INTRODUCTION

FROM CROP TO CUP

From crop to cup, our tea undergoes a long, intricate journey. Where possible only the top two leaves and bud are hand-plucked from the finest tea gardens. We nurture the relationships with our partners, seeing it as an investment in the quality of our tea.

We taste our selected teas repeatedly every step of the way. The journey ends with our masterful tea blenders, who create the finest teas to be enjoyed by tea lovers everywhere.

FROM CROP TO CUP Hand-plucked from the finest tea gardens Quality of our tea
1. HOW DID IT START?

THE HISTORY OF TEA

Use the slider below to explore how tea was discovered, and how it developed into the beverage we love today.

2737-BC

China, 2737BC

Popular legend holds that renowned herbalist, Emperor Shen Nung, discovers tea

Various legends abound regarding the discovery of tea, but the most popular tells the story of the Emperor Shen Nung and dates back to 2737 BC. The Emperor was a renowned herbalist, who liked to boil his drinking water for health reasons. The legend tells us that one day, the leaves from a tea bush fell into his boiling water. Curious, he tasted it, and found the brew to be refreshing and invigorating. And so, the first cup of tea was brewed.

206BC – 220AD

China, 206BC – 220AD

The World’s oldest tea dates back to the tomb of a Han Dynasty Emperor

The oldest tea ever discovered dates back to the Han Dynasty when archaeologists found a container of tea in the tomb of the Emperor, Jing Di. This gives us evidence that tea drinking was an important part of ancient Chinese culture.

LATE-16TH-CENTURY

Europe, Late Sixteenth Century

Portuguese traders record the existence of tea

It took nearly 4,000 years for Tea to reach European shores and surprisingly, the English were not the first to adopt tea drinkers. That accolade goes to Portuguese traders in the late 16th Century, who controlled most trade with the West Indies and made the first recorded mention of tea in Europe.

1606

Europe, 1606

The first shipment of tea arrives in Holland

In 1606 the Dutch made the first recorded bulk shipment of tea to Amsterdam, from their trading base in Java. It started to become a fashionable drink in Europe, but because it was expensive and considered so exotic, tea-drinking was something reserved only for the upper echelons of society.

Tea Becomes popular in coffee houses and amongst middle classes

Britain, 1657

Tea Becomes popular in coffee houses and amongst middle classes

A coffee house merchant, Thomas Garway, was a key figure in the early days of the tea industry in England. He is often credited with being the first to sell and serve tea to a curious public.

Portuguese Princess Catherine

Britain, 1662

Charles II marries Portuguese Princess Catherine of Braganza, a tea lover

The Portuguese-born new Queen Catherine was, by virtue of her position, the first lady of British High Society. She adored tea and so it quickly became fashionable, first in court and then throughout the rest of high society.

The first shipment of tea arrived in Britain

This first shipment of tea imported to British shores was a modest one. Weighing 100lbs, or 45kg, this is the equivalent to one sack of tea from a modern-day tea producer.

East India Company begins importing tea directly into Britain and the first London Tea Auction takes place

Britain, 1664 – 1750

East India Company begins importing tea directly into Britain and the first London Tea Auction takes place

Increased demand for tea in Britain was met by the East India Company, with the first direct shipment arriving on British shores in 1664. As tea drinking caught on with the population, it led to the formation of the first Tea Auction at the East India Company’s HQ in 1679.

The popularity of tea continued to grow and the import quantities increased rapidly with it. By 1750, tea imports from China reached almost 5 million lbs.

First experimental tea planting is begun in Peradeniya Botanical Gardens

Ceylon, 1839

First experimental tea planting is begun in Peradeniya Botanical Gardens

Until 1948 Sri Lanka was known as Ceylon. It was there that early experimental planting trials were carried out in the Botanical Gardens, near Kandy, where it was discovered that tea grew well.

Anna Maria Russell, Duchess of Bedford, is widely regarded as the originator of the British ‘afternoon tea’ ritual.

