Ginger Twist is just mad for tea! More specifically, I love Pekoe Tea. This Edinburgh-based company is run by Jon and Esther, a wonderful tea-loving couple. They have hosted a few tea themed events for myself and Clare in the past, and I’m very fond of their Edinburgh shop. In fact, their tea served as inspiration for the entirety of the upcoming Tea Collection Club (for both colourways and hat patterns)! For those of you who have signed up for the annual subscription of the Tea Collection Club, you will also receive a wee sampler of one of the inspiration teas with each of your parcels.
Jon and Esther were kind enough to take some time out of there surely very busy day to answer a few questions for those of you who are tea curious. Read on to discover more about their shop and the importance of water temperature when making a good cuppa!
- Ginger Twist Studio: When did Pekoe Tea first open its doors and how did it come to be?
Pekoe Tea: I studied electronics with music at the University of Glasgow before setting up PekoeTea. It was my life as a musician that led to me dealing in tea. Whilst at university I played some jazz gigs at the Tchaiovna House of Tea in Glasgow’s west end and struck up a close friendship with the owner, Martin Fell, who introduced me to the world of tea.
After graduating, Martin and I discussed opening a tea house together in Edinburgh, but the plans fell through. I researched getting supplies of tea from source, rather than buying from UK wholesalers, and went to China to meet some tea experts. We still do business with them today.
We opened our first shop in 2010.
- GTS: The world of tea is so vast, what are your recommendations for someone looking to explore the world of tea. How do you know where to start?
PT: We usually start by asking if you want to take milk with your tea. If the answer is no – which is the correct answer 🙂 – we can really go into recommending the different diverse flavours in single estate teas from around the world.
Teas have a set of primary flavours and we use these to point in the right direction. For example, if you would like something sweet and floral then we might recommend a green oolong such as Huang Jin Gui (Golden Osmanthus) or if you want something spicy and syrupy we might recommend Yunnan Golden Tips.
The last question if you still can’t decide is price point – there is a very big range of prices from £3 – £30 for each tea.
- GTS: How do you go about selecting tea for your shop?
PT: Firstly the teas have to taste great. The teas we select need to have a story of some kind. Provenance is key. If we can’t explain there the tea come form and how is’t been processed we are more reluctant to stock it. When you expect people to pay a premium for an exceptional tea, you need to be able to give as much information as possible. This is why we have launched an ambition plan of sourcing as many teas as possible direct from grower, estate or factory. Some of our teas are still bought through 3rd parties but we still try and get the full disclosure of the source.
We usually find the more transparent the journey of the tea, the better quality it is and the better tasting it is.
- GTS: What makes ‘Oriental Beauty’ such a special tea? What is its story?
PT: Oriental Beauty is an amazing tea of varying different grades from Taiwan. Taiwan used to be called Formosa in colonial times and the tea was originally just called Formosa Oolong. The tea was presented to Queen Elizabeth and she was extremely impressed so she named it Oriental Beauty.
- GTS: Clare and I really enjoyed the tea-cocktails you made for our tea parties – do you have any hints for incorporating our favourites tea into our favourite ‘tipple’.
PT: This is an endless answer – the main thing is to experiment. Sometimes things that you would think would work well actually end up tasting awful an vice versa. Black tea and Spiced Rum goes well together especially if you add cranberry juice.
- GTS: You have a very fancy kettle in your shop – what is the correlation between water temperature and brewing the perfect cuppa?
PT: The correct water temperature is one of the 4 essential steps to making good tea – along with good quality tea leaves, good quality water and infusion time.
If the water is the wrong temperature you end up extracting the wrong flavours from the tea. Interestingly in the countries of origin, boiling water is used most of the time – usually because there was a water quality issue, but in the West we have a fascination with getting different flavours from our food and drink.
With green tea, the water temperature needs to be cooler so that the astringency or any bitterness that is in the leaf is not extracted and the flavours are sweet and fresh. With Black tea you need boiling water to extract the rich complex flavours that exist in the leaf. But there are many exceptions to the rules.
The main thing to realise is that there is no set way to prepare tea and there is personal preference but certain teas can taste better if done in a particular way.
- GTS: What is your go-to tea?
PT: Our go-to tea at the moment is and Assam from the Doomni Estate. It’s really easy drinking and we can have it in a mug whilst pouring over our computers doing the dreaded admin.
At home we tend to drink high quality Japanese Sencha. Its really fresh and rich.
But asking this question to a tea business owner is a little unfair……
Yes – we although we’re like to cobbler who has no shoes a little at home – we spend so much time at work that our cupboard at home id a it bare when it comes to tea.
- GTS: We are great fans of pairing tea and cake – what are your favourite tea pairings?
PT: Tea and Chocolate but tea and cheese also works really well.
- GTS: If you could pick the perfect knitted tea cosy – what would it look like?
PT: It’s got to be a snug fit. As well as being functional it really needs to look good. Colour needs to be tasteful too. The problem with a lot of cozies is that they’re like oven gloves that have been cut to shape. Horrible to look at.
- GTS: Cats or dogs?
PT: Currently Esther and I have a working cocker spaniel called Jasmine (Adori Jasmine Tea) but we love cats too.
- GTS: This question is for Esther in particular…what’s on your needles?
PT: I’m crocheting a multi coloured cardigan. I’ve been working on it on and off for a couple of years but it’s almost finished now. Next I’m going to make the oriental beauty tea hat for Jon 🙂