Tea23 – Positive Tea Drinking Culture
Eastbourne-based independent tea company Tea23 has created a stir, bringing great flavour with a greater purpose in mind of making the world of tea more accessible to everyone, and partnering with forward-thinking organisations to help improve men’s mental fitness.
Locate East Sussex sat down to have an honest conversation with Tea23 about its origins and finding the perfect blend, and how Locate East Sussex has helped the company grow.
Emily and Jim have been really helpful to clarify my thoughts about the direction of where I want to go.Jon CoppingTea23 Owner
Taste is a personal thing
Bridging the gap between the daily cuppa and the wider, inventive world of tea, Tea23’s simple approach to tea is all about delivering big on taste.
‘I make and produce teas that I think consumers will like based on my own personal preferences.’ Jon Copping admitted. ‘Taste is subjective and an incredibly personal thing. And although I’m not a professional tea taster (I have a background in tea sustainability), I worked in hospitality for many years and like to think I have a good appreciation for great food and drink. So, while it was important for each blend to look amazing and smell nice, the most important thing is how they taste, it’s as simple as that’.
‘I didn’t want really good tea to be exclusively for a certain type of crowd. I wanted to open it up.’
Having worked with the bigger and smaller tea brands for 8 years as the Communications Manager for the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP), Jon has insider knowledge of the tea world: ‘When I was at ETP, the whole sector was in a bit of a pickle about the state of the industry with declining black tea sales being a major concern. For some time now, tea has been challenged by coffee, energy drinks, juice drinks, and a host of other options, so it seemed obvious to me that tea needed to adapt!’
‘When you look at a lot of other tea brands in the market, they seem a bit twee, heritage-based, even old-fashioned, which might be why younger people are choosing different things from their parents. This isn’t to knock these brands, many of them offer exceptional teas, I just wanted my brand to be totally different and stand out from the crowd. I drew a lot of inspiration from the rise of craft beers and indie coffee roasters.
Finding the perfect blend
When it came to formulating his tea, Jon knew he had to get it right. ‘Tea23 got its name from the number of attempts it took to get our signature English Breakfast blend absolutely spot on.
Everyone’s got their favourite brew, no doubt about it, but I knew if I was going to get people to open their eyes to the possibility of new tastes, then my English Breakfast had to stand out.’
‘I wanted different layers of flavour that combined incredibly well to create a well-rounded cuppa, and from the reaction of my customers, it seems to be going down well’. Making its mark in the local Eastbourne area and across the county, Tea23 is currently creating a splash in local cafes and markets with its carefully curated range of teas and infusions.
‘I want to give our customers the opportunity to branch out by keeping it simple. The world of tea is enormous and can be slightly overwhelming. There’s so many types of teas and infusions that you can easily get lost by choice and put off, which is why we’re focusing on doing a few select blends incredibly well.’
Through providing great tea, Tea23’s mission is to be the canvas for something greater, and why the brand was purposefully created to resonate with men.
Doing Something Good – Men’s Mental Health
Even before Jon started to develop his company, he was aware of how big a problem men’s mental health was. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45, and Jon had personally experienced it close to home and at work. ‘During one particular summer,’ Jon said, ‘I became even more aware of how big the issue was when I kept hearing stories about friends of friends who had taken their own lives. It was apparent that more needed to done. I realised there are a lot of men out there who needed an outlet where they could express themselves and open up about what they’re going through.’
By chance, Jon was introduced to Ben Akers, a co-founder of Talk Club, a grassroots behaviour-changing charity aimed at getting men to talk more openly about their thoughts, feelings, worries, and day-to-day gripes. Jon was so inspired after meeting with Ben, that he became a proactive advocate of their talking and listening clubs and a supporter of its mission. ‘Talk Club is an amazing concept and yet so simple. It all starts with, “How are you? Out of 10?” Which is a great way to get a conversation started no matter the setting. These groups provide a safe space where men can talk and listen to each other. I was an active participant of one of the groups, and found they really help with all the things that modern life can throw at you.’
‘Tea23 is in a unique position, that we are able meet people at events and markets, and consequently build connections and communities.’
Jon’s mission encompasses the social and cultural connection that people have with tea, and how this daily ritual can give them the time and space to so slow down and connect with each other. ‘To me it made sense. When a mate has an issue or a crisis the first thing you say is, “Let’s put the kettle on and we can talk about it.”
‘For me, Tea23 is not just a commercial enterprise, it needed to stand for something and do some good. When I was getting ready to launch, I just wanted to sell one box of tea. Now, I’m interested to see how tea can help different groups of people and communities across the UK. That’s why it is so important to be working with Talk Club, because these guys are extremely committed to changing lives for the better. They’re not just helping men, but their loved ones too.’
Supporting the journey
Emily Wright and Jim Fletcher have been supporting Jon’s journey into growing his business, as Locate East Sussex is currently helping him expand into a new property and assisting him refine his financial and business plans.
‘Emily and Jim have been really helpful to clarify my thoughts about the direction of where I want to go. Getting other people’s perspectives and professional insights helps massively in making important businesses decisions and getting them right. They provide a sounding board and feel like an extension of the team’.
We asked Jon for his advice for anyone looking to start a business. ‘Whatever you choose to do…’ Jon answers, ‘Don’t overinvest in stock or assets. Focus on creating a minimum viable product first and test the market space. Get your product right first, because by starting small, a slight loss is better than getting into needless debt. It’s important to get a handle on your finances and if you’re unsure then seek advice. There’s a lot of people and organisations out there who can help’.
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