Finding a distinctive blend in business

Every journey begins with a single step and that journey for JING™, now an international award-winning tea company, started in Asia, where founder and entrepreneur Ed Eisler ventured during his twenties. 

Catherine Archer, external contributor
JING Tea 4

Starting any new business takes courage, but it is also important to find distinction in business – something to set your business apart. For tea brand JING™, it was important to go back to basics: to reflect the people and places that had been lost through centuries of commoditisation and global production.   

We speak to Catherine Archer, CEO of JING™ Tea, on the origins of the business and why a distinctive philosophy has been so integral to JING™’s success.

Unique origins 

We believe that small changes can make great differences and this ethos is what was at the heart of JING™’s foundation almost 20 years ago.  

Travelling through Asia in his twenties, founder Ed Eisler saw a world of tea so very different from the commoditised teas he found on the supermarket shelves at home, a world of single garden teas that not only redefined his expectations of how good a cup of tea could taste, but a world that also delivered sustainable futures to the skilled tea masters who made them and the environments from which they came by commanding a fair price for the expertise and craftsmanship with which they were created.

Returning home with a backpack full of single garden teas and a vision of a different model for the industry, Ed soon found his leaves served at The Fat Duck, Harrods and Coutts bank. From there, the business was born.

Women holding tea

20 years since the founding, we are now proud to be served in over 40 countries around the world by some of the world’s greatest chefs, tastemakers and hoteliers as well as being available online.

Catherine Archer

JING™ is now available in restaurants with over 100 Michelin stars and our teas are enjoyed in locations such as The Savoy Hotel, Sketch restaurant and Tate Museums in London to the world’s highest high tea in the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong and onboard Cathay Pacific. The business has come a long way since that first backpack of tea but despite all the changes, our mission remains the same today as it did in 2004 and sustainability is firmly anchored at the heart of the business.

A focus on quality and traceability 

For us, single garden teas remain the focus. Like single malt whiskeys or single varietal wines, they express the individuality of the places, tea makers and cultures from which they are born. We source our teas from the great tea growing nations of Asia – China, Japan, Sri Lanka, India and Taiwan, tasting up to a thousand teas for each one picked. 

With the focus on single garden teas, not only do we find pure expressions of much-loved classics or rare and seasonal teas, but we also have full transparency of where each leaf comes from, and we name the skilled tea masters as well as their gardens on our website, ensuring their craftsmanship is celebrated.

From the initial meetings with tea makers in China on Ed’s first visit to the region, personal relationships have always been at the core of JING™. We have worked with some of our master tea producers for over 15 years which gives us access to teas rarely seen outside their homelands (it often takes three or four visits to be given access to the best quality teas!). These relationships also mean we can channel more money to the gardens themselves – often cutting up to five people out of the supply chain versus the normal approach of buying teas via brokers on the open market.

Thinking about impact

Our work with the growers doesn’t stop at our relationships with them on an individual level. In Assam we are founding members of a programme to ensure diversity in decision-making in the fields – with 50% female representation and 30% youth representation. This project ensures that all the community have a voice in the key discussions being had. In India we have just started supporting a wind farm project to provide renewable energy sources.

When it comes to the cup itself, we have always championed loose leaf, with all our teas available to buy loose. Not only is this the most engaging and immersive way to infuse tea, with the leaves free to completely unfurl, but it minimises packaging and processing. 

We prioritise organically grown teas to reduce the exposure of pickers and drinkers alike to chemicals and to enhance soil health and biodiversity in the fields. 

Around 70% of our teas are now grown in this way and either certified organic or, for those producers for whom the process is not feasible (such as very small producers), we have our own ‘Made Without Pesticides’ badge which is applied to all those adhering to the principles and passing the testing we conduct at each batch level.

All of our teas are certified Carbon Neutral, with a path to net zero emissions underway. Whilst the majority of carbon comes from the production of the teas at source and the breakdown of fertilisers in the field (another great reason to prioritise organic teas), we believed that offsetting this whilst working with individual farmers to support their switch to renewable energy sources was critical.

We truly believe that the highest quality leaves that provide the best futures for the makers and their lands is the only way to enjoy a cup of tea and look forward to continuing our mission to change the world of tea one cup at a time.

JING Tea Gyokuro

Find out more about JING™ here.

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