Use code SHIPPING45 for Free delivery on orders over £45

Help us to say ‘Thank You’ and ‘Cheers’ on International Tea Day

We are proud to be celebrating International Tea Day this year, as declared by the United Nations on Thursday 21st May.

This year’s theme is to say “thank you!” to all of the producers, growers and blenders…everyone that works hard to bring us our tea.

We thought it would be a great idea to get you all involved and that’s where we need your help! We want to create a video compilation of all of our wonderful customers, clients and fellow tea drinkers giving their thanks.

All we need you to do is record a short video (literally seconds) or take a photograph of you raising your cup or mug of tea in thanks.

We will compile them all and this will be utilised on our social media channels and also submitted to the UK Tea and Infusions Association to say thanks and spread a little joy in these testing times.

You have until the Saturday 9th May to submit – simply email your video or image across to us here and thank you!

FREE DELIVERY for all NHS staff and Key Workers

Special offer for our amazing NHS staff and all other key workers during these unprecedented times.

Free delivery is available until 30th April 2020*, to all NHS and key worker staff within the delivery area covered by our van drivers who would usually have been delivering to 100s of cafes, restaurants and hotels etc.

The areas covered includes the Chesterfield Borough, Derbyshire and South Yorkshire. Our drivers can leave your delivery, as instructed, in a safe place so that you can avoid contact with the driver to ensure social distancing.

To take advantage of this service you MUST call the shop on 01246 232 600 (Monday-Friday in office hours) to place your order and make payment over the telephone.

Obviously, our drivers can only deliver so far, however, if you live further afield we can still offer free delivery subject to a minimum order of £20. These orders will be delivered by usual courier service. Simply utilise the code: KEYWORKER20 via our website

* Terms & Conditions

  • Subject to availability
  • Details of key worker status will be required over the phone
  • Orders must be placed over the phone on 01246 232 600 and no orders placed online will qualify for this free local delivery service
  • 30th April end date may be extended

New Coronavirus measures to help us to keep both you and our staff safe

UPDATE: As of Wednesday 1 July we will resume our usual shop opening times:
Monday – Friday: 9am – 5:30pm
Saturday: 9am – 5pm

As you already know The Pekoe Café at Northern Tea Merchants is closed until further notice.

As long as it is safe to do so, we aim to keep our shop on Chatsworth Road open to enable you to purchase essential tea and coffee supplies to keep you going through these troubling times. However, PLEASE NOTE, as of today we have reduced our opening hours and will only be open from 10am-3pm (Mon-Sat).

ALL customers need to follow the strict social distancing rules laid out by the government. Only 1 customer will be allowed in the shop at any one time. Anyone waiting, please queue appropriately and obey the 2 metre rule to those waiting in line before you. Obviously we cannot police this, but please, please respect it.

Further, please do not bring your own containers to refill. This is in order to avoid any cross-contamination.

Please do remember our FREE OF CHARGE delivery service is available to anyone living in the Chesterfield Borough and North East Derbyshire. Find the full details below and our online and commercial orders are not affected and deliveries will continue as normal:

We will update whenever there are further developments or changes. For further official information on the Coronavirus please visit:

Thank you for your continued understanding and support during this time.

The London Tea History Association

In July 2015 I was approached by someone I had known for many years in the tea trade, Mr Malcolm Ferris-Lay and he asked if I’d be interested in being involved with a group he was putting together which aimed to promote the history of tea in the City of London. He had already ‘recruited’ several other significant and long-serving members of the British Tea Trade, all of whom had worked in and around the various historic ‘tea sites’ in London during the heady days of the British tea trade from the 1950s onwards. The combined length of service of just four of these ‘tea people’ is 200 years!

London Tea History Association Plaque Unveiling

An Association was formed, with a Board of Directors and I am very proud to be a member of that Board. We then collectively set about approaching the various UK tea companies and also the owners of the historic tea buildings and locations we wished to recognise for resourcing the project and also for permission to place the proposed plaques. One plaque has already been placed at St Katherine’s Dock with a further three planned at The Tea Building in Shoreditch, Sir John Lyon House in EC4 and Plantation House (now Plantation Place) on Fenchurch Street. Plantation House was in the 1950’s the second biggest office building in the City of London!

A tea walk around these sites in Central London is now being created where interested parties will be taken by an expert guide around the various tea locations for a small fee. We will publish details of this walk once finalised at a later date.

