By Stephenie Overman
The John Harney Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Mike Spillane, president of The G.S. Haly Company, Wednesday June 15 at the 2016 World Tea Expo in Las Vegas.
“It’s truly an honor to have my life’s work in specialty tea recognized by the U.S. tea industry at World Tea Expo 2016. It is especially gratifying when that work has also been my life’s passion,” Spillane said.
The award celebrates pioneers who fuel the market and shape the tea industry of today.
At the presentation, author and tea authority James Norwood Pratt praised Spillane “for keeping specialty tea alive until the rest of us showed up.”
The story of Michael Spillane and of The G.S. Haly Co. are closely intertwined. Founded in 1889 in San Francisco, The G.S. Haly Co. is one of the oldest U.S. tea companies. And since the 1930s, a member of the Spillane family has run it.
Having literally learned tea at his mother Marie’s knee, following the death of his father Edward, Michael quickly became known as one of the country’s outstanding tea palates. Like his father, Michael served on the United States Tea Board of Experts as its chairman; in 1994 he started the American Premium Tea Institute, which went on to become the Specialty Tea Institute (STI). In 1997, he was named “America’s Master Tea Trader” by Tea Trade magazine.
“We love our product; we love the tea for what it is and for what it stands for over the years. It’s amazing, it’s traded like a commodity but it’s not a commodity at all, it’s a rare product,” Spillane said.
“What’s enamored me to this business is the unquestionable trust we enjoy with the people we work with. It’s fun to be in a business, where sure, everybody has to make money, but it’s working with honest people trying to make something bigger happen, and that’s great.”