For centuries, Yorkshire has been famous for its regional breweries, quenching the thirst of the most discerning British beer buff to this day. But lately this northern English county has achieved international fame for a different kind of brew.
With its locally blended Yorkshire Tea, Taylors of Harrogate recently surpassed Tetley (originally a Yorkshire company, which later relocated to London and is now owned by Indian company Tata Global Beverages) as the maker of Britain’s second most popular black tea.
Latest figures confirmed that Yorkshire Tea commands just under 23 percent of the U.K. black tea market, second only to PG Tips, an 87-year-old company owned by Dutch-British conglomerate Unilever.
This is a spectacular rise for a company that maintains its Yorkshire roots. While it’s been more than 130 years since the CE Taylor & Co. (later shortened to “Taylor’s”) set up shop in Harrogate, Yorkshire, the company only introduced its Yorkshire Tea blend in the 1970s, remaining quintessentially local and fiercely independent ever since.
“PG and Tetley have been the market leaders for years and years, so this is quite a landmark moment,” said Kevin Sinfield, head of brand marketing at Taylors of Harrogate. “They are famous British brands and icons of British advertising as well, and we feel this represents quite a shift change,” he said.
Increased advertising and distribution in recent years, coupled with the product’s sponsorship of the England cricket team, have given Yorkshire Tea a higher national profile. And boosts from international celebrities such as singer Martha Reeves and actors Russell Crowe and Sir Patrick Stewart, as well as high-profile placements such as in Showtime’s TV series Homeland, have helped lift the brand’s popularity both nationally and internationally.
Sinfield is especially encouraged, as he noted that the black tea market has been in long-term decline in the U.K. “More than 70 percent of people drink tea, but they are drinking less of it,” he said. “That’s the real success story of Yorkshire Tea—we’ve managed to buck that trend and increase our sales, while overall consumption is declining.”
Market research firm Mintel reported that already declining tea sales dropped another 5 percent in 2016, representing a 20 percent decline since 2012, as younger consumers opt for coffee, soft drinks, and herbal and fruit teas instead of the more traditional black tea choice of their parents and grandparents.