Take a look at the London Tea History Association’s website for more information here.

European Tea Show Turin 21-24 November 2019

A few months ago I was delighted to receive an email from my dear friend Gabriella Lombardi inviting me to her tea organisation’s first show devoted entirely to tea. Protea, formed by Gabriella Lombardi and Salvatore Nicchi is a non-profit organisation for the promotion of tea which is affiliated with the Italian Association of Culture and Sports and is also a member of the International Tea Committee. Their goal is to create an open community of people who share a passion for tea and its culture, and they run professional courses on tea, organise tea culture trips and also promote championships, demonstrations and performances of different skills related to the art of tea tasting, pairing tea and food and running the ‘Tea Masters Cup, Italy’.

The European Tea Show was an exclusive trade fair event aimed at Italian and international professionals in the tea sector. It was recommended that producers importers, exporters, distributers and growers should attend and 10,000 people overall attended.


I arrived in Turin late on the 19th November, which gave me the day to enjoy the beautiful city that is Turin before the Tea Shows opening ceremony on the 21st. I spent this 24 hours visiting some of Turin’s famous attractions including the Egyptian Museum, Farmacia Del Cambio and The Royal Palace. Although not specifically tea related I felt it would a waste of a visit to Turin without sampling some of its cultural and gastronomic delights. Cambio and Farmacia are the very definition of gastronomic and whilst I did not eat at Cambio (a Michelin starred restaurant) I was lucky enough to go to Farmacia and sample some of their delicious pastries and coffee. One of the fun parts of going to the Farmacia is being able to view the Michelin starred kitchen of Cambio in full swing through a large window in the café, which is an amazing and absorbing thing to watch whilst you nibble on your divine pastry and sip your coffee.



The following day I arrived at the Royal Palace for 10am for the opening ceremony of the Tea Show. The space we used within the Palace was actually within the museum of the Italian Resurgence. I was privileged to listen to speakers from Poland, South Africa, UK, Russia, Sri Lanka, Italy, South Korea and Japan, which gives you some idea of the success Gabriella had in encouraging ‘tea people’ from all over the world to attend the show. The UK Tea and Infusions Association (of which I am proud to be a board member) was represented by our chair Dr Sharon Hall, who explained about some of the technical issues that tea will be facing in the coming decade, amongst other things. We finished at about 2:30pm by which time everyone was ready for lunch and we were delighted to be given a delicious buffet by the Turin Chamber of Commerce and which gave me the opportunity to network with both old friends and new from around the world.



22nd November was the first day of the show itself, which was held at Lingotta Fiere, the former FIAT factory and is notable for its architectural beauty and also the fact that it had a fully functional and very well used test track on its roof on which many FIAT derived cars were tested. FIAT were there until 1982 and it is now a gargantuan shopping mall and a well-thought out conference and exhibition centre.Arriving at 10am, I first walked around the hall we had been allocated to see what was what. Many of the people I had met the previous day and also many new people were exhibiting and so I spent some time visiting each stall and finding out what was happening with each of the exhibitors.


I was very kindly offered some special high GABA Japanese Sencha which was very kindly made for me for Nori Kawamoto and which relaxed me enormously after rushing through the Italian traffic to be at the show on time. The rest of the day was full of very interesting Master classes and workshops. The workshops that ran through the afternoon really were amazing and were about pairing tea with other foods. I was very interested to attend the following workshops on pairing…
Tea and cheese
Tea and cold cuts
Tea and natural sweets
And one of my favourites, Tea and Beer where I was very pleased to drink some white beer that had been brewed with green tea, which was far nicer than it sounds and very refreshing.




The master classes were also hugely interesting and were run (with the aid of translators) by:
Professor Brian Park from South Korea,
Mr Mitsutoshi Sugimoto (a famous Matcha Tea Master),
Juliana Montagner (a Brazilian Mate producer),
Mr Andrei Ivanov (winner of the 2017 Tea Masters Cup)

By 9pm the show was over for the first day and I returned to my hotel slightly buzzing from caffeine and full of new ideas and flavours from my first wonderful day at the European Tea Show.

The 2nd day (23rd) was the Tea Associations of Canada’s Tea Sommelier Awards Ceremony and the master classes on this day were a little more tea and culture oriented. At 10:30am on the Saturday morning it was a real pleasure to listen to my dear friend Junko Hosomi who explained about the nature of Sumi-e, which is Japanese ink painting and how to portray nature’s beauty through inner awareness. Then I attended two more classes, one about Vietnam and Shan Tea, which was presented by Andrei Ivanov and a guided Sencha tasting by the Nihoncha Instructor Association as well as a wonderful tea and chocolate tasting by Giovanni Battista Mantelli.

