Nina Chudasama is CEO and co-founder of Hope & Glory Tea who supply whole leaf organic teas to the hospitality industry and sell direct through their website. Nina launched the company with husband Bharat two years ago after running a mobile coffee business and has seen it go from strength to strength since. She talks to Hospitality & Catering News about how she plans to get a ‘nation of tea drinkers’ drinking better quality tea and what the hospitality industry can do to help.
Why did you decide to launch Hope & Glory Tea?
After I had my three children, I wanted to get back to work. The best way to work around the family was to have my own business, rather than work for someone else, so initially I started a mobile coffee business. I could choose the hours I wanted and it worked really well.
However, one day we had a friend visit and he said ‘why are you selling coffee when every time I come to your house you serve me tea?’ We are Indian and serve tea in a certain way. He said ‘coffee’s an over-saturated market, why don’t you try something different?’
It was a break-through moment and we decided that evening that we were going to stop selling coffee and start selling tea. There were some doubts, because we had coffee sussed and the business was doing well, but we wanted to do something unique.
What makes Hope & Glory stand out?
Our ethos is to only eat and drink the best. We don’t give our children fast or processed food and almost everything we eat is organic, so I wanted to convey that message through everything I did.
We also wanted something unique and we saw organic as the way to go. We didn’t know of a tea brand on the market that was premium, organic, whole leaf and Fairtrade, so we decided to fill the gap.
I know that anyone can make a tea brand, but ours is special because we go to the extra effort to make sure that our tea is sourced in a particular way by people who are looked after. We also try and look at the way it gets to us – we try not to use airfreight for example.
To make something special takes hard work, so we have done all we can to find something unique. We started with a website and have slowly worked our way into hospitality.
Who do you supply in the trade?
We supply a number of hotels – we are the exclusive tea partner of the Waldorf Hilton in Covent Garden – and also supply The Mandeville Hotel in London. We also work with Cyrus Todiwala (chef-patron of Cafe Spice Namaste). We share the same vision in terms of sustainability and of using the best quality produce. We also supply some law firms in London as well as some private hospitals on Harley Street.
There has been a great deal of work to improve the quality of coffee on the UK’s high street, do you think it’s time tea got the same treatment?
Definitely. That’s one of my biggest problems. Everyone is willing to go into a coffee shop and wait five minutes for a latte, yet for a cup of tea – considering we’re a nation of tea drinkers – they won’t do the same. Everyone prefers to put a bag filled with dustings in hot water, take it out and go. It’s rubbish.
In my opinion, everyone should have at least one good cup of tea a day and, if we’re a nation of tea drinkers, we should be drinking it properly. Tea is so good for you as well. Plus, there are so many varieties of tea compared to coffee, I can’t understand why people won’t wait for that good cup of tea.
How do you think you can change that?
We need to educate people. It’s going to take time, but we are slowly getting there. Wellness has a big role to play. People are now taking time to look after themselves, so they are also willing to explore different teas and educate themselves about it. I know a lot of people who have shifted from coffee to tea because they are unable to tolerate as much caffeine. I think we are slowly seeing a shift.
What simple steps can hospitality operators take to improve their tea offering?
The first step is to educate their staff. That’s important because staff can then educate customers. The main area to look at its timings of brew. It’s important that they brew their black tea for five minutes and green tea for three minutes, because brewing a green tea for too long can burn the leaf, which will make it bitter and the customer will not enjoy that at all. We offer training when we supply operators, because there’s no point us supplying our teas when they don’t know how to use it properly.
Second, always go for whole leaf, because it’s better in so many ways. Teas in a bag have instant colour but not so much flavour whereas a whole leaf tea is about flavour first. You have to wait to get the colour, but it comes after time. A whole leaf is quality. The way it is cut and processed is so different.
Thirdly, choose the right vessels to serve them in. Different teas and tissanes brew well in different vessels, so black teas brew best in porcelain and tissanes, like peppermints and chamomiles, are good in glass because of the heat. Operators don’t have to invest a lot in vessels, but having the right ones to serve tea properly will make a huge difference.
Do you offer help with food and tea matching?
We have been doing lots of work in this area. Tea is very much like wine in the way that it’s grown, so we thought it would be wonderful to add suggested tea pairings to our offering. Tea can be served hot and cold and put into cocktails. It’s so versatile with so many different types of tea suitable for a variety of food.
What is your favourite tea and food match and where would you choose to have it?
An Earl Grey or peppermint tea with a rich chocolate cake. Both teas work so well with the chocolate. My favourite place to drink a cup of tea is on a hot summer’s day in my garden at home. I live in the countryside in Hertfordshire, so I love to look out at the green space in peace while I drink my tea.
What do you love most about working with the hospitality industry?
I love the feedback we get, especially when our tea has been well-received. That always gives me a great buzz and tells me that we’re doing the right thing. When we tell people about all the things we’ve done and the trouble we go to to ensure our product is the very best people are blown away by it. I love to see their reactions.
What do you think the hospitality industry could do better?
It could improve its education of tea. I don’t think the industry has quite got it yet. There is so much pressure on operators to survive and ensure revenue is high, they’re not thinking about tea. However, it just needs a small change in thinking. I don’t understand why a restaurant would spend thousands on a coffee machine, but is reluctant to spend more than 3p on a tea bag.
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Hospitality & Catering News, Interviews Editor