Big Interview: Good & Proper Tea

Big Interview: Good & Proper Tea

Good & Proper Tea is on a mission to educate consumers and develop their passion for tea. The company’s tea Mecca, its flagship tea shop in Leather Lane, Clerkenwell, has been busy spreading the word about good tea for the past two years and is proving successful, with turnover at the shop up by 30% (FY to 2018).

Along with the shop’s success, Good & Proper has much else to celebrate across the business: company growth is up 45%, wholesale is up 103% and online sales +70% (FY to 2018).

Its list of wholesale customers is ever-growing too and includes: Ozone Coffee, Volcano, Taylor St Baristas, Bain & Co, Lantana and Yallah – a new account. Yallah, a coffee roaster and supplier based in Cornwall, has a distribution network across the South West and will be working with Good & Proper to take its tea message to the region.

The goal, explains Good & Proper’s head of operations Josh Mordecai and marketing manager Isabelle Wilkinson, is to show its wholesale customers that if they care about their coffee offer, they should be buying higher quality tea as well.

The London tea shop has proven integral in this message and also a great marketing tool for Good & Proper, which all began in 2012 with founder Emilie Holmes selling tea from her 1974 Citroen H van – the van is still at large, serving tea and spreading the word about great tea to festivals and events around the country.

Wilkinson explains: “We want to show people how good tea is when it’s done right. We want people to love tea and understand more about it – after all it’s the staple in everyone’s cupboard at home.

“Take Oolong,” she says. “Most people have never heard of Oolong and when you ask someone if they’d like a black or a white tea, most expect the white tea to be black tea served with milk. It’s what everyone has grown up with here – the culture of the teabag. Considering tea is our national drink, we do drink the worst tea here!”

From educating people how to serve a better cup - understanding water quality, temperature, brewing times – to spreading the word about the various types, flavours and how good tea can be for your business.

“What sets us apart is that we work closely with customers, providing training and support. Most understand coffee, but need a better tea offer and still don’t have a good understanding of tea,” says Wilkinson.

Monthly tea tastings, barista training, as well as talks and events, are all on offer at Good & Proper’s tea shop.

“We’d love more shops,” says Mordecai. “But our business model is not to roll out shops.”

Instead, it is focused on growing the business nationally, taking its wholesale business out of London, and spreading the word that tea is good for you and your business, he explains.

“We like to work from the ground up. We’re a small business selling direct, with ambitions to sell to the bigger players.” Contract caterers, he adds, present a huge opportunity, as do work and office spaces.  

“We believe that the foodservice sector has an opportunity to increase its margins by selling tea at a higher price point. People do not want to pay £2 for a PG tips teabag, but they will be happy to pay £2 for a premium tea.”

With only 35% of coffee shop visitors consuming tea out-of-home, according to Allegra’s latest ‘Project Tea’ report, there’s no doubt that there’s a huge potential out there in a sector that’s expected to reach £439m by 2022.

It’s a sector rife with innovation and interesting new products too: craft tea, iced tea, nitro-infused tea, chai and matcha.

“Australia and the US are so much further ahead than the UK when it comes to craft tea,” says Wilkinson.

Good & Proper has recently developed a quality, more ‘real’ iced tea range for the summer (CBW, July 18) in its response to the top selling brands. “Liptons owns 80% of the iced tea market in the UK, yet its products are mostly syrup. We want to claim back the name of iced tea.”

Mordecai continues: “The sugar-tax provides an opportunity to develop products that give consumers something outside of sugary drinks. Products like our G&T, which we have at our events, and where the T is tea.

“However,” he adds, “more and more we’re finding that most people prefer the alcohol-free version.”

With a customer base aged between 24 to 34, being seen as healthy is key.

“Everyone is aware of health issues and 17-year-olds today boast about many workouts they’ve done in a week, not how much alcohol they’ve drunk,” says Wilkinson, adding that it’s an audience tuned into iced tea, matcha and kombucha (CBW, July 4 – Fermented drinks ‘explosion’ predicted this year).

Mordecai continues: “Drinks innovation is ever more important as shops have to work harder to differentiate their offer to win a greater share of the market. Speciality craft milk for coffee also pairs well with tea, but we’re also seeing a huge rise in non-dairy, coconut and oat milks for our lattes.”

With September representing the start of the tea season, with the promise of the autumn and winter months ahead when consumers will return in their droves to comforting warmer brews, Good & Proper will be ready with more new launches. With a nitro tea in development, ready for launch later this year, there will be plenty more to say when it comes to a Good & Proper cuppa.

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