Guardians of Specialty Tea Quality

Mo Sardella in China

The G.S. Haly Company, America’s oldest continuously operating specialty tea importer, is admired for value delivered, not promises made.

The company is fiercely proud of maintaining authenticity in traditional tea standards. “These standards were entrusted to The G.S. Haly Company 127 years ago and it has been my responsibility to preserve and pass on these standards to the next generation,” explains owner and president Mike Spillane, adding “I know what tea is supposed to taste like because I’ve been cupping it for 38 years. Our focus is on quality in the cup.”

The company enjoys a storied past dating from its founding in San Francisco in 1889, but G.S. Haly’s success has never rested solely on reputation. The reason Spillane’s client list never shortens is because of his long-term relationships with a global network of suppliers, some spanning multiple generations.

“Anybody can buy and sell tea but very few can maintain established standards so people can depend on and maintain their tea lines year in and year out.  We accomplish this by working with tried and true suppliers: old-world traders,” explains Spillane.

G.S. Haly clients benefit from these partnerships that combine quality, price, transparency and availability. The strength of the company is in expertly balancing scale while maintaining strict quality standards. “It is one thing to send a tea off to the lab for testing but not everyone can actually sit down and articulate what makes a tea good,” says director of marketing Mo Sardella.  “This is our strength. We have sources all over the world. We follow current events impacting tea quality. We can help you get through the maze to find the tea you need,” he said.

Senior Tea Buyer Aaron Vick says the “staff thinks of ourselves as guardians of the traditional standards.”

“We also recognize that there is a lot of innovation going on,” he adds, “I think it fits in perfectly with what we already do, which is to ― with a critical eye and from a professional stance ― seek out the best quality teas that are authentic and have integrity in the cup.”

G.S. Haly Building

From its modest headquarters in Redwood City, California, Spillane’s business philosophy is thoughtful and soft-spoken. During the 2016 World Tea Expo he was awarded the tea industry’s John Harney Lifetime Achievement Award, in recognition of G.S. Haly’s contributions to the tea industry.

Everyone enjoys working with Spillane. “We are straight shooters,” he says. To find out more about the company, visit, or find them at the World Tea Expo, June 13-15, in booth #1042.