On Sunday I travelled back to the UK with my head full of new ideas and challenging existing ideas from discussion I had had with my tea friends. That’s one of the things about tea, you meet some wonderful people from all over the world and everyone is bound together by their common love of tea. Given that this was the first European Tea Show, and that it was held in Turin, the home of coffee, the show was extremely well attended even with a public transport strike and a bomb scare, people did not seem discouraged from attending what I hope becomes a regular event each year in November.


Crooked Spire Festival of Christmas Trees 2019

Northern Tea Merchants is delighted to be participating in the Festival of Christmas Trees yet again this year, at the world-famous Crooked Spire Church in Chesterfield town centre. This popular annual event is a fantastic community activity which brings families, businesses, charities and local groups together. Come along and get into the festive spirit from Saturday 16th November to Sunday 1st December, with admission free for all (although donations would be gratefully accepted).

The Crooked Spire is a beautiful medieval church whose spire stands 228 feet off the ground and leans 9 feet 5 inches from its centre. There have been many fascinating stories told over the years about how the spire became twisted. Legend tells that the devil perched on top and wrapped his tail around the spire, and there are numerous other tales of how it came about. As the largest church in Derbyshire with a truly stunning interior and beautifully decorated stained glass windows, it really is worth a visit.

Over 25,000 people visited the festival to witness the Christmas trees last year, which has been running for six years and has proved hugely successful. As well as the magnificent display of trees, there are Tower Tours running on Fridays and Saturdays at £6 for adults and £4 for children, where you can climb the steps and learn about the history of the church. Live music and light refreshments will also be available during the festival. We look forward to seeing you there.

With over 100 Christmas Trees expected at the festival this year it really is a site to behold. Be sure to look out for the Northern Tea Merchants Christmas tree.

Food Thoughts Cacao helps make your Great British bakes healthier and tastier

If you thought chocolate was bad for you, think again.

With The Great British Bake Off now back on our screens you may be dying to create some chocolatey bake sensations but worried that you should be ‘eating healthier’. Well now you can do both. We’ve learnt from our friends at Food Thoughts – our favourite brand of premium chocolate baking ingredients – that there are some easy ways to bake with chocolate the guilt-free way.

Chocolate Orange CupcakesDid you know that simply swapping standard cocoa powder for Food Thoughts 100% Organic Cacao Powder will add lots of healthy nutrients to your bake? Equally you can lower the sugar content of your recipes by simply swapping your standard cooking chocolate to Food Thoughts naturally sugar free, 100% Cacao Chocolate Melts. You’ll also need to use less to quell that chocolate craving due to their naturally intense chocolatey taste.

Donna Chappelle from Food Thoughts explains: “At Food Thoughts we’ve focused on producing premium, on-trend, chocolate ingredients for people passionate about baking. More and more people are baking with cacao ingredients, largely because they offer a healthier alternative for baking but still deliver a great, intense chocolatey taste. Food Thoughts Cacao powder and Cacao Nibs are both natural sources of flavanols, antioxidants, fibre, protein and so much more – busting the guilt factor of baking with chocolate. Our Cacao Powder has no added sugar while our Cacao Nibs and 100% Cacao Melts are naturally sugar free allowing people to add sugar or sweeteners to their recipes to their own personal taste and health preferences. More traditional cocoa powders and cooking chocolates already have sugar added to them which removes this flexibility.”

In Latin America, natural cacao has been consumed for its superfood health properties for generations, and this is why…..

  • Cacao contains more calcium than cow’s milk
  • has 50 times more vitamin C than blueberries
  • can help improve your mood
  • can boost cognitive performance
  • helps lower blood pressure
  • contains more antioxidants per 100g than acai, goji berries and blueberries

As well as a raft of health benefits, Food Thoughts range of cacao products pack a powerful punch in the taste stakes too. Made from the finest ‘Fino de Aroma’ cocoa beans, chosen for their exquisite quality and flavour, Food Thoughts products have won three Great Taste Awards (known as the Oscars of the food world). They truly do have a more intense chocolatey taste when compared to traditional cocoa and cooking chocolates.