Britain, 1840

Anna Maria Russell, Duchess of Bedford, is widely regarded as the originator of the British ‘afternoon tea’ ritual.

It is recorded that The Duchess would become hungry at four o’clock in the afternoon. The evening meal in her household was served fashionably late at eight o’clock, leaving a long period of time between lunch and dinner, and so the afternoon tea occasion was born.

first shipment of tea to the London auction in 1872, of 23lbs.

Ceylon, 1867- 1872

A Scotsman, James Taylor, started the first plantation there and made the first shipment of tea to the London auction in 1872, of 23lbs.

Despite this fledgling success, Ceylon was in fact mostly a coffee producing island until a deadly disease wiped out almost all of the coffee plants in the 1880s. Tea was a ready-made replacement for coffee production and export, and so the tea trade rapidly grew there.

First tea planted in Malawi, Africa.

Africa, 1878

First tea planted in Malawi, Africa.

Of the large tea-producing countries, the newest plantations are found in Africa, where tea was planted at scale during the time of the British Colonies. Malawi was the first African country where tea was planted. 

Indian tea production exceeds 86 million pounds

Britain, 1888

Indian tea production exceeds 86 million pounds and becomes the   primary source of British imports.

From those small early seeds of planting, today Kenya is now the largest exporter of tea in the world.

Africa, 1903

The first tea seeds from India are planted in Kenya

From those small early seeds of planting, today Kenya is now the largest exporter of tea in the world.

Teabag invented by Thoma Sullivan

USA, 1908

Teabag invented by Thoma Sullivan

An inventive New York tea merchant named Thomas Sullivan created small silken bags to send samples of tea to his customers. Instead of emptying the bags and brewing their tea in the traditional way, some customers put the entire bag into the pot. Thus by accident the teabag was born.

Sullivan developed the first purpose-made tea bags using gauze and by the 1920s they were produced commercially and distributed throughout the USA. The bags bore the features we still recognise today – a string that hung over the side so the bag could be removed easily, with a decorated tag on the end.

Today, tea is the world’s second most popular drink, after water, with over five million tonnes produced each year.

Today

Worldwide

Today, tea is the world’s second most popular drink, after water, with over five million tonnes produced each year.

2. SOURCING THE LEAVES

THE ORIGINS OF OUR TEA

Explore the world of Ahmad Tea and learn where we source some of the finest quality leaves that go into our masterful blends.

3. HOW AHMAD TEAS ARE MADE

TEA CULTIVATION

How Ahmad Teas are made

The tea plant, scientifically known as Camelia sinensis, is indigenous to China and India. It can naturally grow to over 20 feet high but to keep it manageable when cultivated, it is regularly pruned back to a height of around three feet.

It is considered best practice to only pluck the tips and the top two layers of young leaves, where the sap and nutrients are most concentrated. We insist on this because we know it is the best way to ensure a fine quality cup of tea. It also stimulates the growth of the bush, increasing the maximum yield.

The perfect environment for tea bushes to grow is in warm, humid environments with good rainfall, and fairly high up at an altitude of between 1,000 and 7,000 feet. The climate dictates whether the bush can be plucked all year round, or if harvest is a seasonal effort.

For example the warmer climates of Africa and Sri Lanka allow all year round production, with higher yields during monsoon periods. In colder climates like the Himalayan foothills, tea yields come in seasonal “flushes”. Varying levels of soil acidity, altitude and climate give distinctively different flavours to the tea leaves.

BLACK TEA PRODUCTION

Plucking

Step 1. Plucking

The top two leaves and bud are carefully plucked by the expert team of pluckers employed by the tea garden. The top two leaves and tips are hand-plucked from the from the bush, meaning they are handled with the utmost care and no foreign matter finds its way into the finished product. It’s because of this care that Ahmad Tea only uses hand-plucked teas.

