Shibui Tea Company

Johnny grew up in Yorkshire and the North of England. His family were huge fans of tea and taught him at an early age how to enjoy a delightful and strong brew.

Shibui Tea Company is a family run company and independent from any of the big boys. Johnny’s brother Paul runs the Canadian side of the business.

So why the name Shibui? The family wanted a name that meant something, was something that wasn’t common either so everyone would remember it too.

It’s a Japanese word and one meaning is a way of describing something which appears simple but has a complex nature.

For them, this sums up tea. Tea is just tea to most but look into it and there’s a lot more to it than that.

They source their teas from all over the world, primarily from China, Japan, India, Sri Lanka, Africa, and Taiwan.  

By visiting Shibui Tea online, you can browse and choose from over 100 teas and be assured of their excellent customer service.

Interview with Shibui Tea Company

We recently had the chance to interview the folks at Shibui Tea Company. This is a great way for you to get to know the tea suppliers that provide the teas in our Blue Tea Box each month!

How did you get started in the tea business?

Quite a long and boring story actually! As a family we’ve been distributing tea for around 15 years but I joined the business around 7 years ago.

My brother & I decided that we wanted to do our own brand rather than distribute. That meant we could have more control and source our own teas. It’s also a lot more fun.

My brother lives in Montreal deals with the Canadian side of Shibui – I run the UK.

What sparked your interest in selling speciality teas?

It was important to me to sell quality and not just poor quality fannings or dust. You can really tell the difference after having a poor quality cup of tea after you’ve had some good quality stuff. If I enjoyed it then I knew that others would. 

What is the very first cup of tea you ever remember drinking?

Although based in Edinburgh now I grew up in the North of England and mostly Yorkshire so the first cup was your classic Yorkshire brew.

What is your favourite steeping method and do you drink a lot of tea at home?

Don’t have a favourite and it depends on what tea I’m drinking. At home I drink loads of tea. I mix it up a bit more at home with herbal teas to cut down the caffeine – I’ve come up with some blends which are great at night – our Chocolate & Ginger blend is like a hot chocolate.

Which tea flavour is your favourite and why?

The tea I always go back to is an Assam. I love the rich malty flavour. A big swig of this always calms me down.

I can’t drink this all day though so I drink a lot of Japanese teas too – very partial to a sencha or a karigane. The Toasted Kukicha is very good too. It’s why we have a lot on our menu because I love them so much!

What distinguishes your teas apart from other speciality teas out there?

The quality of our teas and the different blends we have is part of Shibui but doesn’t make us unique per se. 

What I’ve tried to do with Shibui is to reduce the amount of plastic that we use. Our tea bags have always been the biodegradeable type but the packaging that they come in is not plastic either.

The wrapping that we use is made from a compostable cellulose material called Natureflex which can be put in with your food waste or your home compost heap.

What gear or gadget is at the top of your tea wish list?

I don’t go in for gadgets – just a good sized mug and I’m happy!

Do you have a favourite tea cup? If so, tell us about it. 

My favourite was my Newcastle United mug – had it at school and lasted most of university until my flat mate dropped it in the sink. Now my favourite is a Japanese pottery mug made by Hasami. I think it’s a really cool and simple design. Very shibui.

Have you read any great books about speciality teas?

Not at the moment, I have not.

Do you have a cafe? 

We don’t have any cafes or shops. I specialise in supplying the trade.

What does the future look like for you? Where do you see your company at in the future?

My aim is to get more quality tea out there and I believe the consumer desire is there.

There are lots of great companies out there now specialising in premium quality tea and this can only help educate the market and look beyond your bog-standard tea bag. I’m excited about the future and once we’ve got passed Brexit.

What advice would you give someone looking to get into selling speciality teas?

It’s becoming a highly competitive market and customers are looking beyond just the flavours that you have. It’s about what else you do – who you are and your values.

The number one thing for me has always been customer service. I’m grateful for every customer I have and treat them all the same – I never take them for granted – and I always want them to be happy. 

What is your favourite thing to do when you are not working with your special origin teas?

I’ve got a young family so when I’m not working I’m spending time with my wee girl and wee boy. It’s a busy life but lots of fun.

When traveling, do you visit other stores or cafes that sell tea?  Do you ask them about their methods or do you relax and take it all in? 

I tend to sit back and watch. It annoys my wife when we go out because she can see my eyes darting around – looking at the menus – looking at the shelves – looking at the marketing. It never stops!

Finally

To learn more about the Shibui Tea Company, be sure and visit their website. You can also follow along with them on Facebook to keep up with all their tea blends they will be creating over the year.

To see which teas we are featuring this month from Shibui Tea, be sure and visit this post.

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