The Food Thoughts Cacao range, stocked by Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Ocado, includes:

Food Thoughts 100% Organic Cacao Powder (£3.00/125g – Sainsbury’s, Waitrose & Ocado)

This beautiful Cacao Powder is non-alkalised and prepared naturally to ensure it retains all health-giving nutrients, including its rich variety of flavanols and antioxidants, alongside fibre and protein. The intense flavour makes this Cacao Powder an ideal healthier baking alternative for cakes, cookies and brownies. Or add a spoonful of this flavour packed powder to smoothies, hot drinks or simply sprinkle on your breakfast. No added sugar.

Food Thoughts 100% Cacao Nibs (£3.50/125g – Sainsbury’s, Waitrose & Ocado)

These lovely little nibs add an intense chocolate flavour and crunchy texture to any of your favourite sweet dishes such as cookies, brownies and cakes or simply sprinkle on your porridge or smoothie bowl. Not only do they taste great but they are a great source of essential nutrients like iron, magnesium, potassium and calcium.

Food Thoughts Cacao Chocolate Melts: White, 70%  and 100% Pure Dark (£3.99/150g – Waitrose & Ocado)

These unique Cacao Chocolate Melts are shaped to melt quickly, easily and consistently, with no mess. They are gluten-free and are packed with health-giving nutrients and cacao flavanols, elevating your everyday chocolate bakes. Use in any recipe calling for melted chocolate for a more intense flavour or to decorate and finish any sweet bake. Also, delicious melted into a mug of warm milk.

And for those who bake regularly you can find larger size chef packs along with lots of delicious recipes on their website:


Northern Tea Merchants in Peru and Expo Amazonica

I landed at Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima at 7:30pm on 9th August and then took the 50-minute drive from Callao to Miraflores, without my luggage, which due to an error at Manchester was still in Manchester! However due to the miracles of modern technology I had a WhatsApp message about it the minute I stepped off the plane with the promise that it would be joining me in 24 hours. Happily, I had allowed myself 24 hours in Lima to get some sleep and catch up on work emails.

The official start of my trip was back at Chavez airport at 7:30am 11th August. So, due to the bad traffic throughout Lima I arranged for the taxi to arrive at 6am and found myself at the airport at 7:15am to meet the group that I would be travelling with. Once the introductions had been made, checking in, making our way through security etc we jumped on our plane and flew from Lima to Tarapoto which was a 2-hour flight away. The temperature increased significantly from 15 degrees C back in Lima to 33 degrees C on arrival in Tarapoto, which was most welcome!

Having disembarked and collected our luggage we were introduced to the Toyota minibus that we would be travelling in for the next three days. Our driver skilfully loaded our luggage onto the roof and secured with tarpaulin and a net and the 12 of us left for Juanjui, a 5-hour drive. During which the quality of the road varied from brand new metalled dual carriageways to rutted dirt tracks. We then had a little break in Juanjui and then took another 5-hour drive to Tocache where upon arrival, too tired for dinner we retired to our local hotel. If ever I’m staying rurally whilst traveling, I always make sure that I’m early in the morning to make sure I have hot water for a shower. However, the hotel we were in appeared to have no hot water at all so after a very brisk cold shower and a simple breakfast of eggs, plantains and corn cakes we left to visit our first producers, Oeko Co-operative.

The journey was undertaken in three Toyota Hilux trucks as we were going to be travelling not only off-road but also negotiating river crossings. The river crossing was interesting as the ‘ferry’ consisted of three empty boat hulls with thick wooden planks laid onto them and a corrugated iron roof sun-shelter. Our three trucks drove on, with the rest of the group walking on and the crossing commenced. The boats were steered by two small Yamaha outboard motors which were scarcely able to cope with the current. I was told that only 5 years ago we would have been in great danger in this area as at that time it was principally producing coca.

Upon arrival at Oeko we were greeted warmly, given coffee and our tour of the farm and its operations commenced. Happily, harvest was underway, and we were able to see the cacaoteros (cocoa famers) at work during their busiest time of the year. Many barrowloads of cocoa pods of various varieties, but all Fino De Aroma were being harvested. We cut open a few pods and were able to sample the delicious sweet pulp (pulpa) that covers the beans inside the pod. Different varieties of cocoa have slightly different flavours to the pulp, but all are sweet and very pleasant tasting. The only drawback is that the sweetness attracts insects so if you get any on your hands or face you will be covered in bites literally in seconds! We were then taken to see the area where the fermentation of the cocoa beans themselves take place.                  

