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The Seventh Duchess

Think about the time you tasted proper Belgian dark chocolate after eating Dairy Milk all your life. Or the difference between a homegrown, sun-ripened strawberry and one out of the punnet from the shop.

Tessa Bontempo, founder of luxury loose leaf tea brand The Seventh Duchess, makes real, oh-my-god-this-is-what-it-should-taste-like tea. The kind that makes you want to throw garden parties and write frequently to your godmother.

She may have been born into an espresso-sipping Sicilian heritage, but Tessa was also brought up by a grandmother who had very firm ideas about tea: “Never use teabags, never drink from a mug and always use fine china.”

It's hardly surprising then that on a family trip to London aged 10, Tessa forewent a trip to Madame Tussauds for high tea at Claridges. So began a life-long appreciation for tea, leading to her later global wanderings, research and experimentation and ultimately ending in the creation of her own loose leaf teas.

“After a trip to Paris in 2010 I was searching for high quality teas without synthetic flavours. I came away from it thinking that was far too difficult and it became clear that there was something missing in the market,” says Tessa.

Twelve months of intense research, consultation and testing later, The Seventh Duchess was born.

The range is named after the seventh duchess of Bedford, Anna Russell, who was a friend and close confidante of Queen Victoria. Not only was she an expert on the new, exotic tea blends arriving daily from the far East, but she is also credited with instating the tea party as a fashionable afternoon ritual in the most elite social circles of the time.

“I wanted to create a refined range of teas that lauded the history and the traditional side of tea but that also were at home within a contemporary, modern life,” says Tessa.

“I am inspired by travel, by foods, by fragrances and by memories, and all of these elements have a say in my blends.”

In practice, this means her French Earl Grey consists of actual blue cornflower and mallowflower petals and her Queen Victoria English Breakfast is made from Ceylon tea leaves picked with the finger tips to earn the highest pekoe rating. It's like nothing we've drunk before.

Tessa's latest range, Apothecary, goes one better. Each tea in her new health and wellbeing range is one of those rare treats: delicious yet also impossibly good for you.

The result of a long, meticulous process balancing combinations of therapeutic ingredients, each herbal tea is 100% organic and rich in vitamins and essential antioxidants and makes use of plants known to calm and heal like rosehip, raspberry leaf and even fennel.

One of Tessa's favourite activities is a morning swim when the sun is still low in the sky, a yoga class and breakfast at Andrew Boy Charlton Pool. Drinking her Apothecary tea will actually make you want to do that. (Though we can't vouch for quitting sugar – one of her more recent feats.)

Liaising with suppliers, making vanilla chai grain-free pancakes and moving her operations from Cottesloe to Sydney are all part of her day-to-day at the moment, but the project Tessa is most excited about is the upcoming release of her new tea ware collection.

“It’s going to be the perfect accompaniment to our teas and tisanes, and also one that I hope my grandmother would’ve been proud to share with her bridge friends,” says Tessa.