Belfast tea firm is big in Japan thanks to Facebook

6 May 2009

Belfast start-up Suki Tea Company has won a major contract to supply gourmet teas to a leading tea house in Tokyo, after a recommendation was posted via Facebook.

The deal is the Belfast firm’s first in Japan, and will see its gourmet teas, including its Belfast Brew, provided to the unnamed tea house.

In what can be described as a classic case of bringing coals to Newcastle, it is understood the company clinched the order through a recommendation to the tea house’s owner from a contact in Japan via the social-networking site Facebook.

“Suki Tea is an excellent example of a small company that is harnessing the potential of the internet to draw business from global markets,” said Maynard Mawhinney, Invest NI’s food director.

“It has created a unique and highly successful website, which it is using very cleverly and effectively to build an appealing personality for the business in this era of social networking online,” Mawhinney added.

Formed in 2005, Suki Tea has grown from selling its products from stalls at the weekly St George’s Food Market in Belfast and the regular continental markets in the city. It has won international awards, including UK Great Taste Awards, and is now supplying customers in Europe, the US and further afield.

The company sources its teas from specially selected plantations worldwide. Among the company’s range of teas are Fairtrade Breakfast Tea, Green Tea with Ginseng, Fairtrade Darjeeling, Organic Camomile and Organic Rooibos, and fruity infusions including Mango Tango, Apple Loves Mint and the exotic rare Jasmine Dragon Phoenix Pearls.

Regular clients for the teas include gourmet restaurants such as Jamie Oliver’s inspired ‘Fifteen’ restaurant at Watergate Bay; Cornwall, Rick Stein’s ‘The Seafood Restaurant’ at Padstow, Cornwall; and the Donnybrook Fair ‘Eat Up’ Restaurant in Dublin.

“We’ve long been fascinated by the Japanese love of tea and their unique approach to serving it,” said Suki Tea director, Oscar Wolley.

“To get our business going in Belfast, we imported tea from a Japanese supplier. Selling our own teas, including ‘Belfast Brew’, to a Tokyo tea house is a great thrill.

“We’ve also adopted some of the Japanese tea ritual by developing a range of accessories, including a specially designed teapot and matching tray,” Woolley added.

By John Kennedy