Fermentation is a very important part of cocoa production and it takes skill and experience to be able to ferment at the correct level. The actual process itself is simple enough; put the beans into clean wooden boxes, cover them and allow the bacteria in the air and the pulp on the cocoa beans to start the fermentation.  It’s important at various times during the fermentation process to move the cocoa beans around using wooden, plastic or metal paddles. Bizarrely the smell of fermenting cocoa beans has a vinegary undertone due to the lactic and acetic acid bacteria. These microbes cause the temperature to rise to above 37 degrees at which point the temperature kills the beans and also contributes towards the flavour of the finished cocoa.

Saying goodbye to our kind hosts and hopping back into the trucks we made the river crossing again. We travelled for about 40 minutes to a place called Huánuco to visit an organisation called Central Cacao de Aroma. The co-operative had obviously anticipated our visit and we were surprised and very honoured to find quite a number of the co-operative farmers, had arrived to welcome us and talk to us about the cocoa they produce. The President of the co-operative addressed us in Spanish for about 10 minutes. Although my Spanish isn’t fluent, I was able to understand what was said and was also assisted by the lovely Joanna Meza from PromPerú (the organisers of the trip) who was able to fill in the gaps in my vocabulary. There is much respect due to these farmers who with the help of the Peruvian government and military stood up to the Cocaine terrorists and helped contribute to further reducing the cultivation and production of cocaine in Peru. The main reason these remarkable people gave for putting their lives at risk to do this was that they no longer wanted to live in fear of the terrorists.

Afterwards we were shown more fermentation and sun drying. Once the beans have been dried, sorting is critical, and we were proudly shown the brand new mechanical vibratory sorter. We were then taken back outside where we were served delicious fresh local fruits dipped in melted chocolate that had been produced from cocoa from the co-operative. The visit to Central Cacao de Aroma was an experience that I will never forget and my respect and admiration for these producers is huge.

Leaving Huánuco, we were in for a very, very long drive on mainly unmetalled roads but this time not in the trucks but in a minibus with all our luggage on the top. The drive was about four hours and we were all tired but exhilarated from our days experience. After a couple of hours, the bouncing and shaking had almost blended into the background when suddenly we stopped and could hear the driver quietly cursing. The reason for our stop was 40 tonnes of stuck cement lorry, which at a sharp dip in the road had become bogged down and was stopping the traffic from passing in both directions. We were determined that we were actually going to get to our destination so after 5 minutes pontification we decided that if enough people were to climb onto the trailer where it was attached to the truck and bounced, that we may be able to help the driver gain enough traction to get him moving again. Imagine the sight of 15 people standing on the front of the trailer and bouncing! This work very effectively and after two tries, we soon got the lorry moving again. We returned to our mini-bus rather dusty and dirty but full of laughter, enthusiasm and camaraderie. Needless to say, we were very pleased when we finally arrived at our local hotel back in Juanjui.

The following morning, I managed my first hot shower of the trip which was luxury beyond all luxuries. After breakfast we loaded the minibus ready for next day’s adventures, which started with a producer and processor of cocoa and native fruits called ‘ Wild Peru’. ‘Wild Peru’ are particularly interesting as thy are part of a larger organisation that operates in the UK called Sierra Organic with whom, I have several dealings and it was a pleasure to meet Joseph the English Director of the Peruvian processing operation. Anyone who knows me will know that I am fascinated by machines and things that go ‘whirr’ and ‘clang’ so imagine my delight when I saw that Joseph was overseeing the installation of a brand new 6 tonne cocoa press which had been imported from Italy. I have never seen a cocoa press before and so I got busy with my camera and took lots of photos as well as chatting to some of the engineers in my terrible Spanish, who were installing it. It was a pleasure to see Wild Peru / Sierra Organics operations and I am certain that over the next few months our relationship will develop further to become a good sustainable trading relationship.

After leaving ‘Wild Peru’ we drove for 20 minutes to the centre of Juanjui where we visited the headquarters of a large co-operative called Acopagro who have 2000 members in and around Juanjui alone. The total organisation consists of some 25,000 individual farming families with approximately 15,000 of those producing cocoa. In a short but very informative presentation not only did they explain the structure of this huge co-op but also went into some detail on the social projects upon which they spend the extra money that they earn from selling their products under Fairtrade standards. Amongst these projects are community kitchens, education (building schools and running social education projects), child nutrition, ophthalmological, and environmental campaigns to help preserve the rainforest and to assist in the sympathetic propagation of the products that are grown by the co-operative.

