By Anne-Harris Jones
Photos Courtesy of Taylors of Harrogate and Brands of Britain
Tea enthusiasts around the globe are no doubt familiar with Taylors of Harrogate. But just who is the tea merchant, and how did it acquire such a fine reputation? Not many can boast 100 years’ experience in the tea business, yet Taylors has been improving its blends for well over a century.
Charles Taylor founded the company in 1886 after gaining knowledge and experience as an agent for a London-based tea company. Through his travels, Charles came to recognize the importance of the local water supply when brewing a cup of tea, so he went to work blending specific teas best suited to an area’s water quality. This attention to detail helped set his regional wholesale business apart from others.
Today, Taylors exports to more than 35 countries. The family-owned company, based in North Yorkshire Dales, is still known for its high-quality teas passed down from Master Tea Blenders through the generations.
The highly regarded craftsmanship of its esteemed tea buyers, blenders, and tasters has been paramount to the success of the company’s lines of tea. Taylors of Harrogate’s Head of Tea Ian Brabbin has mastered tea tasting so well that he can identify thousands of tastes, textures, and flavors to the point where he is often able to identify not only the tea itself, but the garden in which it was grown and even the factory in which it was dried. Tea buyers look for specific qualities in teas on the basis of where they were grown, as each origin (terroir) grants specific characteristics to that tea. The tasters and blenders expect to find these unique tones when sampling teas, and they select only the best quality to make their blends.
Because Taylors of Harrogate is based in the United Kingdom, it requires a distributor and brand manager for the United States. This distributor, Brands of Britain, imports more than 90 SKUs of teas to the United States. Owner Mark Rajeski has found the reaction to Taylors of Harrogate teas in the United States to be “overwhelmingly positive.” While these teas are available in a variety of high-end grocery store chains such as Wegmans, Whole Foods, and Fresh Market, as well as online at amazon.com, a growing portion of the business is transacted through hotels and restaurants. Guests experience the tea for the first time while on vacation or visiting an upscale restaurant and become repeat customers, purchasing the product for home use.
Tea drinkers may associate Taylors of Harrogate with traditional British teas like English Breakfast and Earl Grey, and for good reason. These teas are extremely popular, and the company provides some of the best-quality selection. In the United States, these are two of the top-selling teas. “I think when people are looking for an authentic, premium English Breakfast or Earl Grey,” says Mark, “it’s very difficult not to consider [Taylors].” However, Taylors is also a significant purveyor of innovative teas including various green teas, single-origin teas such as Pure Ceylon and Lapsang Souchong, and caffeine-free tisanes such as Organic Chamomile, as well as a blend of blackberry and elderflower.
Taylors’ Yorkshire line of teas is the UK’s most popular, with more than 10 million cups consumed daily. The success of this tea is linked to its recipe that dates back to the 1800s. Mark, himself a drinker of Yorkshire’s Gold blend, states, “The brand loyalty to Yorkshire—in particular Yorkshire Gold—is something I’ve never come across in 25-plus years of brand management. It’s remarkable. We find that people who are Yorkshire drinkers just won’t substitute any other tea.” Yorkshire’s popularity has led Taylors to add to the line, including Yorkshire Earl Grey, Yorkshire Green Tea with Jasmine, and Yorkshire Gold Assam.
Taylors’ influence, however, extends beyond a good cup of tea. The company believes that tea quality and fair trade are intertwined. Tea buyers work directly with growers to create long-term relationships and to reward quality and consistently high standards. Taylors is a founding member of the Ethical Tea Partnership, which promotes ethical codes of practice and ensures that tea is farmed in a socially sustainable way.
“It’s very impressive when you speak to the individual buyers on the team there of the passion they bring to not only sourcing the best teas they can but also having a high interest in making a positive impact on the people they are doing business with,” says Mark.
The average consumer may not have the highly developed palate to trace a tea to its origin like the tea team at Taylors. However, tea drinkers who enjoy an exceptional cup of tea can appreciate the quality of the brand. Civilians are not alone in their love of Taylors, as even members of the royal House of Windsor sip the tea daily. In 2008, the company was awarded the Prince of Wales Royal Warrant, adding even deeper credibility and honor to the brand as Taylors continues to impress tea drinkers from all walks of life.
For a slide show of images, click here.
To learn more about Taylors of Harrogate offerings, go to taylorsofharrogate.com.