Suki Tea signs deal with major UK distributor

Espresso Warehouse in Glasgow, a leading distributor of ‘coffee bar supplies’ has placed an order for 600,000 cups of tea from Suki Tea, an artisan tea and infusions blender based in Belfast. The company, which has been assisted by Invest Northern Ireland, has also signed a deal to supply teas to Poland.

Eighteen teas blended by Suki Tea are now featured in the comprehensive Espresso Warehouse catalogue for customers in foodservices throughout the United Kingdom and further afield.

Suki Tea, which originally sold its products at St George’s Market in Belfast, has received Invest NI support towards its marketing, management information systems and other growth plans. It recently moved to new premises in Twin Spires in West Belfast.

The link-up brings to an end a lengthy search by Espresso Warehouse for a quality supplier of loose-leaf teas and is its biggest new product launch to date. Espresso Warehouse wanted to create a cup of tea that would be worth the same price as a great latte and found it at Suki Tea, which now blends its own products using teas sourced from the world’s best plantations including Fairtrade and organic suppliers.

The relationship, which began when the two companies met at the SHOP retailing exhibition in Dublin, enables Espresso Warehouse, part of the Matthew Algie Group, to offer its existing network of over 4,000 coffee shops, cafes and restaurants a distinctive branded range of quality teas.

Oscar Woolley, Suki Tea founding director, says the relationship with Espresso Warehouse will help the company to achieve its goal of returning tea to the sort of ritualistic event it used to be in the past and still is in Japan and some other parts of the Far East.

“The aim of this expansion and the relationship with Espresso Warehouse is to bring a bit of mystique to tea drinking, something to savour and enjoy and not just a mundane tea bag dropped into boiling water. The Espresso Warehouse deal will enable us to bring this approach and our quality teas to a huge marketplace.

“We currently sell around a third of our teas to customers outside Northern Ireland and have identified exciting new opportunities for faster growth that we can realise through our relationship with Espresso Warehouse,” he adds.

Maurice Patterson, Manager of Invest NI’s Eastern Regional Office, welcoming the agreement, said: “Suki Tea is a very innovative and ambitious local company which has pinpointed business opportunities arising from the developing trend in the UK in particular for quality loose-leaf teas and infusions.

“The distribution deal will enable the company to benefit from Espresso Warehouse’s extensive distribution network, its marketing experience and vast business knowledge. It will help to establish Suki Tea as a developing national brand,” he added.

As well as a range of 18 teas such as Fairtrade Breakfast Tea, Green Tea with Ginseng, Fairtrade Darjeeling, Camomile and Rooibos and fruity infusions including Mango Tango, Apple Loves Mint and the exotic Jasmine Dragon Phoenix Pearls, the two companies have come up with a serving package of a Suki branded teapot, milk jug and a sustainably sourced bamboo tray.

The Suki branded accessories for outlets also include take-out tea pockets, airtight tea caddies, a modular tea rack and a measuring spoon, a portion-controlled scoop for one perfect cup of tea. To create awareness of the distinctive teas, the catalogue includes information about the style and flavours of the products. The catalogue was photographed by James Hoffman, the world barista champion 2007, with illustrations from up and coming designer and illustrator Rob White of Nottingham.

And it’s a deal that could also see a unique Fairtrade Belfast Brew – a deep, dark infusion which is spicy and malty - on menus across the UK.