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Interview with Krisi Smith – Founder of Bird & Blend Tea Co.
INTERVIEWS

Interview with Krisi Smith – Founder of Bird & Blend Tea Co.

This week we caught up with Krisi Smith, Founder of Bird & Blend Tea Co.

Can you tell us where the idea to create Bird & Blend came from?

Before launching Bird & Blend, I had been in 52 jobs and either hated them or got sacked from them! I didn’t want to get caught up on a typical graduate training scheme so I escaped to Canada to be a ski instructor while I figured out what I wanted to do. While working as a ski instructor with my business partner Mike, who I had met whilst studying Politics at university, we knew we didn’t want to come back to the UK and return to 9-5 jobs working for someone else.

So we decided to create our own business with our own rules and with a mission to be as ethical and eco conscious as we could. At 23 years old and with no business degree or formal training, I learnt on the job and through a lot of reading and researching I decided to use my background in the tea industry to challenge the UK market and reimagine tea. We went from packing tea in our back bedroom and attending markets, building Bird & Blend from scratch while staying true to our ethos and values to a team of 150+, 14 high street stores & a thriving international online store.

You have such a creative range of different teas available, where do you get your inspiration to create such unique flavours, so regularly?

I love creating new blends, technically my job title is ‘Chief Tea Mixologist’! I’ve done the blend creation since day 1 & it’s a job that really tests my creativity! My inspiration comes from many places but I make sure that I listen to what our customers are telling me and always add a bit of flair or twist. I’ve been inspired by other trends too, like colours (we did a violet tea inspired by Pantone’s colour of the year a few years back), travel (our chai & matcha ranges are inspired by spices & flavours from my travels) & new ingredients (such as trends towards charcoal, CBD or chagra).

The reason that we specialise in blended teas, and focus on unique flavours, is that it creates joy & magic that delights our customers – the smells & tastes & colours bring them into our fantastic world of tea. It also cements Bird & Blend in the leading position in tea innovation in the UK and across the globe, which is something I am really proud of.

I’m passionate about the physical side of retail and being able to create consumer products which promote an engaging retail experience. The highstreet isn’t dying, a controversial opinion I know, but it is crying out for products & services that create really innovative human experiences, rather than just items on shelves, that can easily be shopped online.


Are there any new teas you are currently working on?

We launch seasonal and collection blends each quarter alongside our 100+ core tea blends that feature on our Wall of Tea. At the moment the big fan fave is Spiced Pumpkin Pie – a spiced autumnal chai perfect for warming lattes. These limited edition blends are often incredibly popular and true fans are always asking us when we’re going to bring certain teas back, which we sometimes do in a ‘tea vote back’ style activity for them, where they can have their say to bring a past tea back and make it permanent. Although we have over 300 blends in our back catalogue, the combinations are endless so we’re always excited to see what we create next.

What has been the most valuable piece of advice you have ever been given?

From the very beginning I’ve consistently believed that you should never underestimate the impact people can have on your business success – getting the right people around you is the key to everything you do. They will help shape ideas & grow the business into something so much more special that you can do alone, and when the going gets tough passionate & dedicated people get you through.

Someone said to me early on to remember I am leading hearts not hands, which has stuck with me. I thought I was a good ‘people person’ but leading people is about so much more than being a friendly or kind person. You have to figure out how to communicate with people in a way that they need to hear, based on their drivers & beliefs, and then on top of that learn to communicate clearly. It’s been a massive learning curve that I am still on – ten years later!

Advice I’d give others would be to say yes to absolutely everything in the beginning – meet as many people as you can, take up all offers & opportunities because you never know when they will come back around later on. The other piece of advice I’d say is to figure out what the really magical & meaningful thing is to your business or brand & spend all your money on that – forget the fancy things like amazing office locations or swanky merch or whatever, invest in what matters. For us that has always been team development & customer service.

Can you tell us about any of your charity initiatives?

When we first launched Bird & Blend, we wanted to create a company that gave back to our local communities and more widely, the world, be this through our sustainability pushes like our *Teas for Trees campaign*, our work with local businesses or our charity initiatives.We have a ChariTEA of the Quarter programme which works with a different charity every three months, nominated by our team. We support them with fundraising and awareness raising activities as well as team volunteering days. Our chosen charities are linked to a particular blend of tea and all profits are donated to the charity during their quarter.

We love getting to know our chosen charities and always use our social platforms to help raise awareness for their causes. Since it started in 2013 the ChariTEA programme has raised over £61,357.71 for local causes that are close to the team’s heart.

If you had a free day in London to do what you want, where would you go?

It depends on the season but I love to wander through London in the Autumn / Winter, all wrapped up with the festive atmosphere everywhere – I have two main routes I love that I can do in a day if I have loads of time, or just do one area if I only have half a day.

I’d either start off at Borough Market, exploring all the food traders & taking in the amazing buildings, imagining what it would have been like to be a part of that a hundred years ago, spotting some of the locations from my favourite victorian novels. Then I’d wander down to the river, past the dungeon walls & the globe, all the way along to the southbank, checking out the street artists with a warming drink – either a chai latte from the B&B store or a mulled wine from the traders. A little known lunch spot is the beautiful Kings Arms on Roupell street. It’s a proper backstreet old fashioned pub but it serves amazing Thai food & Roupell street is like stepping back in time. It is a hidden gem of original workers cottages that has survived the blitz – highly recommended.

If I had a whole day I’d visit some of the free exhibitions at the Tate before jumping on the tube to Covent garden where I’d do more wandering & exploring, making my way through the seven dials area to check out the cool indie brands & quirky shops. Have a glass of wine in the original Neal’s Yard courtyard at La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels or a chilli spiced hot chocolate from the chocolate shop there. I would walk over to Carnaby Street via China Town, to grab some dumplings or noodles and then eat them whilst it gets darker outside, with the lights all twinkling along the street. Lastly I would pop into Libertys where every year I visit the Christmas shop on the top floor and spend hours collecting my favourite baubles as I go along, before choosing just one to take home & add to our tree this year.

For more information on Bird & Blend Tea Co. visit https://www.birdandblendtea.com

Photography courtesy of Bird & Blend Tea Co.

#BirdampBlendTeaCo #KrisiSmith #tea

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