Working with Producersto Improve Quality

By Ian Brabbin
Taylors Tea Buying Team

Eight years ago, we didn’t buy any tea from Malawi. The teas they were growing weren’t of good enough quality. But, over the last seven years we’ve been working with one particular producer who’s been willing to change things and really innovate, to the point that we’re seeing really good quality tea coming from them.

Before we started this work in Malawi a lot of the African tea that we bought for our Yorkshire Tea blends came from Kenya. We knew it was important to find different countries and regions we could buy from as we continue to grow our sales.

 

In Malawi one producer was particularly keen to work with us, so we spent time with them to see if they could change their manufacturing process to produce a bespoke tea we’d want to buy. We did a lot of testing together, then, six years ago they up-rooted many of their older tea bushes and planted a new variety of tea that we believed would produce a brighter, golden brew that would have good body and taste brisk and lively.

Lujeri Tea Estate in Malawi.

To do this, they needed to know they would be rewarded, as it takes three to four years for the plant to mature. They needed to know we were backing them and were supportive. It’s fantastic to see this work coming to fruition, and we’ve just signed a long term forward contract guaranteeing a monthly volume of tea from us. The quality is great and both sides of the partnership are now benefitting, and we expect the relationship to grow further still.

As well as changing the tea bushes, we’ve also worked with tasters to calibrate tastings, and make sure they understand our requirements, and they’ve changed their factory processes to create tea suited to our needs.

We’re doing similar work across our tea suppliers. For example Suzy Garraghan, also from the Tea Buying team, has undertaken an innovative approach in Kenya, and has created a bespoke tea standard for us in 60 factories in Kenya. The project is really coming to fruition, with regular suppliers signing up to long term forward contracts. We can now be much more specific about what we want from the suppliers, and they know what they need to do in their factories to make the tea we need.

All of this work is vital. It’s not just about stronger relationships, it’s also about diversifying our supply base as we grow and maintaining the quality of tea coming to us. As we grow, we can really influence change to give us the quality we need to ensure our blends continue to taste so good.

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