Everything Tea with Harney & Sons
- Written By:Alexandra Perron, Managing Editor
by Alexandra Perron
For Emeric Harney, tea more than just work, it’s family. The Harney & Sons marketing manager got his first taste of the business when he was just three years old and hasn’t looked back. Started by his grandfather in 1983, Harney & Sons Teas is now a global operation that focuses on making tea an everyday luxury. We caught up with Emeric to hear more about his role at the company and what you really need to know about tea. (And if you’re ever in Montclair, New Jersey, stop by The George for a cup of tea — Harney & Sons is the hotel’s official tea partner!)
You were introduced to tea at a young age, how did you first become a part of the family business?
Tea definitely runs through my veins! At the age of three, I was assisting in the production line in my grandfather's garage by peeling labels and handing them off to be applied by our earliest employees. As a teenager, I would work in the retail shop run by my mother, and before graduating high school had developed three flavored blend flavors to varied success. After college, I returned to the family business, opening our flagship retail location in Manhattan. This was a very exciting venture for us, as our blends now reach all over the globe, and having a presence in an international metropolis allowed us to connect with our customers near and far. For myself, it was a challenge that was both scary and exhilarating at the same time. I loved sharing tea and it as an experience with people. This was a great venue to do that, with all of the other challenges of opening a business. Slowly, as my staff grew, I transitioned back to our headquarters, in Millerton, New York, to run our marketing and e-commerce business. I don't get to share the same close experience with our customers, but I thoroughly enjoy creating content and new blends for them to relish in the comfort of their own homes!
What sets Harney & Sons apart from other players in the tea world?
Harney & Sons prides itself on first and foremost, making tea an everyday luxury. My grandfather started out on this mission and all of us here carry on his mission to this day. We pride ourselves on an unparalleled commitment to quality that can only be achieved through a history of family tradition. My grandfather learned tea from a British gentleman, my father learned from my grandfather, and I've learned from my father. This handing down of information is pivotal; tea isn't something you can learn about just by reading. There is an emotional aspect and a learned aspect that requires an apprenticeship. Lastly, we understand the impact that businesses can have on the planet and we strive to be among the pioneers within the tea industry to reduce our global impact. We are members of 1% for the planet, which allows us to give back to sustainable organizations of our choosing and beyond that, we are in trials to switch all of our packagings to either recyclable or compostable materials. Three years ago, this wasn't even a possibility for us!
Harney & Sons started with just six teas and today you have over 300 varieties. What is the process when it comes to sourcing and developing new blends today?
We source our teas from all over the world, from China, India, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Kenya, and many more countries. We import teas to our facilities in Millerton, New York, where we repackage some, but mostly we blend others. When we blend tea, we might be mixing two or more teas together, or when we make a flavored tea we are also adding natural and essential oils or flavors, dried fruits and herbs, and even spices. Largely, our blend development process revolves around what is trending in beverages and wellness today, as well as responding to the requests of our consumers. As both a blender and now the marketing director, I have a direct line of information as to what our customers really want.
For someone new to tea, where should they start? Is there a blend you recommend?
For someone new to tea, you can't go wrong with a sampler of any kind. It's hard to limit your exposure to a new tea company to just one tea, since you run the risk of not enjoying the flavor and you might then not order from them again, despite their potential offerings! So keep an open mind! Focus on flavors you might naturally gravitate to in other beverages or foods. Most importantly, tea should make you smile - so prepare it correctly using these guidelines! For black teas, darker oolongs, and herbals use boiling water (212ºF) and infuse for 4-5 minutes, using one tea bag or teaspoon per 8 oz. of water. For Green teas, lighter oolongs, and white teas use less than boiling water (175ºF) for 2-3 minutes. From there, experiment!
What are people most surprised to learn about the tea industry?
I think the thing that surprises people the most about tea is the variety of options and the variety of flavors. There are thousands of varietals grown in tea estates, gardens, and plantations around the world. Teas can be bold, strong and gutty like black coffee, smoky like a whiskey, evoke flavors of muscatel grapes like a pinot noir, taste like a freshly made apricot compote, or remind you of a trip you went on to the tropics and so much more. It's a vast world of flavors, so enjoy!
Why are you excited to have Harney & Sons at The George Inn?
We are excited about the partnership with The George Inn because it provides a premier hospitality experience from start to finish, and that defines a property we are excited to be a part of. Our family's history is deeply rooted in the hospitality industry (my grandfather and father both graduated from the Hotel Ezra Cornell) so to work with such a great location is something we look forward to.