In celebration of International Women’s Day
on 8th March we chatted with six women who are shaking up the tea industry!
They each saw a niche in the tea market, decided to follow their dreams and
founded their own tea businesses. And the tea world is all the richer for them!

The final chapter in our Women in Tea series is Valerie Diederichs, Founder of Team Tea. After a career in aerodynamic engineering with Mercedes Formula One, Valerie completed her MBA, spearheaded an art for loan club before turning her talents to her other passion, tea. Founded in 2018, Team Tea is based in Oxford and has already won 6 Great Taste Awards.

Q1. What inspired you to found the company?

I have always been a tea lover. I love the ritual of making
tea, the moment of pause, the chance to reset and I love the connection with
distant lands. Too often tea is commoditised and we forget about where and how
it was grown. We forget about the pioneers who planted tea bushes in often
inhospitable terrain, we forget about the growers tending to the tea plants, we
forget about the pickers skilfully choosing only the best leaves and we forget
about the expertise that goes into crafting those fresh leaves into the amazing
drink we love. I was inspired to start Team Tea to share those stories in the
hope of encouraging people to value the tea they drink, to discover new teas
and regions and to banish boring brews.

Q2. How are you enriching your customers’ lives?

First it is about our core principles, and secondly it is
about engaging with our customers to share why these principles are important
and how we believe they will benefit everyone. Our core principles guide
everything we do, and they are,

  • Quality and Taste – We are proud
    that are teas have been recognised by top judging panels, winning 6 awards at
    Great Taste in 2019.
  • Sustainability – All our packaging
    is re-useable, compostable or recyclable. For example we recently switched to a
    compostable sachet for the refills of our regular tin and we use paper tape on
    our shipping boxes and compostable packing chips. We are also constantly trying
    to improve our processes such as switching to Vegware gloves in our tea-packing
    room rather than single-use Vinyl gloves, and we are growing our Organic range.
  • Ethical Impact – All our teas are
    sourced through the Ethical Tea Partnership or from plantations we have
    visited.

I love the ritual of making tea, the moment of pause, the chance to reset and I love the connection with distant lands.

But it is also about engaging with our customers,
particularly at Farmer’s Markets and food festivals. We can spread the message
about real tea, answer any questions people may have about switching to loose-leaf,
or about different varieties, origins etc, and help people to discover new
favourites and fall in love with the tea they are drinking.

Q3. What excites you the most about the future of tea?

The demands customers are placing on companies to be more responsible. We can see the impact that has had on the wine industry and more recently on the coffee industry and I think Tea is ripe for a revolution. As more people move away from the ‘milk and 2 sugars teabag’, I have noticed more questions from customers about provenance, sourcing, packaging etc with plastic in tea bags, working conditions on the plantations and Organic/Fairtrade being just a few of the recent hot topics.

I hope that this shift will support the tea industry as a whole, raising prices for farmers resulting in better wages and working conditions, increasing the demand for specialty tea and supporting the farmers switching to Organic or more modernised production, reducing waste and creating a sustainable supply chain that benefits the environment, farmers and ultimately tea drinkers themselves.

Q4. Finally,
tell us about your perfect tea moment

Curled up on
the sofa with the dog on my lap, sharing a pot of tea on a weekend afternoon
with my husband!

Check out Part one, Part two, Part three and Part four of the Women in Tea series.

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