Nick Mosley talks to Brighton's Queen of Tea - Helen Taggart of Mdtea and Metrodeco. [this story first appeared in the Brighton Argus on Friday 21 May]
Tea is the UK’s most popular hot drink, with Brits drinking around 165 million cups a day – that’s a staggering 60 billion cups a year. Whilst most of us rely on big brand teabags for our daily cuppa, in recent years there’s been a reemergence of craft blended teas and a more thoughtful way of sourcing, blending and drinking.
Helen Taggart and Maggie Morgan are co-owners of Metrodeco on Upper St James Street, in Kemptown. The vintage inspired tearoom is now entering its 12th year, and is renowned for its range of quality blended teas, cakes, afternoon teas and – in recent years – a menu of tea cocktails.
Unable to find a tea company that inspired them when they set up in 2009, Helen thought it would be a great idea to blend their own.
“We partnered with a master blender – who is a family friend – to source our tea from all over the world”, said Helen. “After working for a larger tea company and forging relationships across Africa, Asia and the Americas, he broke away to concentrate on higher quality tea. He only uses growers and suppliers he trusts, ensuring quality and ethical standards”.
Helen is very hands-on with the process and has a specific brief in mind when she creates her bespoke blends.
“It’s like being a kid in a sweet shop”, said Helen, “Usually, I’ll create a blend around a particular tea or herb or will be looking for the tea to achieve a particular requirement, for example to be calming or revitalising. Above all though, the blend has to taste good”.
As word got out about the quality of the blends at Metrodeco, Helen decided to offer their teas directly to consumers and also to restaurants and and cafés across the county.
“As word got out about our blends at Metrodeco, we realised it was silly to keep the tea to ourselves and Mdtea was born”, said Helen. “Amongst other hospitality businesses, you can find our teas at the Gingerman restaurants and pubs, and also Jeremy’s Restaurant at Borde Hill. We work with venues to curate a tea menu that suits their food, style and clientele. We also train their staff to make the perfect brew”.
But the big question for tea connoisseur Helen is surely how to make the perfect cup of tea at home.
“The best thing about making a cuppa at home is you make it just how you like it”, said Helen. “Add milk first or last – who am I to say what happens behind closed doors?”.
Metrodeco, 38 Upper St James Street, Brighton BN2 1JN
Buy teas online at www.mdteashop.co.uk