Claire and John Mellor, Shibui Tea
In lockdown you could go to Shibui’s website and send a card to a loved one, with a selection of 5 tea bags in it. Claire and John would handwrite your message into the card and it really took off. “We were lovely writing notes to people’s mums who they hadn’t seen for months and it was really emotional”, says Claire. But then tea is, as we Brits know, a big deal and in times of need… tea. And who better to set up a company trading the stuff than a Yorkshire man? John had been working in food and drink distribution when he had the idea. “The products he was delivering weren’t always as good a quality as he wanted to see”, says Claire. “We felt there was potential for new flavours and also to make interesting tea more accessible. Oh, and he’d always really liked a brew.”
They started small, with a core range that’s built up over the years. Sustainability has always been key, making sure they know the provenance of the tea and using recyclable packaging. “Tea products were still plastic-heavy when we started but from day one we used cardboard tubes and didn’t individually wrap tea bags.” The goal is to work with a tea plantation directly, so they can be involved in the process from leaf to tea-cup (or mug if that’s your cup of tea). Shibui now has over 100 in the range, “We get too excited and keep adding more!” says Claire. They love breaking down tea snobbery and surprising people. “Coffee shops often say, ‘Oh we’ll just take the basic tea’, then they get back saying ‘the green tea is flying off the shelves, send more!’”. Seriously impressive that all the design branding is done by John himself, it’s cool and beautiful. Favourite brew? “Tropical green tea”, says Claire without missing a beat.