First retail outlet opens
Interview: Erica Moore, founder, eteaket
Turning over a new leaf
They say you can read your future in tea leaves. In Erica Moore’s case it was discovering the taste of a proper cuppa that gave her the perfect blend for a business idea.
She was working as a civil lawyer in London when, for the first time, she drank a cup of tea made from loose leaves.
“It blew me away. I just wondered why so few people were drinking tea made like this,” she says.
That was eight years ago when when Gourock-born Erica persuaded her husband Stewart that she wanted to launch a business selling proper tea.
She became a tea aficionado, visiting tea experts in India and Sri Lanka and reading research papers. She learned about about the vast range of teas, how it was farmed and, of course, how to make the perfect cup.
“I wanted to learn as much as possible, visiting the British Libary and reading every book on the subject,” she says.
She managed to persuade four banks to back her plan to open a speciality tea room. Then came the 2008 crash and suddenly no one wanted to lend her the money they’d promised.
Undeterred the couple headed back to Scotland, re-mortgaged their London house and scraped together their savings to take on a property in Frederick Street in the centre of Edinburgh.
A tea room opened and then a wholesaler, followed by an online business. Now her business – eteaket – has just opened its first retail outlet, in nearby Rose Street, selling 33 varieties of loose-leaf tea sourced from all over the world, including favourites such as Bollywood Dreams Chai and Dragonwell Delight. Erica wants it to be the first of many.
“We will open more shops. I’d like 10 in major cities across the UK and then I want to take it overseas. That’s my dream,” she says.
She says it would be easy to replicate the Rose Street shop and she already has her ‘coals to Newcastle’ story by selling tea to China. The Americans are also big fans.
“We created our own Scottish breakfast blend of tea and an Edinburgh blend. Tourists love to come in and taste our range of teas. They go home and order from us online,” she says.
She believes the British will fall in love with tea all over again, only this time with the full range of loose leaf tea, the speciality blends and even tea cocktails that she will encourage visitors to her shop to try.
“There’s much more to tea than Earl Grey and tea bags. What we are trying to do here is build a proper tea culture.” she says, explaining that she feels she is on a mission to introduce, or re-introduce, real tea to the nation’s drinking habits.
The business now boasts among its customers Michelin-starred restaurants and celebrity chefs Gordon Ramsay and Tom Kitchin. But she resists the idea of selling into the mainstream supermarkets.
“They would push down the price and diminish the value of the brand,” she says.
The business now employs 14 and turnover last year was £600,000. This year she wants to hit £1 million .
“I admit that I was surprised that from day one that people embraced our teas when they can buy tea so cheaply at the supermarket. I am delighted they are prepared to try new tastes.”
Educated: Strathclyde University (law)
Career highlights: Practised in civil litigation for seven years with Kendall Freeman.
Does anything make you angry?
People who balk at paying £5 for tea. They are missing the point. They also need to understand how much work goes into making quality tea.
What’s your guilty secret?