Rare Tea Company was founded in the Spring of 2004 by Henrietta Lovell. She comes from a long line of traders and adventurers. In 1844 her great, great, great grandfather, William Lovell, left his farm in Glastonbury for London to found Lovell & Christmas - the once-famed provision merchants on Smithfield. With offices from Argentina to New Zealand, her ancestors traversed the globe to supply the inns, restaurants and grocers of Britain. The old company may be long gone but the blood is still potent. It is also rumoured she is related to the infamous botanist Robert Fortune, who stole the tea bush from China to break the monopoly of Chinese production.
Despite this heritage, leaving a successful career in corporate finance and risking everything to sell leaf tea to a nation of tea bag drinkers might seem foolhardy. When Henrietta began developing Rare Tea Company in the late 1990s she was universally advised that there wasn't a market for proper, loose leaf tea in Britain.
There wasn't a market - at the time - but Henrietta was determined to create one.
She believed that if people had access to the best they would soon be converted. It might have taken longer than she would have liked but that conversion is underway.
We have loyal customers addicted to the good stuff. Sometimes they are so desperate to replenish their supply that we have had to put our tea on private jets or to meet people on Camden street corners to hand over their precious stash.
The early years of Rare Tea didn't go exactly to plan. Three days after returning from China with our first tea contract Hernrietta was diagnosed with breast cancer. The fledgling company gave her something to concentrate on through the darkest days of treatment. Selling tea with no hair or eyelashes, however, was tricky. She concentrated on quietly developing the internet business. As she got stronger, so did the company. Now our internet sales are a small but still vital part of what we do.
Our work with chefs and restaurateurs is now the core of our business. You can find our tea in some of the best restaurants, hotels, coffee houses and bars in the world. Wherever people are concerned with flavour we would like to see proper tea. We are constantly striving to to improve the reputation of tea and the quality available.
A great deal of our time is spent working with our customers to ensure that their customers get the best tea possible. Along with the finest leaf, education and training are key to this.
Following three years of successful treatment and Henrietta is in remission. She is more foolhardy than ever. Thanks to the support of our customers Rare Tea Company is growing every day.