Behind the scenes: The making of our tea
How does the development process start?
Our world leading herbal experts combine traditional wisdom with scientific research to lovingly create each new blend of Pukka tea.
One of our founders, Sebastian and our Herbal Director Euan start out with the idea for a tea. They consider ‘need’ states - what does the tea need to do – then they design a recipe. From there it’s handed over to the herbal development team, based in Bristol, to bring it to life.
Each ingredient is carefully chosen, considering its active ingredients and how they will function in the recipe. Quantities of each herb are meticulously balanced to compliment and harmonise to deliver the best ‘organoleptic’ or flavour combination.
For example, our Relax blend was designed to be balancing for the Vata dosha. It contains a UK native herb, Marshmallow root (used since medieval times for its sweet flavour and moistening effects) and Chamomile (rich in relaxing essential oil to balance and harmonise). These are complemented by the gentle warming spice of Ginger.
How do we ensure quality?
Quality is at the forefront of our product innovation. It can be a long journey from harvest to teabag, and being a natural product, herbs vary in quality. Luckily, we have nutrition experts and herbal practitioners working in our onsite laboratory to monitor standards. We test our herbs for purity, as well as organic standards for environmental contaminants and pesticides.
Quality isn’t the only consideration. How the growers and businesses we work with conduct their business is another key element. We are continually looking for ways to increase the Fair for life status of our herbs.
What does Fair for life mean?
Fair for Life is a third-party certification process that ensures the supply chain is resilient and responsible on a social and environmental level. It guarantees decent working conditions and a ‘fair trade fund’ to benefit local families and community life.
What does organoleptic mean?
Organoleptic properties are the aroma, taste and mouthfeel of food and drink. Taste and aroma are powerful triggers for memories and life experiences so describing organoleptic characteristics is unique to each of us.
We designed our own flavour wheel and unique Pukka vocabulary to describe the colour, the aroma and the taste of our blends.
We assess each standalone herb before preparing kitchen blends - small samples of the blend - to assess how everything works together. This process can’t be rushed, and many kitchen blends are made until we find one that “wows” our tea tasters.
How do we do our tea tasting and why is it important?
Once the blend is ready, we taste them in hand stitched teabags, so we can experience the blend exactly as you would at home.
All our herbal ingredients are brewed for 5 minutes. Green or black teas have a shorter 3-minute brew as they contain tannins which are responsible for the bitter drying sensation in the mouth. The shorter brew time ensures we can still detect the delicate top notes and complexities of flavour that would be masked by tannins.
Assessments don’t stop even after we’ve found the perfect blend. Natural variability can affect our finely balanced flavour profile, so a sample of every batch is sent to our Quality team for tasting. Continual assessment is key to delivering the consistent flavour expected by our consumers.
What does it take to be a tea taster?
We have a panel of top tasters who are well versed in our Pukka vocabulary and flavour wheel. They always include members of our Quality and Herbal teams, who can translate what they taste into the Pukka vocabulary for everyone to understand.
For each tasting we have least 3 people on our panel. All tasters must be in good health, as a cold or blocked nose would affect sense of taste. The other golden rule is no food or drink for 30 minutes beforehand, as strong-tasting foods, particularly coffee can interfere with our ability to pick up on a full range of flavours.
How do we design our packaging?
Nature inspires our eye-catching packaging designs and colours. Our creative team study the unique features of each herb, their flowers and colours, leaves, and petals.
At the bottom of our design helix one key plant is featured. This could be the main flavour note or the most beautiful of the ingredients.
We want you to feel excited about opening and tasting our teas, so the design of the inside of our boxes is just as important as the outside. We carefully consider the sachet design and wording.
We aim for designs that reflect our teas, bold yet delicate, beautiful, colourful, and full of life.
What are Pukka tea bags made of?
Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do, which is why our teabags are made from a special blend of natural abaca, wood pulp, and plant cellulose fibres. Each teabag is then hand-stitched with organic cotton before being wrapped in its own paper sachet made from FSC-certified cardboard and printed with vegetable-based ink. You can find out more in our sustainable packaging information.
Author: Marion Mackonochie
Senior Herbal Specialist
Marion is Senior Herbal Specialist at Pukka and a practising medical herbalist dedicated to furthering herbal knowledge and understanding. Degrees in pharmacology (UCL) and herbal medicine and a masters degree in plant chemistry and medicinal natural products (UCL) mean she is well placed to help plan Pukka’s extensive programme of herbal research, as well as advising across Pukka on herb benefits. She has worked on the Journal of Herbal Medicine since its launch in 2011 and is currently Associate Editor.
B.Sc qualified in herbal medicine (Middlesex Uni, 2009), M.Sc (mCPP) qualified in pharmacology & physiology (UCL, 2002), MSc medicinal natural products and phytochemistry (UCL, 2016)
Years of experience
12 years in medical herbalism
Member of College of Practitioners of Phytotherapy