The inspiration behind setting up a tea company

9 Dec

Founded by Kate and Neil Gover, Lahloo encompasses their passion for tea and life. Here’s the Lahloo story:

The history
In the 1800’s the demand by fashionable Londoners for the earliest spring crop tea created massive competition. The first clipper that sailed into London would be met by an almost carnival atmosphere in the docks with its cargo of tea reaching the highest price.

Built in 1867, the Lahloo was one of the most famous tea clippers of the 19th century. So-called because of the way they ‘clipped’ miles, clippers were built for speed and raced to bring tea from China to London. Having grown up around dockside London, Kate Gover’s great-great grandfather George Hockaday was drawn into a career as a sailor and he worked on the Lahloo as she joined the clipper races.

The people
Kate Gover’s passion for food and travel has fueled a long held ambition to put both at the heart of what she does professionally.
Leaving Bradford to study Spanish and Cultural Studies took Kate to Valencia, Spain where she absorbed the Spanish lifestyle and more importantly the regional food and drink. After graduating in 1999, it took time for Kate to find her niche working initially in recruitment and then as a personal assistant. Leading the restaurant team at Carluccio’s in Canary Wharf, and then being part of the management team at Fresh & Wild, cemented Kate’s resolve to work within the food and drink industry and ultimately to run her own company.

Kate met fellow student and future husband Neil in 1997. Their shared love of food and travel took them to Europe and beyond, learning constantly about the food cultures of the countries they visited. In the cafes of Paris, Kate and Neil re-discovered the simple but luxurious pleasure of drinking artisan whole leaf tea. On a later trip to South America suffering from altitude sickness Kate was given plant infusions that restored her health and she became more determined to add to her knowledge of tea, its flavours and benefits.

Embracing their shared love and enthusiasm for tea, Kate and Neil started to formulate a plan for their own tea business in 2005. They embarked upon a mission to research everything they could about the very best tea, where it is produced, who produced it and the history behind its production. Despite the UK’s long relationship with tea, it became clear to Kate and Neil that to experience truly great tea beyond fancy food halls such at Fortnum & Mason, you had to visit Europe. The pair did just that, visiting teahouses and boutiques across Europe sampling tea and speaking with tea enthusiasts. They drank very bad but expensive tea in teahouses that should have known better and truly great tea in places you wouldn’t expect to find it.

Through their experiences Kate and Neil discovered that the very best tea is not easily available on the open market and set about looking for tea importers in this country who shared their passion and enthusiasm. Their caveat was that they had to import seasonally and from independent tea gardens that supported traditional growing and processing methods.

Lahloo use two trusted tea importers who supply their tea. Alex and Tim (based in London) between them have over 30 years experience of enjoying and discovering and studying and teaching tea culture and Kate got to know them while sourcing tea for use at home. Before she decided to establish her own company, Kate also met Edward (based in the South West), an independent fine tea importer. His wealth of experience with small tea gardens as well as his passion and enthusiasm, have been invaluable.

The concept
Lahloo has been born out of the knowledge gathered over a decade of research, traveling, sampling, smelling and tasting. This journey of discovery will continue for both Kate and Neil. Their ultimate ambition is to open their own dedicated teahouse offering the Lahloo experience, the very best artisan whole leaf teas from around the world served with the ceremony deserving of the world’s finest teas.

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