Tea is the most international – and somehow also the most British – of products. We look at Barclays’ connection with Hampshire-based Ahmad Tea, a relationship that’s been brewing for more than 30 years.
As head of an international business, Rahim Afshar – known to his 70 staff in Hampshire and 1,000 worldwide as ‘Mr Rahim’ – wears a variety of hats. The Founder and Managing Director of Ahmad Tea, which blends and distributes tea to more than 80 countries, also acts as “chief taster”. The hub of the business, headquartered at Chandler’s Ford near Southampton, is the tea tasting room, which is yards from Rahim’s office. “My philosophy,” he says, “is that I will not approve anything for sale that I would not drink at home.”
This emphasis on quality has helped the company grow into a £40m turnover business since it was founded in 1986. Prior to that, Rahim, who hails originally from Persia, ran a tea boutique in Southampton – which provided useful market research for his later business: “The idea was to get a deeper understanding of consumer tastes and preferences. It was a good experiment for us to find out what people like, and I found that the key to our success was quality. Tea is the cheapest drink other than tap water, and there’s no need to compromise when it comes to quality. We went for the top quality, because that’s still not too expensive.”