Under normal operating conditions I can’t last for more than a couple of hours without a cup of tea. I also love a little bit of luxury so one of my guilty pleasures when work takes me to London is to pop into Fortnum and Mason at St Pancras Station for a cuppa on the way home. At over £6 for a pot it isn’t cheap but not that much more than London prices for a pint of decent beer. The tea is also available to buy from the adjoining shop in attractive caddies, which are reviewed below;
The St Pancras store is a satellite from the flagship department store in Piccadilly. This is the ideal location to catch both day-trippers and visitors from Europe via Eurostar ready to spend money on a last minute cuppa or a souvenir to take home before their train departs. The unit is split into two, a bistro on one side and retail on the other offering small, easy to pack luxury food and drink items, ideal for gifting, all beautifully packaged and displayed.
With Fortnum and Mason signature duck-egg blue as the background colour the cube–shaped tea caddies look fresh and modern and block well on shelf (and are also a very efficient shape for shipping). Different varieties are identified with a bold stripe of colour half way up the pack, which makes the tea easy to shop. Rather than use 100% ink coverage, the graphic designer has allowed the metal to show through in parts of the design without showing the grain of the metal sheet (which can happen all too often with tins). Both gloss and matt lacquers have been used, some subtle embossing embellishes the design and the overall print quality is excellent, adding to the premium feel. The tins themselves are over-wrapped with OPP film, many would consider this to be unnecessary plastic, but this is a useful addition as it will protect the finish from scuffing during transit, especially the areas that have been embossed. These caddies are likely to be given as gifts, so the overwrap keeps the tins in optimum condition whilst also acting as tamper evidence.
There is clearly a focus on customer service here; on purchasing a tin of Countess Grey – black tea with a citrus scent, I was given instructions on how to make an iced version (brew twice the normal strength, chill, add ice and slices of orange). There is also the added thrill of being handed your purchase in a sturdy Fortnum’s plastic carrier bag. To my shame I find it really hard to say I don’t need a bag on the rare occasions when I buy a luxury brand (the bag was used just once and now languishes in the corner of my kitchen – I can’t quite bring myself to use it as a bin bag).
The tin is essentially a square version of a paint can with a round lever-lid. The lid provides a tight seal, but requires the tea-maker to have a suitable lever to hand. This isn’t an issue in this case as the tea is loose leaf, you’ll be most likely be measuring it out with a teaspoon and can use the handle to prise open. On opening it is a pleasant surprise to see that the tin is almost full; there is very little head-space. At £12.95 for 250g, the tea works out at 5.18 per 100g – that’s cheaper per 100g than equivalent products from high-street tea merchants T2 and Whittard.
Some tins aren’t made to be completely air-tight, but these keep the tea in good condition over a few months. An amusing touch is that when you get close to the bottom of the tin, the words ‘Time for Tea’ appear on the inside of the base as a gentle reminder.
There are improvements I would like to see. I have a couple of these now (Smoky Earl Grey and Duchess Grey) and it would be useful for space saving in my kitchen if they stacked easily on top of each other. I’m also bothered by the presence of the bar code and a QI code being printed on the back panel – these spoil the overall appearance and could easily be applied using a removable label.
Up until a couple of years ago this would have been the end of this blog, the tin is pretty and I’d probably keep it to keep other things in for a while or put in recycling. However, although it took me a few visits to realise, F&M also sell many of their teas loose. I’m currently researching reusable and refillable packaging, so recently I took my empty caddy back to the store and to my surprise they happily refilled it for me from a bulk tin behind the counter. At £4.80 for 100g it came to £12 to refill to the original weight of 250g, saving me 95 pence on the online price for a caddy. I even remembered a reusable shopper so apart from a small label, my purchase was almost completely packaging-free!
The tea caddy is a desirable object that I am happy to have on display in my kitchen, it keeps the contents fresh for as long as I need it to, and having the option to refill, either directly in store or at home from tea bought loose in store is a definite bonus.
Do you buy loose leaf tea? If so what is your favourite way to buy it? Or so you prefer teabags? let me know in the comments section below.
Sarah Greenwood MSc(Eng) FIMMM APkgPrf is a Sustainable Packaging specialist. She is currently leading a proof of concept study at the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures at the University of Sheffield on reusable packaging. This is part of the UKRI funded project Plastics: Redefining Single Use . She is also an independent consultant www.scgreenwood.co.uk #plastics #RedefiningSingleUse #Reuse