Withering

Step 2. Withering

Once plucked and collected, the tea leaves are spread over a long tray and dried with hot air. In most cases this air is forced through small holes in the tray to speed up the process. The leaves will turn supple after withering, which stops them from breaking into small flakes. Besides reducing the moisture content, some biochemical changes occur in the leaves during withering. These influence the characteristics of the tea later down the line.

Rolling

Step 3. Rolling / Cutting

The rolling stage breaks down the veins of the leaves, releasing the juices inside (called catechins and enzymes) that are essential to begin fermentation. During processing, the leaves take on the final shape found in Ahmad Tea caddies bought in shops across the world. There are two different methods of processing the leaf: the ‘Orthodox’ method is primarily used for loose leaf tea, and the CTC – the ‘Crush-Tear-Curl’ method, which is usually used for teabags.

Fermentation

Step 4. Fermentation / Oxidisation

Once the leaves have been ‘processed’ – either using the ‘Orthodox’ or ‘CTC’ method – they are placed in a cool, airy and humid room to ferment. How thickly the tea leaves are spread is what controls the temperature of the leaf, the rate of moisture loss, and the amount of oxygen the leaves can access. It is this fermentation stage that is the most important because it determines the taste. If the fermentation process continues for too long, or is stopped too soon, the flavour of the tea will be impaired.

Firing

Step 5. Firing

The firing process means drying the leaves in an oven to stop fermentation. The leaves are dried to a moisture content of approximately 2% to prevent the leaves taking on a musty taste. If the firing continues for too long the tea will take on an unpleasant, burnt taste.

Grading

Step 6. Grading

Once the firing stage has been completed the leaves are graded into differing sizes and categories before the final bulk tea packaging stage. There are many grades of tea, for both the ‘Orthodox’ and ‘CTC’ methods, ranging from dust through to whole leaves. Understandably given the rigours of the process, only about 5% of the total production retains its full leaf shape. It is those leaves that command the highest prices. In general, though, quality is primarily determined not by the size of the leaf but by ensuring that leaves are plucked from the top two layers of the bush.

4. TYPES OF TEA

BREWS & BLENDS

Once discovered, the world of tea drinking is an endlessly enthralling one for both palate and imagination. Driven by the fire of curiosity, we tirelessly seek inspiration from around the world to bring you blends that deliver the finest flavours and aromas. We believe there is no greater joy than an impeccable cup of Ahmad Tea and our range of blends and brews is reflective of our craft, creativity and thirst for knowledge.

Black Teas

Black Teas

Black tea is oxidised during production and usually has a bold and full flavour which is developed during this process. It is the most common type of tea in the Western world and can be enjoyed with milk and sugar.

Green Teas

Green Teas

Green tea comes from the same plant as black tea (Camellia sinensis), just not allowed to oxidise. It is has been enjoyed in China for over 5,000 years and is cherished for its antioxidant properties and fragrant flavour.

Fruit Teas

Fruit Flavoured Teas

Fruit tea is made by blending black or green tea with real pieces of sweet fruit and our signature flavouring to create distinctive taste profiles. The fruity sweetness makes them ideal for drinking either hot or cold.

Fruit Herbal Infusions

Fruit & Herbal Infusions

Also known as herbal teas, infusions do not actually contain tea and are made by blending natural aromatic herbs, spices and fruit pieces, like camomile, ginger and peppermint. They are usually naturally caffeine and sugar-free.

Oolong Teas

Oolong Teas

Only the most skilled Tea Masters create this semi-fermented tea using techniques dating back hundreds of years. Many oolong teas are best brewed using hot (not boiling water) to bring out the sweet, floral character.

Matcha Teas

Matcha Teas

Matcha is a type of green tea from Japan, made by taking green tea leaves and grinding them up to make a powder. This gives it a distinctive green colour. It is vitamin, mineral and antioxidant-rich.

Pu'er Teas

Pu'er Teas

Pu’er tea is a rare type of tea that has been oxidised and fermented - like wine - for longer than black tea to give earthy, espresso-like flavour notes. It is said to aid digestion.

