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Fri 1 Jun 2007 12:00 AM

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Tea turns a new leaf

NK Sethia, founder of Newby Teas London, explains why his premium tea company is targeting the Middle East.

NK Sethia, founder of Newby Teas London, explains why his premium tea company is targeting the Middle East.

When was Newby Teas of London set up?

I founded the company in London in 1997 in order to revive the tradition of tea consumption. Newby has a very rigorous testing and selection process, buying only first and second flush teas from select estates. Boasting a product portfolio of more than 100 flavour combinations in tea flavours, tisanes and infusions, our packing and preservation facilities are located in the UK and India.

What is your background in the beverage and tea industry?

I joined a London-based company as a tea apprentice at the age of 13. Coming from a well-to-do family, I wanted to do something where I didn't use my father or grandfather's name to earn my living, which really fuelled me to succeed.

What are your company's plans for the region?

We established our regional headquarters in Dubai in January this year, with an aim to secure a leading position in the region's catering business. We are expecting an AED184 million (US$50 million) market share in five years.

Is there room in the market for more luxury tea companies?

I believe the region is currently under-serviced in terms of quality tea, which is surprising considering the high standards that most people have here. We want to establish our brand across the GCC in the coming months, and Newby Teas will be distributed exclusively through Geralt ME. The price of our products reflects the quality, so we have set our sights high on the Middle East's $2 billion tea market.

How do you expect to stand apart in the market?

The tea has to be of a premium grade, a lot of companies are justifying that status with crazy prices, but it is the quality that dictates the price, that's our motto. We have invested a lot in preservation methods, and our company offers only first and second flush teas. The first flush is very delicate and soft, while the inherent character comes out in the second. Other companies are looking at huge volumes, which is not what we are doing.

Do you work alongside food and beverage outlets?

We provide tailor-made solutions to assist our clients in the presentation and serving of our teas and tisanes. We offer the Imperial and Royal ranges as part of our Exclusive Classics line, which includes Annapurna Green, Himalaya, Jasmine, Royal Black Dragon, China Green, and Green Spiral, which are sourced at 800m above sea level in the mountains of South China.

We also use heavy-gauge aluminium foil for packing, and extra support includes a range of supplementary items such as teabag presentation boxes, branded teapots and cups, tea strainers and sample wallets.

Do selected teas bring out the characteristics and flavours of each tea-growing area?

Yes they do. The characteristics of Darjeeling tea, for example, is unique to the Indian foothills of the Himalayas, with the region producing teas with magnificent fl oral aromas and muscatel flavours, as well as hints of light amber liquor, floral fragrances and some astringency. Assam tea, on the other hand, is rich and powerful due to the harsh climactic conditions of North East India, resulting in a malt aftertaste.

Finally, how do you make a perfect cup of tea?

To bring out the natural flavour of the tea, it is best to use soft water with a low mineral content, soft spring or glacier water is ideal.

Different teas also require different temperatures, with teas with a floral fragrance needing the water to be between 70°C and 80°C.

When making leaf tea, it is important to not let the leaf ‘sit' in the teapot or teacup for too long. Pour the brewed tea into another clean, warm teapot where it can rest under a cover.

Generally, 2g of leaf tea is needed per cup, and 4g for fruity and fl oral ranges. Delicate teas and tisanes should not be taken with milk.

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