“We’ve had our shop at Tollcross for 11 years now and have been considering moving for a while”, says Jon Cooper, 38, who owns Edinburgh’s PekoeTea with his wife, Esther Kungu-Cooper, 36. “The tea market in Edinburgh has become very crowded, so we wanted to find a location where we can really stamp out our presence and philosophy, and clearly communicate what we do and why we are different”.
The couple found the perfect spot at 11 Leith Walk, and they’re due to move there at the end of July.
Until then, their popular green-fronted shop at Tollcross, with its window display of teapots and canisters of Fujian Jasmine Silver Needle White Tea and Blue Lady Flavoured Black Tea, will continue to trade.
Moving to the bottom of The Walk gives them a better work-life balance, as their home is in nearby Newhaven, but they’ll also have more space for their Tea Studio concept.
“The idea is to share what we do behind the scenes with a wider audience”, says Jon, who is currently drinking a lot of Chinese oolongs and Japanese green tea. “The front of the space is being designed so that we can we host our customers for tastings, classes and retail, and have a permanent setting for our online media, like video and photography. We’re moving towards an experience-based retail space because more of our growth is happening online”.
This business is unique in that all elements of their tea-making processes happen at their Leith-based factory - “from raw ingredients to finished blend” - and they can also use hand blending skills to produce small batches.
Thus, they’ve been able to create tea for the Waldorf Astoria (Whisky Blends, to be served with afternoon tea in Peacock Alley) and Glasgow’s Mackintosh at the Willow (the 1903 blend, named after the date that Mrs Cranston opened this tearoom). They’ve also recently collaborated with Edinburgh’s Secret Herb Garden for their new Apothecary teas, which include a Lavender G&Tea.
They’re as ethical as possible to, from “dealing with small family growers and estates directly, and paying their asking price based on the high quality of the product”, to being a Living Wage employer.
Although Leith has plenty of pubs, and loads of coffee shops, there isn’t really a place like this.
However, Jon explains that it actually fits in rather nicely with the area’s history.
“Andrew Melrose and Company started a tea import company in Edinburgh in 1812. They were the first to legally import tea directly into Scotland and their first factory was on Couper Street, not far from our new studio”, he says. “Up until then, legal tea imports all came through the London East India Company, although Scots were consuming vast quantities of illicit tea that had been imported from the Netherlands and Gothenburg. The Leith Central Train Station building was finished around 1903 and the first occupants of the shops on Leith Walk can be found in the post office records. Our new shop was owned by a milliner, while no 19 was Melrose's Tea and Coffee shop”.