After we left Acopagro a drive of about 45 minutes had us comfortably out of Juanjui and into the countryside, where we were lucky enough to visit Maria, one of the members of Devida Co-operative. Maria has been growing cocoa with her family for 30 years and is one of the most experienced cocoa cultivators that I have met. Her green fingeredness and experience of growing Theobroma Cacao is renowned in the local area and the whole group was rather in awe of her husbandry and the passion with which she explained her work. We then drove from Maria’s farm back to Tarapoto as we had a flight the following day and sunk into our beds marvelling at what we had seen on yet another remarkable and engrossing day.

After a 7am breakfast our first visit of the day was to Amazona Cacao. Amazona Cacao produce some of the finest original variety chocolates and cocoa beans in Peru. They have won Great Taste Awards, trophies at Salon de Chocolat and Gold Awards at the Academy of Chocolate in America. Many members of our group were aware of Amazona and it was a pleasure to meet the head of the co-operative and his son who welcomed us with traditional local music, some of the freshest and sweetest fruits that I have ever eaten and an extremely interesting presentation on cocoa varieties, their pollination, cultivation and processing. Halfway through the presentation the heavens opened, as they only can in the Amazon. Happily, the rainfall only lasted about 30 minutes during which time we chatted with the two highly experienced owners of Finca Ecoperlacha.

After the rain had stopped, we were invited on a tour of the local forest and also to see the effects of deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest. An area of forest next to the area that was owned by the farm was cleared by its owners for a housing project. The blackened stumps and exposed roots of clear area were a very stark contrast to the verdant lush rainforest in which Finca Ecoperlacha grow their cocoa. One of the biggest problems caused by the local deforestation had been the destruction of several colonies of golden ants whose main function in the forest is the pollination of cocoa bushes. This had caused the farm numerous problems but thankfully it had been noticed that a new colony of ants had started to build a huge nest within the boundaries of Finca Ecoperlacha.

After saying our goodbyes, we headed for our final visit to Instituto De Cultivos Tropicales, the foremost research centre on cocoa and other indigenous plants in Peru. Based on the regulations relating to Cadmium that were enforced in Europe from 1 January 2019 much of the group including myself had questions to ask about Cadmium uptake and transference on the multitude of varieties of cocoa that are grown in Peru to which we were given accurate and truthful technical answers. As a packer of cocoa powder for the multiples, their answers have been invaluable to me in helping to inform my customers. We were then given a tour around both the model plantation and the laboratories. Whilst touring the plantation we were also introduced to much of the flying and biting fauna that lives in the forest and in particular, the giant black ant.

We returned to our hotel for an early dinner and night as the following day we were flying to Iquitos, which is only accessible by boat or air for the famous Expo Amazonica in which the majority of the group including myself were participating in a series of pre-arranged business meetings with suppliers and producers of Peruvian agricultural products – in my case coffee and cocoa.

The following morning, we headed for the airport and three members of the group opted to take a Tuk-Tuk (a 3 wheeled 125cc taxi) and although a Tuk-Tuk can’t do more than 30mph they arrived at the airport a good 15mins before we did. After a short flight of about an hour we arrived in Iquitos, which is the town that had been elected to host Expo Amazonica for 2019.

I was lucky enough to meet several very interesting potential new suppliers at Expo Amazonica, particularly of coffee and I have brought back some excellent quality samples to roast and import. After the meetings had finished, we had about an hour and half to have a proper look around the amazing event that is Expo Amazonica and I was introduced to several family members of one of our hosts, Mr Jaime Cardenas Perez. He introduced me to the ‘little baby’ of the family who was actually his brother who has approximately 2000 hectares of forest and farmland in which are planted many varieties of native fruits, and which supply his thriving national fruit juice business. By 6pm the show was winding down and we were ushered back to our coaches to return to our hotels where we were informed we had 30 minutes to get ready for a gala dinner that had been organised for the visiting politicians of Expo Amazonica and its guests.

The dinner was to take place in the middle of the Amazon on a huge pontoon that was only accessible by boat. The site of the illuminated pontoon and the smell of the food cooking in the kitchens wafted across the river and reminded me how hungry I was. The pontoon itself was bedecked with lights and banners and we were addressed by both the Minister for the Environment and the Minister for Agriculture before we sat down to eat.

