Social networking site takes Belfast brew to Japan

Tea lovers in Japan will soon be able to savour a unique ‘Belfast Brew’ blended by the award winning Suki Tea company.  

The Invest NI client company, which is based at Twin Spires in west Belfast, has won a contract to supply its gourmet teas, including its ‘Belfast Brew’ to a leading tea house in Tokyo, its first deal in Japan.

Suki (Japanese for love tea), clinched the order over Facebook, the internet based social networking site, and from a recommendation to the tea house’s owner from a contact in Japan.

Suki Tea has received assistance from Invest NI in terms of business advice and funding to market its products. It has also taken part in a series of Invest NI exhibitions and ‘meet the buyer’ events. The company will be showing its teas on an Invest NI stand at next month’s Caffe Culture show at Earl’s Court in London.

Maynard Mawhinney, Invest NI’s Food Director, commenting on the latest business won by the company, says: “Suki Tea is an excellent example of a small company which is harnessing the potential of the internet to draw business from global markets. It has created a unique and highly successful website which it is using very cleverly and effectively to build an appealing personality for the business in this era of social networking on-line.”

“This is a bit of a ‘coals to Newcastle’ triumph for us,” says Oscar Woolley, Suki Tea Director. “We’ve long been fascinated by the Japanese love of tea and their unique approach to serving it.

“To get our business going in Belfast, we imported tea from a Japanese supplier. Selling our own teas, including ‘Belfast Brew’ to a Tokyo tea house is a great thrill.

“We’ve also adopted some of the Japanese tea ritual by developing a range of accessories including a specially designed teapot and matching tray,” he adds.

Formed in 2005, Suki Tea has grown from selling its products from stalls at the weekly St George’s Food Market in Belfast and the regular continental markets in the city. It has won international awards, including UK Great Taste Awards, and is now supplying customers in Europe, the US and further afield.

It now sources its teas from specially selected plantations worldwide. Among the company’s range of teas are Fairtrade Breakfast Tea, Green Tea with Ginseng, Fairtrade Darjeeling, Organic Camomile and Organic Rooibos, and fruity infusions including Mango Tango, Apple Loves Mint, and the exotic rare Jasmine Dragon Phoenix Pearls.

Regular clients for the teas include gourmet restaurants such as Jamie Oliver’s inspired ‘Fifteen’ restaurant at Watergate Bay, Cornwall, Rick Stein’s ‘The Seafood Restaurant’ at Padstow, Cornwall, and the Donnybrook Fair ‘Eat Up’ Restaurant in Dublin.

The company has achieved SALSA (Safe and Local Supplier Approval) accreditation, an assessment process for smaller food companies, which ensures consistently quality services for customers.

SALSA has been developed by the British Retail Consortium, the British Hospitality Association and the Food and Drink Federation to provide food retail buyers with demonstrable assurance that the locally sourced food meets fundamental food safety and legal requirements.