Fancy a cuppa?

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WHAT BEGAN as the afternoon routine of a member of English nobility in the early 1800s is now a popular and healthy pastime in many parts of the world — drinking afternoon tea.

It was during late afternoons when Anna Russell, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, would feel hunger pangs so she, together with her friends, would schedule tea and snack time to tide them over until the regular late evening dinner. The idea of afternoon tea caught on and soon the people all over the British Empire were enjoying a cuppa with scones and cucumber sandwiches in the late afternoon.

The tea industry in Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon) was introduced when James Taylor, a Scottish coffee planter, planted 19 acres of tea near Kandy, the country’s second largest city, in 1867.

Organic tea “grown without chemical fertilizers and pesticides” in farms in Sri Lanka is the focus of the English Tea Shop, which was established in England in 2010. “We are working with 2,082 small-scale organic farmers certified by US and European standards,” English Tea Shop Founder and CEO Suranga Herath told BusinessWorld at the launch of his products in Makati.

The brand works with local farmers who own an acre of land to grow tea, herbs, and spices.

“When we started in 2010, it was a depressing sight when we visited those farms. They do lovely work but there was no market for organic [products]. There was no export market because the scale wasn’t there. The organic players at that time looked for bigger volumes. When we went in, that inspired us to start in a dynamic way. We wanted to do more varieties, because if you do more variety, we can help more farmers and buy their small volumes,” he said.

Mr. Suranga said that the brand name pays tribute to the English tea tradition. “It really brought about that old tradition of the Sri Lankan industry that was born out of British traditions.”

The English Tea Shop is certified 100% organic by the Control Union Inspection, non-GMO Project verified by FoodChain ID, Inc., and approved Kosher by the Union Orthodox Jewish Congregation of America.

It has over 130 tea variants including herbal infusions; black, green, and white tea; and blended tea. Peppermint, super berries, lemongrass, ginger and citrus, and ginger honey are among its best-sellers.

Drinking tea has benefits for the mind and body. Tea come from the plant Camellia sinensis which contains flavonoids, an antioxidant that helps prevent “blood from clotting, causing an obstruction that could lead to stroke or heart attacks,” said dietitian-nutritionist Cheshire Que during a presentation at the launch.

She added that it helps boost the immune system (something that those with depressed immune systems should take note of). In addition, Ms. Que said that tea helps with one’s digestive health as a remedy for constipation and diarrhea, as well as promotes oral health by strengthening teeth.

Balance is key. “The benefits of the tea will not cancel out the bad things that will happen to your body if you eat the sweets excessively,” she told BusinessWorld — something to note when enjoying high tea with sweets or pastries. “But if it (sweets) is within the amount of calories your body needs, for example [you] ate one macaroon, that’s fine.”

As for those who burn the midnight oil, Ms. Que suggested taking variants of black tea “early during the night,” and wind down with variants of green or white tea which are less caffeinated than the former.

She also suggested herbal infusions such as peppermint, lemon ginger and citrus, as good for breastfeeding mothers.

Ms. Que noted that there is no science about excessive tea drinking. “There’s no regulatory board that tells us [how much] is the maximum,” she said, adding that according to studies, “Five cups is still safe.”

English Tea Shop is represented in the Philippines by Clever Cats International Company and exclusively available in most Robinsons Supermarkets nationwide. For more information, visit For inquiries, e-mail— Michelle Anne P. Soliman