The politicians in Peru are very involved in tropical agriculture as this is the mainstay of the majority of the rural population in Peru and the problems that they have had to deal with over the last few years are considerable. The gala dinner finished at about 10:30pm and a suggestion was made that we should experience a little of Iquitos’ nightlife and a live music salsa club which was about 5-minute walk from the Quayside was elected. I love live music and was not disappointed by the energy and passion with which the clubs incumbent band played their up-tempo Latin music. We returned to our hotel full of rum and hoarse voices from shouting at each other over the load music. Needless to say, getting up for breakfast the next morning was not an easy task, by 10am our coaches had arrived to take us back to Iquitos airport to make the return trip to Lima.

The next morning in Lima I took a few photographs of the city skyline which although were taken under Tupperware grey skies should give some idea of the sprawling metropolis that is home to 10 million Peruvians. The following morning (which was a Sunday) so happily the roads were almost deserted I took my final Peruvian taxi journey to Chavez airport to begin my 30 hours of travelling to get back to Chesterfield.

This was my third trip to Peru and is the one I would say upon which I learnt the most. The group with which I travelled contained artisans from several different cocoa disciplines and from whom I also learned a thing or too. If you get the chance to go to Peru, GO!

Windy Hollow Organics Tea Farm Visit

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to visit Windy Hollow Organics Tea Farm and meet Monica Giesbaum, the owner. I stayed overnight at the Crieff Hydro so that I could be there by 9:30am on the Tuesday morning. I would highly recommend the Crieff Hydro to anyone visiting that part of Scotland, as it is a great base to visit that part of Perthshire. The staff were very warm and welcoming and both the food and rooms are fabulous.

Following the sat nav, I negotiated my way to Windy Hollow in Trinty Gask. Upon arrival I was greeted by Monica who met me with a smile and handshake. We went straight down to her growing / making / tasting area, where Monica produces organic and biodynamic Demeter certified Tea and Chamomile Flowers. She also produces the majority of the components required for the biodynamic composts she grows her plants in, namely Yarrow, Stinging Nettle, Dandelion, Valerian which gives the plants their optimal and 100% natural growing conditions to flourish.

As we chatted Monica picked a few tea leaves from the bushes she was nurturing and filled a teacup with shiny new leaf growth. Our discussions were extensive and Monica really is a true expert plantswoman, gardener, grower, farmer and teacher. After picking probably 30grams or so of leaves (a teacup full) we went next door into her completely solar powered tea making area. Four large solar panels basked in the watery Scottish sunshine. Even on the overcast day I was there, they still generated enough power to run two 2400watt ovens, which is no mean feat and a testament to Monica and her families commitment to living off grid and generating the power they need in a sustainable way.

The first stage in making tea is the withering which Monica did in a wok, on a low heat, turning the tea carefully in her cotton gloved hands. The aroma as the heat chased out the excess water in the leaves was delightful and we chatted whilst the tea withered and started to oxidise. Within a few minutes the leaves were a delightful emerald green and Monica stopped the oxidation process by drying the leaves, simply on a baking sheet in one of her ovens. Once dry the tea was removed from the oven and placed on a rack to cool.


We then went to visit the area in which Monica produces her delightful bio dynamic Chamomile. The bushes were in full flower and ready to be harvested, which I believe was Monica’s afternoons task.

The following day having spent the night in one of Monica’s cosy sleeping pods I awoke to birdsong, fresh air and natural beauty. Making my way back to the tasting area I was joined by Monica who informed me that the tea we had made the day before was ready to drink. We brewed, in traditional Chinese manner, the 10 grams or so of tea we had spent two to three hours making the previous day. The result was simply wonderful; creamy, fresh, clean and packed full of the delightful ‘green’ astringency that denotes a well-grown, well-made tea.

I would recommend Monica’s tea to anybody. It was no surprise to me that her first submission of a black tea to The Great Taste Awards resulted in an immediate 3* Award, which is very rare and an honour indeed. I have no qualms in saying that Monica’s teas and her chamomile flowers are world class quality, and if you would like to try them, take a look at the Windy Hollow website here, remember Monica produces the best in very small quantities so there is always a waiting list but I guarantee that the end result would be worth the wait.

You can also follow Monica on Instagram here.

