In this interview, Peter Tuckey, co-founder of XO Tea Australia, shares with The Yum List why he got into the industry in the first place and some of his recommendations for enjoying the perfect cuppa. (Peter Tuckey is pictured on the right and co-founder Arjun Kumar is on the left.)
What do you do and how did you get into the industry?
Arjun (co-founder) and I both had very different careers prior to starting XO Tea. Arjun was an Engineer in Texas, USA and I was a carpenter in Perth, Western Australia. We discussed various ideas in many different areas to get a feeling for what we enjoyed in life and something we could passionately invest in. The major catalyst came from Arjun’s family and the rich history they have with tea in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia. They have been producing tea for almost 100 years now and with a pedigree of that nature to support our journey, it seemed like a great choice and immediately grabbed our attention.
What’s the best/ worst part of your job?
The best part of our job is building relationships with customers who love our product and also being experimental with blends and creating new ones. Like every business, there is a lot to manage. We take care of an array of processes as part of our operation and sometimes it can be quite stressful. The results, however, are worthwhile and seeing where we have come in just over three years is very promising.
What’s your favourite tea to relax with?
In the evening it is hard to go past our Aurora Night Time Tea. It is the perfect daily nightcap and a fantastic tea to wind down with. All our teas hit the spot at various times of the day though.
What’s one of the wildest things you’ve seen behind the scenes?
It always astounds me how the tea pluckers hold such weights over their heads and on their backs. This is a challenging act at the best of times let along being on the side of a steep tea field. I was in a recent trip in Sri Lanka walking around a tea plantation watching the pluckers work in a steep section of the tea field. One of the pluckers lost her footing and rolled down the hills about 15 meters. It was very scary and I raced over to see if I could help her. The other pluckers also stopped working and moved to her aid. Luckily she just had a few mild scratches and bruises. She dusted herself off and had a rest.
The perfect day off would be…
Wake up, brew up a Retreat Herbal Detox Tea in my tea caddy. Head down to the beach for a surf or some exercise. Head for a cooked breakfast with eggs or a Bircher muesli and pot of tea. Spend an hour in my hammock reading a book and then meeting some friends for lunch at a favourite restaurant or a cafe. Sneak in a hit of golf and have a drink after with friends. Head home, watch a movie with herbal tea and then hit the pillow zone.
What is the most interesting use of tea you’ve seen?
Using various types of tea bags to basically tie die pillows for an interesting blend of colours.
A day in the life of an entrepreneur is…
… the constant pursuit of growth, not only in terms of business but also personal. You have to work hard but that is where the reward and growth are located. The failures teach you more than the wins and we always have plenty of tea to rescue us if we need to relax.
What do you do for fun?
Travel, drink tea, try different food and drinks, surf, golf, spend quality time with friends and family,
What’s something you’d like customers to know about XO Tea?
We are very passionate about creating a tea company which champions sustainable process and certified organic produce. Creating tea that hits a certain taste profile is also of utmost importance to our brand. Beyond this, we really want people to know we are a brand centred around making tea colourful can creative as possible and living up to the slogan ‘Tea In Colour’. We believe this phrase really encapsulated the vast and colourful process of making tea and is something we want our customers to connect with to when they brew a cup of XO.
What’s your favourite food and tea pairing?
It’s hard to go past a sweet pairing with tea but I thoroughly enjoy our Parakeet Bay – Green Tea, Peach and Mango Tea as an iced tea a little sugar syrup accompanied by fresh fruit or a fruit salad! You can always put fruit pieces into the drink also!
What do you do to work towards offering a sustainable product? What have you achieved so far? What are your next plans?
This is one of our core goals as we move forward and enter different markets. We are the only brand base in Western Australia which offer certified organic tea. Certified organic tea has a raft of environmental benefits to our planet and also the end consumers health by not having harmful pesticides sprayed all over them. This also benefits the soil of a plantation, the workers not having to work around these chemicals and the groundwater which these chemicals can eventually seep into. We also have biodegradable pyramid tea bags and are looking into biodegradable solutions for our foils which house our loose leaf and tea bags.
What’s in store for you in the upcoming months?
We are currently looking to open our first hybrid retail cafe location in Perth. We are also looking for more distribution avenues in Asia and the US. Also, we are in the process of developing a new herbal turmeric blend which we plan to be available by June.