Tea for two
A change of career brought Jim and Kirsty Strange to the University but an eco-friendly tea business wasn’t the outcome that they anticipated.
The Strange Brew Tea Company is the brainchild of recent Edinburgh Graduates Jim and Kirsty Strange.
Starting last year at small markets selling bags of quirkily flavoured loose leaf black, green, fruit and herbal tea, the business has recently become mobile with the addition of a bespoke tea shop tricycle.
Minimising environmental impact is central to the business and from the outset Jim and Kirsty used compostable and recyclable packaging and tea sourced from members of the Ethical Tea Partnership.
The mini tea shop on wheels added new challenges to this sustainable thinking. The modified tricycle means that transportation is carbon neutral and each degradable tea bag is hand prepared, but the biggest challenge lay elsewhere, as Jim explains,
The biggest problem to solve was the 'simple' act of obtaining continuous boiling water without the use of fossil fuels.
A storm in a teacup
Initially the enterprising pair used sustainable Scottish woodchip briquettes with a stove, boiler and flue combination. This worked successfully at a number of events including serving 350 cups of tea over five hours at the Historic Motoring Extravaganza, but was inefficient in terms of heat transfer.
Jim and Kirsty felt they could go one better and so approached Storm Kettle, who are renowned for their efficient kettle burner designs, with a request for a six litre model with a built in tap.
After a successful Kickstarter campaign, the final piece of their sustainability jigsaw has been ordered and the couple are ready for a summer of brewing, including a spot just off of George Square Lane (near the main Library, where it joins the Meadows).
The tea trail
Prior to their recent degrees, Jim was a military musician in the Royal Marines Band Service and Kirsty was a paediatric nurse. A shared desire to change career direction brought them to the University where Jim graduated with BSc (Hons) in Infectious Diseases and Kirsty with a PGC in Counselling.
It was during their many tea breaks together that they decided a tea shop would be their aim after graduation. Not the most obvious use of a degree but, as Jim says, a University education is about much more than what is covered by the curriculum.
It sounds a little cliché but it was this move away from our comfort zones and the challenges that our courses presented which helped to open our eyes a little to what we could achieve, and significantly boosted our confidence.
An understanding of molecular biology has also come in handy as it helps Jim communicate the potential health benefits of their teas.
Last month we talked to Helen Coburn from Fortitude Coffee, the latest artisan coffee venture to open in Edinburgh’s New Town, and just the tip of Edinburgh’s vibrant coffee scene.
Despite this seeming coffee dominance, Jim is confident that there is room in the market for another specialist hot beverage and was keen to remind us that
tea still remains the most consumed drink in the world and is
a far more versatile beverage.
They do however sell a filter coffee from The Little Coffee Bag Company who they contacted after watching the company owner Carrie Bate on Dragon’s Den.