When I set out to create Twrl Milk Tea, I knew the TEA part of milk tea was crucial to get right.
But how do you find the perfect tea in an industry that’s thousands of years old, and that today is dominated by major corporations? It felt like finding a needle in a gigantic global haystack.
After months of unrelenting research, I found these amazing family tea growers in the provinces of ShanDong and Yunnan in China.
A great tea, like a great wine, tells the story of where it was grown.
The families that produce our tea have spent generations finding the most optimal terrain to plant each tea varietal. Some of the tea is even grown and harvested in the wild!
The families who pick, finish and package their tea are also the ones that own the land they cultivate. This cuts out the middleman, and therefore lets the family business make their own decisions about how they grow the tea, and how to meet a particular profit margin. This not only creates a fair labor and trade practice, but also preserves the land they live on.
Our tea farmers plant and harvest teas high up on craggy cliffs by wild walnut trees, and others down at the seaside, nurtured by the moist and salty air. The result? Beautifully nuanced teas, steeped in the complex flavors of their terroir.
The family literally lives off the land — so they don’t use any pesticides or harsh chemicals that could damage the ecosystem that is their livelihood.
In fact, their farming practices go way beyond the standards for “organic” growers.
Sound impossible? Well, it would be — in modern farming.
Tea plants grown with pesticides become, well, lazy! Without the need to build resilience to their environment, pesticide-grown plants never develop the compounds that contribute to the robust flavors and beneficial antioxidants that tea is so famous for. Simply put, adding pesticides yields a bland tasting, low nutrient tea.
But the family’s generations-old, biodiverse growing methods are naturally pest-resistant. In the case of tea, birds are the farmers’ BFFs. They are the biggest predators for insects, so it’s beneficial to have tree cover and a variety of other plants for the birds to thrive in. This biodiversity helps the soil maintain more nutrition and gives the plant more challenges from competitor plants, forcing it to become more flavorful in response. It’s a delicate ecosystem, but it works!
The tea we use for our Supreme Jasmine flavor is grown in the wild near walnut trees and winter wheat. This creates a biodiverse environment beneficial for the tea trees and other plants in the area.
So why am I telling you all this?
When I set out to create Twrl Milk Tea, I was 100% positive that it would be an organic product.
But one of the tea producers I chose, despite going above and beyond organic labeling requirements, can’t afford the hefty CFDA fees to get the label. They truly are just a small family farm!
Now, I did have the option to work with bigger tea growers who have their organic certification (you know, the ones that can afford the CFDA fees, but only meet the bare minimum for organic labeling requirements, and often still use harmful growing practices).
Liu Jiaqi watches as her grandfather works with fresh leaves in the He Family’s workshop.
But I chose to place my trust in these multi-generational family growers. The tea tastes incredible, and I believe that farming with respect for the land is the key to responsible food production.
That means that Twrl Milk Tea can’t be officially labeled as organic, despite our ingredients going above and beyond the standards.
So if you hear me say “beyond organic,” that’s what I mean 😉. At the end of the day, tea leaves are the foundation of our milk teas, and the flavor from these is unlike anything I’ve tried before. No added “tea flavoring” in the ingredient list, just good, pure brewed tea. We can’t wait I’m so excited for you to taste it too!
Founder & CT(ea)O
Twrl M!lk Tea