We meet the duo behind Buckinghamshire’s tea specialists, Two Spoons, to find out more about why they are causing a stir
We have all missed out on so much over the past year thanks to COVID-19, especially one of the great British traditions: having a nice cup of tea, either with family or in a quaint, quirky tea room. As life starts to open up again, it’s time to put the kettle on and celebrate everything to do with tea, starting with Two Spoons, a Buckinghamshire-based business launched during lockdown by Giles Oakley and Mark Lawson…
So tea – has it always been a passion?
Giles: Definitely. With our Irish heritage, it was never going to be otherwise. My mum drinks gallons of Assam tea, always using a teapot, always loose!
Mark: I was weaned on warm, milky, sweet tea as a toddler and being in the industry tea really gets into your veins. There is hardly a day that goes by when I’m not still learning something new about this amazing drink that gives so much pleasure to people worldwide.
Why do we love tea so much?
Giles: Tea has an effect on us on so many levels. There is a big social element around tea drinking, whether you are in Marrakech, Kolkata or Buckinghamshire! It is culturally important too, in China, Japan and in the UK.
Mark: It is refreshing, healthy and can be calming too. Science is now understanding a lot more about tea and its health benefits especially regarding heart health. One example is it contains an amino acid called l-theanine that has calming properties; just one of the reasons that historically Zen Buddhist monks drank tea whilst meditating.
What were your roles at Tetley?
Giles: We were both members of the tea department, and first and foremost we were tasters. We were either buyers or blenders of tea. As a buyer we were responsible for sourcing teas and making sure we got the right quality to the right place at the right time. As a blender the main role was ensuring that each blend was consistent with the last so that week in week out the customer got the same quality. We could taste up to a thousand teas a day during our training!
Where has been the strangest place you have had a cup of tea?
Giles: Either a building site in Pakistan when we were constructing a tea packing factory, or a Bedouin tent in the Sahara, but that was on holiday!
How did everything lead to you launching Two Spoons?
Giles: After 21 years at Tata/Tetley, I had decided I needed a change. I contacted Mark to see if he was up for doing something together, it made sense given we are only five miles apart. The name Two Spoons was an easy one really, named after the tools of our trade, and we often joke we are couple of spoons!
You started Two Spoons in lockdown – did you have any doubts about launching during this time?
Giles: The doubts for me were less about lockdown, more about moving from the security of a regular 9-5 job to the craziness that is running your own business.
Mark: Since more and more products were being bought online even before the pandemic, I saw it as an opportunity to sell to consumers directly and tell our tea stories along the way. We would have carried out a lot more face to face tasting sessions and got a foothold in local cafes if the pandemic hadn’t got in the way.
What do you want to offer?
Giles: Firstly, we want to offer great teas, either in tea bags (pillows as we call them) or loose. These are teas that we have selected from some of our favourite tea gardens. Secondly, we want to inspire curiosity in tea and remind people what an amazing product it is and how much care and craft goes into making a delicious cuppa.
What will we find in your Bucks Blend?
Giles: We wanted to maintain the characteristics of a top quality English Breakfast, but then add a touch of class. So we have used Kenyan tea, grown in the quality belt East of the Great Rift Valley. We have taken thick, malty, second flush Assam from India to give it some “oomph”. Finally we added a sprinkling of Darjeeling, grown in the foothills of the Himalayas, which is known as the “champagne of teas”, because we think Bucks deserves it!