Whittard of Chelsea
How long have you been in business?
Whittard of Chelsea was started over 125 years ago in 1886 in London.
What is the size/scope of your business?
We have over 60 stores in the UK and online shops in the UK, US, France, Italy and Germany and will be adding Japan. In addition, we wholesale in various countries too.
Our founder Walter H Whittard was passionate about tea.
How did you get the ball rolling on your venture?
Walter H Whittard was born in 1861 into a family of wealthy leather merchants. Not keen on joining the family business, Walter pursued his passion for tea spending five years as an apprentice, before founding his own company at the age of 25. He opened his first shop on busy Fleet Street in 1886. A talented businessman, Walter soon spotted that there were opportunities beyond tea and added coffee and cocoa to his range, creating exclusive blends from the finest ingredients. His store was full of gleaming tea caddies and brass weighing scales and he established a reputation for combining expert service with specialist teas, freshly roasted coffee and fine quality cocoa. Ahead of his time, Walter understood the need to tailor products to his customers – he watched the wigged occupants of the Inns of Court come and go and created a blend called ‘Barristers Refresher’ to tempt them in. Walter’s philosophy was always to ‘buy the best’ and this has been a guiding principle for Whittard of Chelsea ever since.
What do you feel is the biggest strength of your business?
We are passionate about tea and coffee, passionate about helping our customers explore and discover new and innovative blends and passionate about sharing our knowledge. We believe fine tea and coffee deserves to be valued, appreciated and enjoyed.
What were/are the biggest challenges of getting into/being in the tea business?
There are always new competitors and new products, so the challenge is to maintain quality but also continue to develop new and exciting products.
What would you do differently, if anything?
That’s a question for Walter and unfortunately he’s no longer around to answer …
Business is good. We are constantly evolving our offering, while remaining faithful to our customers’ favourite products and always finding new ways to reach and interact with our customers. E-commerce and social media are playing a bigger role. Plus because we have lots of customers who loved our stores and products whilst visiting England, it’s great to be launching more international websites, so more and more people can buy our unique teas and coffees when they return home.
What advice would you give to someone who aspires to be in the tea business?
Be passionate about what you do and ensure you have a great quality product.