Served at Prince William and Kate Middleton’s Kensington Palace, Harney & Sons tea has roots in Connecticut

A tea fit for British royalty has family roots in western Connecticut.

Founded by innkeeper John Harney in his Salisbury home in 1983, Harney & Sons Fine Teas remains a family business and since 1998 has operated out of a factory in the village of Millerton, NY, in the Upper East Valley. Hudson, a few miles from Salisbury. .

The New York Times once credited Harney, who died in 2014 at the age of 83, with helping spark a revival of high-end tea in American hotels in the 1980s.

Harney & Sons tea is now served in places like the UK’s historic royal palaces, which operate the Tower of London, and several palaces, including Kensington Palace, home of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

To mark Queen Elizabeth II’s 70 years on the throne, Harney & Sons is blending a Platinum Jubilee tea this year, and sales are still going strong for its Diamond Jubilee variety from a decade ago.

Like other pantry staples, the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a surge in tea sales, according to separate estimates from Nielsen and Information Resources Inc.

In the 12 months to mid-May 2021, IRI reported that mass sales of Fairfield’s Bigelow Tea increased 9% from the same period a year earlier, for a total of $227 million, leading the market. This represented just over half of total sales in the United States, as calculated by IRI.

The Teas Association of the United States estimated that Americans drank 85 billion servings of tea last year, including sweetened bottled tea. The trade group says millennials are the largest demographic, with 87% drinking tea at least occasionally.

Harney & Sons is now doubling the size of a bottled tea production line and has secured a license in New York to infuse some of its varieties with CBD from hemp grown at its Millerton factory.

CEO Michael Harney thinks more people will start drinking tea regularly, whether it’s established corporate brands or emerging products like CBD blends.

“Tea is always a smaller player than coffee, isn’t it?” Harney said last week during a tour of the Millerton facility.

Harney & Sons imports its tea mainly from China and India. He creates his blends at the Dutchess County factory which employs about 200 people, while also offering tastings at a teahouse in downtown Millerton as well as a boutique in lower Manhattan.

With hotels and cruise ships a major source of revenue, Harney & Sons felt the pressure during the travel market crash of 2020, before the mass distribution of vaccines sparked a revival in leisure travel.

While Harney & Sons is now sold at Target and other mass retailers, Bigelow, Celestial Seasonings and other major brands have had a head start for decades – or nearly a century in Lipton’s case. .

“Bigelow is a much bigger company than us and they’ve been around longer than we have, and we respect them,” Harney said. “We were the smallest company at the time, and now we’ve grown a bit.”

Harney & Sons recently acquired a canning line to produce a carbonated version of its Hot Cinnamon Spice tea. The company also added a line of “mini shot” products, which have become increasingly popular thanks to the success of energy drink companies.

Hot Cinnamon Spice remains Harney & Sons’ biggest seller, with a #2 decaf version last year ahead of Earl Gray Supreme.

Harney’s favorite oolong tea is oolong tea, which he sources from China’s Fujian province and Taiwan. Harney said imports had hit a snag in recent weeks as China faced another COVID surge affecting tea and packaging supplies.

But looking at the millions of pounds of tea stacked on pallets at the Millerton factory, Harney said he thought his business would have had enough for now.

“We have enough tea for a while,” Harney said. “The whole freight bill has gotten very serious, though.”

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Freeda S. Scott