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Malcolm Ferris-Lay… The Tea Consultancy

April 18, 2017

By now you’ve probably realised there are a few things that get me excited — interesting and unusual businesses are top of the list but also tracking down people I don’t already know and finding out about businesses I’ve never previously heard of.Malcolm representing the Tea trade in Kolkata

A couple of months ago I attended a local tweetchat (yep, one of the funky things I like to do with my spare time) and was approached by a couple of ladies who said to me, “Ooh, you’re from Tring — you must know Malcolm!”, as much as I like to consider myself ears to the ground with all things Tring, funnily enough, I did not know Malcolm. “Oh but you must meet Malcolm , he’s quite a character!”, they said. It doesn’t take much to fire my intrigue, so once they sent me the details of the fascinating Malcolm Ferris-Lay, Tea Expert, I was keen to find out more about exactly who he is and what he does .

Here are Malcolm’ s story:

Malcolm Ferris-Lay

What is your career background?

I started in the tea trade as a Trainee Tea Taster with R. Twining & Co ltd in 1968. From there I worked for a Tea Broker before going out east to South India. I then worked for our family tea business. Finally for Williamson & Magor who were the world’s largest privately owned tea company employing some 120,00 where I was Sales Director and then Managing Director. I started MFLT a consultancy in 2011.

What do you do at the Tea Consultancy?

I do various things in my capacity as a Consultant. I can advise on packaging for start-up tea companies and where to source the product from. I advise 5 star hotels as well as tearooms on how to serve Afternoon Tea. I do tea talks to invariably wealthy ladies at hotels like the Ritz and generally cover any aspect of tea from retail to wholesale and food service. I am also co-founder of the London Tea History Association and an Inspector for the Tea Council.

Tea tasting at Eton, where he is Patron of the Infusion Society

How has the industry changed in the years you’ve been working?

Dramatically; when I first started we could be tasting anything up to 1,200 teas a day. The variations were huge as teas were sold in much smaller lots than today. We had a London Tea Auction which lasted for 3 days a week and continued up until relatively recently when it all came to an end after over 350 years!

What does an average day look like for you?

I never have an average day. Yesterday I met with a lady who wishes to acquire a large tea company here in the UK. Her family have a business in Europe which has been in existence for over a 100 years and she requires inside knowledge into our market both at home and abroad. Today I am tasting something rather unique which is Coffee Green Leaf Tea & Cascara Tea. Tomorrow who knows!

What’s is your favorite tea and how do you like to drink it?

I don’t have a favourite tea. I enjoy most teas if they have character and quality which does not mean it has to be expensive. I then drink the tea befitting to the type. It could be with or without milk.

Thank you Malcolm — it’s so interesting to hear about such a long standing and interesting industry and the very varied role you’ve played in it. I hope we get to see your expertise in action one day, out and about in Tring.

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