Watch out Tetley, look out Taylors of Harrogate and mind your PG Tips, there is a new kid on the block and they have come to take you on at your own game. Cornish Tea with their premier quality black tea blend ‘Smugglers brew’ is one of the newest tea companies in the UK but they believe in their product and think their new everyday tea ‘Smugglers brew’ provides the best cuppa in the UK. Here at Best cuppa in town we tried ‘Smugglers brew’, giving it a thorough testing under rigorous conditions involving a comfy sofa, Victoria sponge and Garibaldi biscuits and we must concur it is a fabulous cup of tea. We talked to one of the Directors of the company Tom Pennington to get his story and find out a bit more about ‘Smugglers brew’.
Tom is a business graduate of Cardiff University but has actually spent a number of years in the restaurant trade as both Chef and Manager before moving into creative marketing for a London based Recruitment Company. Following success in both of these ventures he returned to his Cornish roots and was persuaded by his Uncle Duncan to use his combined expertise in business and the culinary arts to establish a new tea brand. Duncan Bond of course has a highly successful career in sales and marketing behind him and has been the driving force behind a number of well-known high street brands. After years of launching successful brands for other people Duncan felt it was time to do something for himself. With the combined expertise of Duncan and Tom the Cornish Tea Company was launched in early 2012. Now a little over a year later I talked to Tom and tried to find out what the ‘journey’ has meant to him.
BC: So tell me what has this new business taught you?
TP: The last year has taught us so many lessons in so many different ways it’s almost impossible to summarise without going through each and every one. We have been challenged both personally and professionally and even though we are still only breaking the surface its unthinkable just how much we have learnt. We have managed to combine a love of an honest cuppa with the love of a county with the desire to be creative and buck the trend wherever possible and produce something that is really giving pleasure to so many people each day! This is something I would never have imagined doing and is something that really means so much.
TP: We have learnt to ‘follow your heart’ and ‘listen to your gut’. No matter what the world is saying you must sometimes take that risk to find the answer. Trust your instincts and most importantly take care when being given ‘advice’ by the experts and professionals. No one has done what you are doing right now but you and the only person who is an expert on you… is you!! (oh and possibly your mum!)
BC: What made you decide to launch a new tea brand into a relatively competitive market? The margins must be tight when competing with the likes of Tetley or Taylors?
TP: If we had listened to people in the know and within our current industry I would not be sitting here talking about ‘Cornish Tea’ today. Everyone said we were mad to compete with the ‘big boys’ but we both have a certain attitude towards life which is don’t tell me I can’t do it. If you show me ‘then’ I might believe you! After extensive research we saw a gap in the market for exactly what we are doing today. Yes it was madness to go up against these giants of industry and yes margins can be very tight, but we don’t have the excessive overheads that our competitors have, we are not as profit driven and we can react to the market very quickly without the normal constraints.
BC: Can you tell me where you are aiming the new brand?
TP: We are aiming our brand at all those people in the world who drink a good honest affordable cuppa on a daily basis, but also those that want a tea that is not showing the lack of quality brought on by corporate demands for reductions in cost and maximising of profits.
BC: Who do you regard as your typical customer?
TP: Our brand appeals to all, anyone who drinks everyday tea and can hopefully afford a few pence for a good, tasty cuppa.
BC: Recent surveys suggest that tea is regarded as being old fashioned. Do you think your brand can step in and rejuvenate the market by providing a new interest in tea?
TP: Far from it, we’ve found that tea is having a massive rejuvenation, what is lacking is a company like us for people to identify with and meet this eager revival for the nation’s beloved cuppa. We feel that our brand definitely has the ability to rejuvenate the market, many of our customers mention that their children also LOVE our tea, this is due to the branding appealing to their eyes before they taste it, we think this is excellent although don’t recommend too much tea for the really little ones as it does of course contain some caffeine! We are the freshest everyday tea brand to hit the shelves in over 20 years
BC: What was the driving force behind you setting up the company?
TP: A love of Cornwall and a sense of adventure. We had the will to do something new for ourselves and to do that without the usual corporate constraints and greed. We wanted to bring to the UK something which pleases everyone and all can benefit from. We had complete belief that it was an excellent idea at the right time, and more importantly we were the right people to do it.
BC: Why did you choose to import tea from Kenya and Malawi?
TP: We have chosen our sources for three reasons. Quality, quality and quality.
BC: Do you have an interest in these tea plantations?
TP: Absolutely, we follow ethical trade initiatives. However to have a personal commitment to certain plantations would be foolhardy, our buyers need to be free to source the tea from the plantations that have had the best crop at the right prices. We can then pass this combination of cost and quality onto our customers
BC: How much tea do you currently import?
BC: Who does your blending?
TP: Well we believe we have the best blender in the World so unfortunately that’s a secret but we have all our blending done here in the West Country.
BC: Can you give me any details on your product development? How long did it take? How many versions of Smugglers did you go through before alighting on the definitive product?
TP: This was by far the most crucial and hardest process for us. The product development and sourcing of the blend took many months of intense scrutiny and hard work. This process took us and our relationship through the most extreme of emotions and back again but as with all things you get out what you put in and we think we put in everything we had to give… and more!
BC: Have you got any more products in development? e.g. decaff tea, hard water tea, cakes, biscuits
TP: Yes but that’s all top secret.
BC: Have you got any nationwide promotions planned?
TP: Yes absolutely. We have some exciting and unique events and promotions planned, the UK will know all about us before long.. just watch this space!
Thanks Tom for answering all of our questions so candidly. BestCuppa wishes you all the best with Cornish Tea and Smugglers brew. It has become a firm favourite in our offices and we think there is no better tea to create a truly brilliant real Cornish cream tea. Go on everyone try some!