"There are a number of different unwritten rules regarding tea packaging that people have almost come to expect. Tea has to look quite calming and soothing. I did not want to become another of the same"
What is a tea sommelier and how can you become one? Meet Kim Havelaar founder of Roqberry Tea whose mission to blend the rules for quality tea. Women In the Food Industry co-founder, Mecca Ibrahim, chatted with Kim about about the world of tea, how to become a tea sommelier and how to make your product stand out in a crowded market.
Kim Havelaar worked for GE (General Electric) for about 15 years, which meant she traveled a lot for work and lived in about 4 different countries. Travelling gave her inspiration for her business and opened her eyes to all of the amazing flavours that are out there. She noticed as the whole evolution of coffee was taking place – with most cafes having at least six different types of coffee – that tea wasn’t going through a similar development. She felt this was quite strange as tea actually lends itself to be blended with different ingredients and flavours.
She said "Also with people reducing their alcohol intake, tea has this great ability to pair really well with food. This has been done in many cultures around the world for centuries. Particularly in Asia, India and Japan. I thought, wouldn’t it be great to have a tea company that focusses on foodies. They are getting great tasting experiences from adult soft drinks, gin, craft beer and wouldn’t it be great if they got that from tea as well."
In order to learn as much about tea as possible Kim decided to train with the UK Tea Academy. She explained "The more I learned the more fascinated I became. I visited some tea plantations in India and Japan. Eventually I got a certification as a tea sommelier which is a great accreditation".
"The Academy was founded by some very knowledgeable and passionate people in the industry and they have put together a wonderful catalogue of courses. The first one is something called Tea Champion which gives you a basic grounding in all things tea and opens up your eyes to all of the different types and categories and the key health benefits. Then there’s the Tea Sommelier course which is more in depth and intense. It goes into each of the different tea producing regions, their legendary teas and their characteristics."
When asked how she came up with name for Roqberry Tea Kim explained: "One of the best tasting teas that I came across as part of the UK Tea Academy, were called Rock Oolong teas which actually manage to grow on rocks. That stuck with me as I thought it was amazing they could grow in such a harsh environment. I combined it with berry as a nod to the fact that we have blends with a number of fruits. Rock sounds quite hard and berries sound soft, friendly and accessible so there’s that nice balance. We spelt rock with a Q as we like to do things differently. And we’re also we are easier to find on Google that way!"
The importance of standing out in a crowded market was also important to Kim who said: "When I started looking at packaging, I knew that I wanted Roqberry to be a different type of tea brand. There are a number of different unwritten rules regarding tea packaging that people have almost come to expect. It’s almost as though tea has to look quite calming and soothing. I didn’t want to become another of the same."
Visit Women in the Food Industry to read the full interview with Kim Havelaar, founder of Roqberry tea to discover more of her journey into getting her tea stocked in cafes, restaurants, speciality stores and farm shops and how her Great Taste award-winning tea will be appearing in high end hotels from late summer.