Tea From The Manor - something fine is brewing in Holmes Chapel
- Credit: Archant
Ex army man James Green from Holmes Chapel, has turned his love of tea into a flourishing business, writes Janet Reeder.
Meet any successful person and the chances are they started their business with a burning desire for something, whether it’s fashion, food or DIY.
And Holmes Chapel Tea expert James Green is no exception. From an early age he has harboured a passion for a brilliant brew stemming back from his time with the Ghurkhas.
‘I joined the army at 16 and went to Hong Kong where I was based with the Ghurkhas,’ explains James, over what else? A cuppa.
‘They don’t drink alcohol at all and because of that I got really into tea. It’s a drink that is central to soldiering both in good times and in times of conflict.’
Back in civvy street, his search for work led him to E Foods, a Denton-based food supply company, and after working for them for several years as a salesman he launched Tea From The Manor.
‘I came to work for E Foods and some chefs were asking about different tea products, which is how it all started,’ he says.
‘The business has built up from literally nothing to a thriving company that includes high profile clients like Heathrow Airport, Manchester City Football Club, the Grosvenor in Chester as well as Chewton Glen in the New Forest, which is one of our biggest accounts and of course, the Cheshire Life Food and Drink Award winning tearoom at Tatton Park’
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It is at the Denton HQ, where all his clients come to discuss the types of teas they need for their business (from everyday high quality tea bags to bespoke blends) but if they’re expecting a boring showroom, they are in for a pleasant surprise.
Step into James’s ‘office’ and it’s like a trip back in time. Shelves are stocked with jars filled with more than 150 varieties and that’s only half of what he sells. There are various tea artefacts including teapots and timers and exotic stamped dried bricks of tea that the Chinese would use as currency.
The furnishings are like something out of a Dickens’ novel and James enhances the theatrical effect by dressing in a gentlemanly waistcoat and bow tie.
‘The trend now is for a “theatre of the tea” with many of our clients wanting to ditch teabags in favour of loose tea,’ James reveals, as he begins to boil water for the tea experience he gives to potential clients.
‘We always advise that they have basic foundation teas, such as Earl Grey, Darjeeling, English Breakfast, peppermint tea and a fruit tea. After that anything they want they can add. For example the one we have created for the Alderley Edge Hotel is the Alderley Edge Rose, a blend that includes actual roses.
‘We’ve got over 300 teas on our books and stock about 150 at any one time. On top of that we have the special blends we mix for our clients and throughout the year we will create things like a chocolate tea for Easter, a Valentine’s Day tea, strawberry tea for summer and a Christmas tea which my daughter said was ‘Christmas in a cup’.
One bespoke tea he created recently was for Manchester City football club and it’s blue: not just a tinge of blue but the kind of blue you might get if you let a ballpoint pen leak into water.
It’s with this that he demonstrates how the strength of tea isn’t in the amount you use but how long you brew it for. On instant pouring the colour is a pale sky blue. Leave it for the required three or four minutes and the colour is intensified to the colour of sapphires and longer still it becomes an inky darker shade.
‘People think it’s expensive to have loose leaf tea but to fill a pot will cost you only around eight pence,’ says James.
‘The tea we use is very high grade, quite different from the kind you might get in an ordinary teabag. In the trade it’s called fannings.’
To illustrate the point James brings out a dust-like breakfast tea and compares it to his own blend, where you can see each curling, dried tiny leaf.
‘All teas, whether they are Darjeeling, Earl Grey, white or green tea, come from one plant. It is how you process it that makes it different.
‘Traditionally, once picked, the tea would be laid out and they’d go along with fans and blow all the dust to one end and that’s where it got the name fannings. There are 28 grades of tea and we use the top three, we never deviate from that. Whether we’re serving a garden centre, a care home or a five star hotel you get the same tea; we don’t compromise - we even use proper leaves in our teabags.
‘We also do infusions. If you are a customer with a hotel or restaurant you might have some idea of what you do want, when you see this, you may change your mind!’