.

  1. Poverty: Assam is one of the poorest states in India, and tea workers in Assam are amongst the lowest paid in India. An Assam tea worker is paid R137 – (£1.51 a day), minimum wage for an unskilled agricultural worker in India is R300 (£3.30) . Additional ‘in-kind’ benefits include services such as housing, sanitation, health facilities, and primary schools, and subsidised food rations, but Traidcraft’s research suggests that these are either not delivered at all, or are delivered poorly. Women have to use their cash wages to pay for services which should be provided by the estate, so have to make choices between educating their children, eating properly, accessing health care, repairing their homes. Many find themselves in debt.
  2. HistoryMost of the people working on the tea estates are descendants of tribal communities such as Adivasi who were brought into Assam by the British in the late 19th and early 20th century. They live in designated settlements called ‘labour lines’. The Plantations Labour Act 1951 gave tea estates a special status under Indian law, whereby the owners of the tea estates were required to provide services to their workforce which would elsewhere be provided by the government. Times have changed however, and the government is reviewing this Act, but in the meantime the workers are still reliant on the estate for their most vital services. Tea estate managers control worker status – whether someone is designated a permanent worker or not, or will get temporary work when available, work environment and working procedures, housing, water and sanitation, creche and primary schooling facilities, health facilities on the estate, access by independent organisations, and access to credit.

For us at Seibiant, there is a big question that must be asked here … Is this actually modern slavery?

What can we do? What is our responsibility?

It is not our role at Seibiant to criticise other tea companies, but we can tell you that Traidcraft have a campaign called “Who Picked My Tea” which is directed at the Big 6 UK tea brands, PG Tips, Twinings, Tetley, Yorkshire, Typhoo and Clipper, which together comprise 70% of the UK tea market. They all use tea grown in Assam. Unilever, Tata and Twinings are significant global players, estimated to account for 20% of the world tea market, so they clearly have a huge, significant influence.  Traidcraft want the Big 6 to publicise which tea plantations they source their tea from, so that drinkers can be confident that the pickers are being paid a decent wage and are treated with respect.

If you want to get involved in the Traidcraft campaign, call into the shop for a postcard to be sent to one of the Big 6, or take a look at their website

What we have done so far at Seibiant is to write to our own suppliers, where we are not buying direct, and asking them how close they are to direct trade, and if they are able to influence their suppliers. We are also attempting to source direct trade tea in Assam from the smaller  tea gardens and co-operatives, which are paying their workers properly, as well as often growing their tea using more sustainable methods.  By buying direct, we are demonstrating to the bigger tea plantations that it is possible to work in a different way to their traditional ways.

If you have any questions about this, our approach, or about the Traidcraft campaign, please don’t hesitate to get in touch