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Export success brewing for London Tea Exchange

London Tea Exchange, a retailer on Brick Lane that boasts the largest premium tea collection in the world, is exporting for the first time after securing orders worth £2.5m from Sweden.

The orders, which came from retailers and distributors, are set to increase the business’ £360,000 turnover by sixfold.

One of the company’s new Swedish customers is an international beverage retailer, Wayne’s Coffee. 

The six-figure deal, due to commence in March 2019, will see the London Tea Exchange’s teas stocked in 166 Wayne’s outlets around the world, including 95 locations in Sweden and eight locations in China.

London Tea Exchange began trading in 2014 and opened its first permanent store in Brick Lane last November.

The company has been supported in its export ventures by the Department for International Trade (DIT), which provided an International Trade Adviser (ITA) to work with London Tea Exchange on its path to export, offering support and advice in developing its export strategy.

The ITA has also introduced London Tea Exchange to colleagues in British embassies and consulates in markets of interest – including China, Mexico and Bangladesh – to help it develop new export opportunities.

The business is looking to extend its reach to 20 overseas markets by the end of 2019, and to 60 overseas markets by 2021.

London Tea Exchange currently holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest collection of premium teas, with its Brick Lane store stocking 825 varieties. Its product range is the result of 15 years of research and development, during which time its chief executive, Aliur Rahman, travelled to 80 countries worldwide in search of rare and fine teas.

After an extensive process involving feedback from 500,000 consumers, London Tea Exchange selected 28 of its most popular teas to produce in a teabag format. It now sells this selection to its new partners in Sweden and is looking to sell globally.

Aliur Rahman, chief executive, London Tea Exchange, said: “There’s huge demand for high-quality teas around the world, and we developed our business with exporting in mind. 

“As we’ve been developing our business, our ITA has been my go-to contact for any exporting questions or issues we’ve had and has helped us prepare for selling overseas.

“For example, as we were designing our packaging, DIT advised us to consider how we would handle the language barrier. As a result, we’ve printed our labels in 5 languages – Swedish, Arabic, Mandarin, Japanese and English – to ensure we need minimal changes for any future export growth.

“The Scandinavian tea market can be a tricky one to crack as tea isn’t as popular there as other drinks such as coffee. However, for our first export market we wanted somewhere where we could really test the products we’d developed, and so it was a contrarian choice, but one that paid off.

“Sweden has already been a huge success, and we are now of the mindset that if we can make it there, we can make it anywhere. There’s real opportunity overseas – if we can find export success, others can too.”

Parveen Thornhill, head of London Region, Department for International Trade, said: “These Swedish deals represent the first significant export wins for London Tea Exchange, which are already set to significantly boost the business’ turnover – a clear sign of the opportunities for growth that exporting can offer.

“Exports of goods from the capital continue to grow, rising by 2.2% to more than £37bn in the year to September 2018, and we’re on hand to help more London businesses make the most of this global demand for our products.

“Through our local network of ITAs, we’re offering one-to-one advice on everything from finding new partners and buyers, to issues of logistics, tax and language. Anyone interested in starting, or growing, their exports should get in touch with a member of the team today.”

Ashleigh Smith
Article by Ashleigh Smith
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