How I ended up running a tea company? The journey so far.


I’m Jon, the Founder of TEA23. Thanks for visiting the TEA23 site and for taking the time to read this article. I’ve been meaning to write a blog series for a long time, and although I wrote a post last week setting out what I was going to cover, in my head that one doesn’t really count. 

Regardless, I launched TEA23 about 4 and a half years ago, and the blog was going to be an important part of the journey - so you could say I’m somewhat behind schedule. At times it does feel like I have a lax approach to certain areas of my work, just thinking about it makes me shudder and feel a bit rubbish. But I have to remember to remind myself that I’m running TEA23 by myself and that I’m actually doing okay. That said, just thinking about the lack of action in terms of blog writing is kind of depressing me, so I better switch my mindset from ruminating mode to writing mode.  

Why is the blog crucial to TEA23?

It’s pretty simple really. From the start I wanted TEA23 to do some good and to do things differently. Tea is a fantastic product and it just made sense to do something positive alongside it. I certainly didn’t want my tea company just to be a commercial entity. My intention was for the brand to have a positive impact on communities, the environment, and people. And right now, I think the best way to communicate this is via a blog. I truly believe that tea can be a tool and a symbol for better mental health. Hopefully, the blog will help me to convey this message and get some of my ideas out there.

I’m going to talk much more about mental health in the future and will undoubtedly dedicate multiple posts to it, but for now, I want to talk about how an ordinary bloke from Polegate, a little village in East Sussex, ended up with a tea company.  By the way, for those of you that don't know (and why would you), TEA23 is based in Eastbourne, East Sussex and operates from a commercial unit at the Enterprise Centre, which is next to Eastbourne train station. 

One of the questions I’m most frequently asked at farmers markets and events across Kent and Sussex is: How did you end up with a tea company? It probably makes sense to rewind and set the scene. 

My love of tea goes way back

I can remember making tea when I was a little boy in my mum’s kitchen. It’s strange that my early memories always feel like out of body experiences looking down at a younger version of myself from above. Is that normal and the same for everyone? I had the cups on the kitchen floor and to ensure I poured the boiling water safely I had to hold the kettle with both hands between my legs (health and safety was far more relaxed in the early 80s). 

My first steps into the world of tea

Fast forward about 30 years and I ended up working in tea sustainability for an organisation called the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP). It was a fantastic organisation to work for. I’m sure it’s evolved a lot since I was there, but back then the ETP existed to improve the lives and livelihoods of tea workers and farmers, and to ensure a thriving, socially just, and environmentally sustainable tea sector. 

While at ETP I came up with the idea of launching my own tea company. The ETP Head Office was in London and I was living in Brighton at the time. On my travels I can remember seeing all these cool craft beer and coffee companies with creative branding and great tasting products, and I said to myself (rightly or wrongly) why is no one doing this in tea? 

Being brave and taking the plunge

So I decided to do something about it. I have to admit I didn’t act on my idea straight away; it took me a couple of years to pluck up the courage to leave my job and do something on my own. I can remember I felt really daunted by the prospect of not having a regular income, but a change in circumstances gave me the impetus to jump ship as it were. Anyhow, that’s the main crux to the story. I hope my memory serves me correctly and I haven’t embellished things too much. 

Greatest tea in the world and beyond

The ambition was always to create the best tasting tea in the world (multiverse actually) and to smash my English Breakfast Tea out the park. I’m 100% biased, but I truly believe I’ve done that. Why not try it yourself and see if you agree. It’s available as loose tea and in tea bags. Okay, outrageous plug over. I need to wrap things up. 

Actually, before I go. I just want to reiterate that all words, ideas, thoughts, and opinions are my own and that nothing has been generated by ChatGPT or any other AI. 

That’s it. Thanks for reading and take care. 

Jon :)

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