The Rare Tea Company and the Business of Kindness

RAF Tea, Oolong, and Lost Malawi Teas from the Rare Tea Company

RAF Tea, Oolong, and Lost Malawi Teas from the Rare Tea Company

Recently, a good friend recommended listening to a BBC Business Services radio broadcast, “The Business of Kindness” literally about incorporating kindness into your marketing and business strategy.  Fascinating series of interviews with various business leaders but at the center of the article is the story of Henrietta Lovell, the Rare Tea-Lady who founded the Rare Tea Company in England almost a decade ago.  Introduced to an extraordinary oolong tea while on a business trip, Ms. Lovell developed a passion for high-end tea and opened a niche business to bring these extraordinary teas to England.  She works directly with the tea growers to source her teas from small mountain tea gardens in Nepal, India,China, Japan, and Africa.

The tea sounded interesting as did the packaging.  As a marketing person myself, the extra touches she included with her packaging including short vignettes some written by Alexander McCall, that are inserted into the tea tins.  Another interesting detail is that after Ms. Lovell met Terry Clark, a RAF WWII veteran, she created a special blend to honor the Royal Air Force Tea for the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.  Seven percent of the revenue from this tea goes to the RAF Association Wings Appeal and to the RAF museum.

Royal Air Force Tea from the Rare Tea Company

Royal Air Force Tea from the Rare Tea Company

I was hooked and quickly found myself online at rareteacompany.com purchasing tea from England.  To my delight, my tea arrived this weekend.  I ordered three teas – an oolong since that was the tea that inspired Ms. Lovell, an African tea, Lost Malawi, and the RAF tea.  The packaging is charming with each tin having its own colors and graphical design.  More than than, it included a hand-written thank you note and a small thank you gift package of the RAF Tea in tea bag form.  Charming.

Gotta love handwritten thank you notes!

Gotta love handwritten thank you notes!

I started with the RAF tea, a blend of Makaibari Estate in Darjeeling (which I visited in 2008 when I participated in Dan Robertson’s World Tea Tour to Sri Lanka, India, and Nepal) and Satemwa Estate black tea from Malawi.  It’s a strong brew, with a tag line “Calming in times of national peril, fortifying when courage is required”, an homage to the courage and sacrifices of RAF pilots during those dark days.  I followed the instructions, pouring the not quite boiling water over the tea leaves and steeping for 3 minutes.  It made a wonderful cup of strong invigorating tea – perfect for the unusually cold northern California day.

Discovery is so much fun and I am indebted to my friend for passing on the story of the Rare Tea Company.  I’ve not only found a new tea that I enjoy, but also a company I admire!