White Teas

White Teas

White teas are made from minimally processed tea ‘buds’, making it naturally high in antioxidants. They have a very delicate, nuanced flavour and are growing in popularity.

VIEW OUR COLLECTIONS

From our classic black blends and much-loved bestsellers, to balanced infusions and delicious cold brews, there is a cup of Ahmad Tea to suit everyone, any time of the day. Explore our ranges.

DISCOVER OUR COLLECTIONS
5. QUALITY ABOVE ALL ELSE

THE ART OF TEA TASTING

From selecting the finest teas that go into Ahmad Tea blends to checking those blends are up to scratch, our team of Tea Tasters are crucial to maintaining a top quality product. Here’s an insight into art of Tea Tasting at Ahmad Tea HQ.

OUR TEA TASTING TEAM

Our Tea Tasters must taste as many as 500 cups of tea each day. They will distinguish between the flavour characteristics of each cup, determining quality and consistency. When contemplating different blends, the Tea Taster will consider the compatibility of different teas with one another, like an artist creating colour.

500 CUPS A DAY

Our Tea Tasters must taste as many as 500 cups of tea each day. They will distinguish between the flavour characteristics of each cup, determining quality and consistency. When contemplating different blends, the Tea Taster will consider the compatibility of different teas with one another, like an artist creating colour.

AROUND THE WORLD IN TEA

The Tea Taster’s knowledge and palate is an invisible combination. They retain a taste memory so they can review many offerings of the same tea type from different estates over the year. They have travelled to all of our tea estates and understand market trends shaping the world of tea.

THE SENSES

Sight, smell and taste are vital tools for our Tea Tasters. By sight they hunt for signs of quality. The appearance of the dry leaf is examined and the infusion of leaves is inspected to understand how well the tea is made. Our Taster carefully studies the colour of the liquor, then raises a spoon to his or her lips and slurps: this quickly sucks the tea into the mouth for maximum impact on the taste buds.

6. BREWING TIPS

THE PERFECT CUP OF TEA

Heating Water

1. Fresh Water For The Perfect Cup

Always use fresh water from the tap because if it’s already been boiled, you won’t get the best from your cup of Ahmad Tea. Use an electric or stovetop kettle to bring the water to the boil.

Just The Right Amount Of Your Favourite Blend

2. Just The Right Amount Of Your Favourite Blend

For a traditional breakfast or afternoon tea, our black teas are ideal. But if you’re after something lighter, try a delicious green tea or herbal infusion. Use one teabag per person or for loose tea, one teaspoon of tea per person, plus one for the pot.

Brewing Tips

3. An Impeccable Brew

Pour freshly boiled water immediately onto the tea leaves. Check the pack of your chosen blend for exact brewing times, they will vary. When your tea has finished steeping, remove the teabag or loose tea with a strainer. Serve and savour.

BREWING INSTRUCTIONS

TEA TYPE TEMPERATURE BREW TIME
TEABAGS
Black Teas 100° C 3 – 5 Min
Green Teas 90 – 100° C 3 – 5 Min
Decaffeinated Teas 100° C 3 – 5 Min
Fruit Flavoured Black Teas 100° C 3 – 5 Min
Fruit and Herbal Infusions 100° C 5 Min
LOOSE LEAF
Black Teas (Loose Leaf) 100° C 4 – 8 Min
Green Teas (Loose Leaf) 90-100° C 3 – 5 Min
ICED TEAS*
Black Teas 100° C 4 – 8 Min
Fruit Flavoured Black Teas 100° C 3 – 5 Min
Green Teas 90-100° C 3 – 5 Min
Fruit and Herbal Infusions 100° C 5 Min

*Pour 1.5 litres of boiling water over tea bags. Depending on taste preferences,

we suggest 8-10 tea bags, or approx. 8-10 spoonful’s of loose tea for a 2L jug.

Want to learn more about Tea? Ask Ahmad Tea!

Ask Ahmad Tea