We visited Annie Irwin of the very popular Suki Team in Belfast.
“Having both wandered through Asia, their eyes were opened to a world of really (really) good ethically-sourced teas, which they wanted to share with everyone. And so it began.
A decade later, our Belfast-based team still ethically sources and blends our big, fat, juicy, loose leaf teas, herbal infusions and fruit blends from all over the world. Today, Annie and Oscar still lead our team, and we keep winning award after award for both product and company, because we’re still focused on that same job – sourcing and blending the world’s best tea. Tea as it should be.”
Q: What makes your product unique?
A: Suki Tea is about people first, then plant and planet with values of Community and Sustainability as well as Taste, Quality, Experience and Adventure. The first UK company to launch triple certified teas, sustainability is of great importance to Suki Tea, in 2014 74% of Suki Tea sales were Fairtrade certified teas.
Suki Tea offer a range of almost 50 blends, 20 of which are Great Taste Award winners, carrying a total of 35 stars!
Q: Where do you source your raw ingredients?
A: We ethically source and blend our loose leaf teas, herbal infusions and fruit blends from all over the world. Our expert Tea Tasters, Oscar and Annie take off twice annually to various parts of the tea growing regions to don their ‘man from del-monte’ hats and pick the best product going. There is a lot of tasting, negotiating and gazing off into the distant landscape in awe.
“The glamour of a tea trader could be wiped out with couriers and email but it’s always been very important for us to know who is involved at picking level upwards, how the tea is produced and what the processes used are. You can never learn enough about the process or taste enough. Traveling to source is a crucial part of our ethos about being transparent”
Q: What inspires you as a producer?
A: Sourcing and blending the world’s best tea has always been the inspiration! We wanted to offer the consumer a tea that is ethically sourced yet still delivers a quality and fresh product with great taste!
Q: How did you get started?
A: In 2005, Annie and Oscar set up a stand at a small Farmer’s Market in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Touring about the island of Ireland they visited farmers markets and craft fairs and with the very generous help of their friends hit the music festival scene with their Tea & Toast set up. Having a strong brand identity and keeping true to their goals was the focus at this early stage. The business plan was. . . Tea, Fun, Money.
Q: Why do you think it’s important to keep local?
A: By supporting businesses which are truly local to you, you are directly investing in the future of your local economy and community.
Q: What motto do you live/work by?
A: All Suki Tea business decisions always refer back to the core principle values of:
Q: Where can we buy your products?
A: Suki Tea is available in independent cafes and deli stores nationwide. Our signature Belfast Brew pyramid tea bags are available at Marks & Spencer.
Q: What food best compliments your product? Or what is your favourite way of using your product?
A: The leading trend for tea at the moment is in the alcohol industry taking note of the vast variety of flavours and for drinks to be adultified. Suki Tea have been working with a number of local artisan drinks companies to assist with flavour development and produce cocktail recipes. In 2015 Matcha was very much starting to be discovered and experimented with and we are now seeing it being used in a broad variety of foods from baking to adding a punch to smoothies.
There is no hard and fast rule here as it’s each to their own when it comes to taste. We have worked on food pairings with customers from biscuits, chocolate and desserts.
Visit Suki-tea.com to see a full gallery of their work.