Northern Tea Merchants marks Diamond Celebrations

On the 1st May 1959, Northern Tea Merchants, founded by David Pogson officially started trading. On the 1st May 2019 it will be our 60th anniversary. We’ve seen many changes in the last 60 years, the advent of teabags, the espresso revolution, the rising popularity of the supermarkets but one thing our family have always kept to the forefront of our minds is that we constantly strive to serve good quality, genuine, safe and ethically sound products.

David’s tenacity, foresight and shrewd business-acumen ensured that from 1959 the company has grown and grown. With 60 years of coffee roasting and tea blending under our belt, we have crunched the numbers and worked out that more than 21,000 tonnes of tea and coffee beans has been blended and roasted by us since 1959. Today we manufacture 100 million tea bags a year, roast 200 tonnes of coffee a year, pack over 120 tonnes of cocoa (which is sold nationally in Sainsburys and Waitrose) and approximately 50 tonnes of drinking chocolate per year.

We have become trusted suppliers to literally thousands of restaurants, hotels, cafes, nursing homes, from small owner-run establishments through to well-known national chains. We are members of the United Kingdom Tea & Infusion Association, assisting at board room level with their activities, we became licensed Fairtrade importers and packers in 1998 and have held the Soil Association Organic license for tea, coffee and cocoa since 1993.

Our Directors have spoken at International Conventions, judged national and international tea competitions, lectured to University students (Nottingham University, Loughborough University and Oxford University), given countless tea-tastings, trained journalists in the art of tea and advised on the composition and creation of the perfect Afternoon Tea with top Chefs from some of the best hotels in the country. Additionally, we have achieved Great Taste Award status on four of our products and have even purchased some of the worlds most expensive and exclusive products on behalf of Royalty.

Although the history of Northern Tea Merchants spans three generations of the Pogson family (from 1926), it is good to know that both David and James Pogson are both very active in the business and with their combined experience of over 90 years we are determined to continue sharing the best teas and coffees with our customers old and new. To celebrate our 60th anniversary we will be offering a brand new coffee in our shop which is a delightful honeyed Costa Rican Las Palomas, which has been chosen by both James and David to epitomise the quality the business has striven for over the last 60 years.

David and James Pogson - NTM (website)

If you love us, make sure you nominate us!

Nominations are now open for the long awaited 2019 Chesterfield Food and Drink Awards and we would love the opportunity to make the shortlist again… or even take home a win!

Two years ago, Northern Tea Merchants was proud to be shortlisted for Food Producer of the Year award and James Pogson has previously been awarded the title Food Hero, in what has become the main event of the town’s hospitality calendar.

The Chesterfield Food and Drink Awards are organised by Destination Chesterfield and are an opportunity to celebrate the local talent and businesses in the food and drink industry.

Now back for their seventh year, it’s impossible not to look forward to the glittering black tie ceremony – there’s little better than being in a room full of people contributing so much to the town and local economy.

James Pogson, Director at Northern Tea Merchants, said: “The Food and Drink Awards are a great way to shine a light on a sector that thrives in Chesterfield. We’re proud to be a part of the food and drink scene in the town and be able to supply high quality teas and coffees to several flourishing businesses in the area, as well as the many people who we welcome to our own shop and The Pekoe Café at Northern Tea Merchants on Chatsworth Road.

“Being shortlisted for Food Producer of the Year last year was a real honour. With some incredible food producers and cafes in the area, the competition is strong. But, as they say, ‘you have to be in it to win it’. So, if you think we’re getting things right – please do nominate us!”

You can nominate Northern Tea Merchants across a number of categories in the awards – Food Producer of the Year, Café of the Year and Best Customer Service.

Nominations are open until midnight on Wednesday 12 June. You can find out more and make your nominations at

Pleased to support the Air Ambulance Service at The Landing Pad

We are delighted that one of our favourite charities, the Air Ambulance Service, has opened a cafe ‘The Landing Pad’ in Somercotes, alongside its superstore, ‘The Hangar’. We’re proud to supply them with our award winning teas and coffees, and we have worked closely with them to get their blends perfect!

The Air Ambulance Service operates the national Children’s Air Ambulance and the local air ambulance services for Warwickshire, Northamptonshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland. Their vision is clear. They want children to grow into adults, they want adults to live longer and they want bereavement through trauma to become rare. Each of their services works tirelessly to save lives and alleviate sickness, wherever and whenever possible. Find out more about The Landing Pad and Hangar here.