Grey's Teas supply a wide range of exotic and had-to-get teas on their website, which has been trading for ten years. Richard himself is descended from the family of Earl Grey himself, an excellent pedigree for a tea merchant if ever there was one!
1) How did you first become involved in the tea industry?
I worked in a market research company on the Lyons Tetley account. I worked for Whittards in one of their first shops between jobs. I travelled to Darjeeling and Yunnan Province, China.
2) What is your favourite variety of tea a) to work with and b) to drink?
I love working with Oolongs - great variety, ancient history, fabulous legends and grown in magical far flung corners of China To drink, it depends on the time of day. Mornings: Ceylon Dimbulas especially Vinaka - I look forward to their robust body yet uplifting floral aromas. Afternoons: Keemuns especially Jhin Hao - I love their depth of taste, good body and winey character. Late: light delicate white teas especially Dragonwell - I find their gentle buttery tastes exotic and refreshing.
3) Where do you think the best tea comes from (e.g. Japan, Sri Lanka) and why do you think that?
Anhui Province, China - they have been producing wonderful teas there by hand for centuries.
4) Where do you get your inspiration for more 'unusual' blends?
The unique character of the key constituent teas such as oolong in Russian Caravan or Lapsang Souchong in our Good Afternoon blend.
5) Why do you think it is important that people experience good quality teas?
So that they can experience the distinctive characters of the fabulous teas available.
6) Why do you think independent blenders and tea merchants have been gaining popularity in the last few years?
They have been prepared to make little known teas available often where there is no proven market of any size. The internet has helped provide information on these teas to a wider audience and appeal to a more geographically dispersed market.
7) If you could have any five people at a tea party, who would they be and what would you serve them?
Alan Rickman, my favourite 'evil' actor - something mysterious such as Goddess of Mercy Oolong; Matthew Pinsent who as a fellow ex rower I very much admire and comes over well on television - a good robust Assam such as Mangalam, excellent when rising early for rowing practice!; Jerry Robinson, a very human and likeable businessman with immense experience who I like listening to - a good keemun that Britain has been trading with China for centuries such as Mao Feng; Robert Harris, an author whose books such as Enigma and Pompeii I very much enjoy with good characterisation and excellent historical research - I would like his response to our smoky Lapsang Souchong Falcon; Helen Bonham Carter, a brilliant and beautiful actress that is not afraid to look awful for character film roles, a top Darjeeling 1st Flush that would befit her renown costume drama roles such as Margaret's Hope.
8) Where do you predict tea businesses (and tea itself) heading in the next few years?
Tea will become increasingly appreciated for its diversity of taste and its health benefits as a natural drink. Our business will become increasingly known as an online speciality tea retailer and our choice of less well known teas will further grow. We may further develop our wholesale tea supply.