You launched Madame Flavour just over 10 years ago. What made you start the brand and what are the biggest lessons you’ve learnt since?
Indeed, I took my ‘long-service leave’ last year, travelling the globe for 10 weeks with my daughter Sienna, which was wonderful, and gave me fresh perspective and energy. I started the brand because I believe passionately that consumers – people – deserve great
quality, and deserve a level of care and respect from their brands. At the time, the tea offered, in my humble opinion, did not reflect that. Tea can be so rich in leaf, flavour, story and heritage, which led me to have a “people deserve better; I can do that” moment.
Lessons? I could write a book of these, perhaps titled ‘Lessons of a Tea Lady’. In fact, I’ve already started one. Be clear on where you add value and be uncompromising about keeping that at your core. Listen to your intuition when hiring, be clear on why you are doing it and keep your plans and path aligned with that. Most importantly, listen to your customers. It’s amazing to look at where we are now. We’ve delivered more than 100 million beautiful tea experiences to tea drinkers who truly appreciate it. The bond we have with our customers is very special.
The brand has really flourished over the years and you’ve just released a selection of everyday teas. What inspired the new range and how does it differ from what we’ve seen previously from Madame Flavour?
It has taken me 10 years to launch these everyday teas – ‘everyday’ in the sense they’re in paper teabags. I wanted to really focus on leaf tea and the beauty of that me-time experience.
In a group a while back though, I was talking about taking the time to relax as the pyramid gently infuses – the longer leaf takes a little time – and a customer said to me, “Three minutes? Half the time I’m lucky to have 30 seconds with kids and work.” I realised then I
needed to offer something to her for that moment – something faster, but still worthy. So, I put my energy into developing the best black teas in teabags. I buy these from the same estates as our leaf tea, just in a finer cut so they infuse faster.
In a sense it’s not the sexiest launch, but the everyday cup of tea is so iconic that I am taking great pleasure in the lovely mails and calls from tea drinkers raving about how good our new Australian Morning, Melbourne Morning and Afternoon Grey teabag blends are.
What goes into making the perfect blend?
It’s a combination of art and science. It starts with thinking about flavour combinations, classic blends and what could be interesting to try with them. Selecting tea from different estates with unique characteristics is the next step. Tea leaves from lower grown estates
offer sufficient body; higher grown are interesting flavour notes. Then you need to consider which leaf sizes will blend well.
It takes many, many, many cuppings (tastings) to refine and refine, each time noting the percentages of each and the characteristics of the infusion. For some blends it only takes a few iterations – Green Jasmine & Pear was one that came together quite quickly. Others, such as our Rooibos Mint Choc, took more than a hundred attempts as I was really breaking new ground when it came to flavour and ingredients.
Is there a secret to making the perfect cuppa?
Yes, there are definitely a few elements that are important to achieve the perfect cuppa. It’s always best to use fresh water, so that the oxygen remains in the water, rather than re-boiled water. The water temperature should be lower for more delicate teas – 95 degrees for black and more like 80 degrees for green, otherwise the tea will be damaged and can become too bitter.
If you are using a pot, a heaped teaspoon of tea per 100ml of water is about the proportion. Infusion time effects strength, so a rule of thumb is three to four minutes for black leaf, two to three for green and around five minutes for herbals. Of course, with our new Australian Morning teabags, about one minute is enough. Make sure to use a cup you really love and take a few moments to enjoy the process. Tea is very much about the experience.
As we head into the warmer months, what are the different ways people can enjoy tea?
I enjoy an iced tea or tea cocktail during the warmer months – our Raspberry Hibiscus tisane with a touch of sugar syrup and orange juice is perfect iced, as is Lemongrass Lime and Ginger with a squeeze of lime and mint garnish.
A fun activity is to infuse alcohol with tea, then remove the tea to leave an interesting flavour character – our new Australian Afternoon Grey works well with brown spirits, such as scotch. Green Jasmine Pear works with vodka. At the moment, I’m brewing a batch of kombucha using Australian Morning, but that’s another story.
The three new blends of Madame Flavour – Melbourne Morning, Australian Morning and Australian Afternoon Grey are an express tea option made of the same high quality blends as the traditional silky pyramids that Madame Flavour is best known for. They’re available from supermarkets in a pack of 10 or pack of 40 and are priced at RRP $6.30 for a 40pack. Visit www.madameflavour.com.au