Meet the Maker: Henrietta Lovell

What is the Rare Tea Company?

We are a small band of enthusiasts based in London, striving to source the very best tea we can find.
I travel the world from the Shire Highlands of Malawi to the foothills of the Himalayas visiting each farm - searching out unique harvests and working only with farmers using sustainable practices benefiting both the land and the people who live and work on it.
From humble beginnings we now work with some, if not most, of the best restaurants and hotels around the world from Claridges to Noma and bars from Momofuku to White Lyan.

How long have you been doing what you do?

A decade this November.

When did you have your eureka moment?

On board a junk in Hong Kong harbour. I tasted an oolong tea that made my heart sing. I couldn't believe there was so much more to tea than the industrial bag I had grown up with.

Why did you set it up?

To bring often neglected yet utterly delicious, hand crafted leaf-tea back to the world; to give people an alternative to bland, industrially made tea-bags. It was a crazy, hair-brained scheme. Almost everyone said my company would fail if we didn't sell bags. It's taken some time, but we now have a respected, cult brand and people really seem to love what we have and what we do.

What would you be doing if you weren’t running the Rare Tea Company?

Making cocktails. It's my second calling. My first job was behind a bar and I'm very happy there. Making drinks is what I do best - with or without booze. This week I'm in NY and I'll be behind the bar at Momofuku Ma Peche making drinks with my friend John Debary.

Big up someone that you’ve met along the way.

Dick Bradsell, has, of course, created world renowned cocktails (the Espresso Martini and the Bramble). He’s a legend and yet a man who retains great humour, humility and integrity - sticking always to what he believes in. And he doesn’t follows the rules.
And never forgetting Henry Besant. He was a true gentleman and innovator. I miss him deeply.

Advice for other people looking to start their own thing?

You definitely need tenacity - jeroboams of the stuff.
Choose something unique. Not just another xxx someone has done before. If you’re going to give your life to something, and start your own business, it really means that it has to be something you can be really get behind and be proud of.
Lastly but most importantly choose something that's going to take you on adventures, not just something that is going to make you money. If you want a good life, work really ought to be a grand adventure.

If you had a super power what would it be?

To cure hangovers.

What’s been your biggest achievement?

Making a bespoke blend for Noma. At the end of possibly the best meal of your life - the last mouthful you have is a sip of my tea.

Who would play you in a movie?

Brian Griffin

Tell us something amazing about the Tea Industry?

I can still find tea in the mountains of Fujian China that is grown in the same place and crafted in the same way for over 3000 years.

Do you have any quirky / OCD rituals?

Every morning I drink White Silver Tip tea. I barely open my eyes as I tip toe to the kettle. I hear the sound of the water in the kettle whispering to me as it reaches the precise temperature (70) before my temperature controlled kettle peeps at me. I take the teapot back to bed and drink my first cup of the day propped up on pillows, listening to the birds.

Other brands you respect?

St John Restaurants and Bakery.

Favourite Tea Blend?

My Earl Grey. It took me a decade to perfect.

If you had to make BarChick a Rare Tea cocktail what would it be?

Olmeca blanco tequila infused with Himalayan Cloud tea - with a wild rooibos lengthener, a dash of maple syrup and a grain of sea salt. Stirred and served with a lemon twist.

Worst day at the Rare Tea Company?

When the kettle broke.

Best day / achievement at the Rare Tea Company?

Creating a hangover cure tea. I'm just perfecting it now. The day it launches it will make all lives so much better.