The Diary: Brew-makers have city down to a tea

Julie and Rebecca English who are selling loose leaf teas named after Sheffield Landmarks.
Julie and Rebecca English who are selling loose leaf teas named after Sheffield Landmarks.
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Sheffield may have been globally recognised as a capital of beer earlier this month but it seems real ale isn’t the only kind of brew spreading our name far and wide.

This mother and daughter duo have created a range of specialist Sheffield teas.

And their loose leaf mixes – each one inspired by, and named after, a city site such as Botanical Gardens or Kelham Island – have proven so popular the pair have just had some sent to... China.

More of which shortly.

For now, Julie and Rebecca English have been so inundated with orders to their Birdhouse Tea company they’ve had to quit the day jobs just so they can focus on making their mixes. Their range – also called Peace Gardens, Seven Hills and Cole’s Corner – are selling at more than 30 bags a day.

One customer told them he’d drunk it on an Icelandic trawler: “He said it was the best brew he’d ever had because it reminded him of home,” says Rebecca, 25. Another, Coronation Street star Joe Duttine, bought one bag from Porter Brook Deli. Then returned the next day to buy several more. When they had a stall at Sheffield Food Festival, they sold out within a few hours.

Not a bad result, all in all, for something which, just six months ago, started as an experiment in Julie’s kitchen in Halfway.

“My mum took me to London for my 12th birthday and we had this amazing green tea – and I’ve been fascinated by tea ever since,” says Rebecca. “Last year I went on a course to learn to how to mix loose leaf teas. I made some with mum afterwards and we just decided to have a go selling them.”

They booked themselves a stall at a market in Arrow Farm shop, near Worksop, and another in Elsecar the following day. And it sold if not like hot cakes, at least like hot drinks.

“After that we kept experimenting with different flavours using apple, lemon, mint, spices, you name it, and selling them at markets,” explains Rebecca, a former call centre worker, who lives in Mosborough.

Not everything works.

They wanted one tea to resemble mulled wine – “but it was more like mince pies,” admits Julie, 56, who previously worked in the construction industry.

Now, their teas are stocked in independent shops across the city and take orders by email.

And that sale to China? A customer told them she’d bought it to send to a friend out there for Christmas. “Ironic because we get a lot of our leaves from China and Japan,” says Rebecca.

Now, they’re thinking of moving out of Julie’s kitchen. News worth drinking to.