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:
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.
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.