What made you come together as business partners?
Vincent: It’s quite a funny story. We’re both from the same region in Germany, but, we happened to meet at a football game in St. James Park and, shortly after, became good friends. I was working on a concept around alcoholic tea for a university project and Lukas was passionate about the idea
Lukas: When I was studying in Singapore, I combined Christmas Tea with Cognac Brandy for my friends, we loved it! We applied together for the Newcastle Start-Up Foundership and pursued the idea of alcoholic tea blends. The rest is history.
Where did your interest in the drinks industry come from?
Lukas: We’ve always been fascinated by different places, cultures, traditions and tastes. When we first arrived in Britain, we were bowled over by its overt passion for two types of tipple in particular – tea and alcohol. We’re avid tea lovers and immediately had to try the concept of afternoon tea. Expecting an expensive cup of tea, what we received was far beyond that. A four tier cake stand with sandwiches, scones and pastries, and what surprised us even more was how many people choose to have their afternoon tea with no tea at all! They would rather go for wine or prosecco, which seemed very inappropriate. We get it, people are drinking alcohol for the social aspect of it, but surely somebody must have thought of an alcoholic tea that would combine the social aspect of drinking alcohol with the joy of having a tea in the afternoon! We couldn’t find anything, so we decided to create one. We like to think of NOVELTEA as a tea company – we’re purveyors of fine tea rather than a spirit distiller – and our blends maintain the integrity of a tea, whilst offering a bold alcoholic kick!
Why do you think alcohol and tea work so well together?
Vincent: Why should tea and alcohol not work? Everything can work with tea if you find the right pairing and balance.
Lukas: Although it works it has been tricky for us. It took us over 350 different versions per finished flavour to find the perfect balance. For us, it’s essential that tea is the top flavour, complemented by its matching spirit.
Vincent: The Tale of Earl Grey is smooth, zesty and oh so British. Just like its quintessential cousin, gin. The tea’s bergamot flavours go hand-in-hand with the gin’s junipers. The Tale of Tangier takes you on a flavourful journey through Morocco. It’s sweet, minty, refreshing and lightly spiced with a Caribbean rum. Finding the matching spirit for each tea and botanical is very challenging but, once you master it, so rewarding.
What was the goal when starting up NOVELTEA?
Lukas: Creating a new product category by providing a confidently different drink that would wake the spirits industry up from its slumber. We also want our customers to feel inspired to be themselves – to act confidently different. At the end of the day, we’re two young Germans running an alcoholic tea company in Britain, where the industry is dominated by experienced distillers posing in their work aprons. You can’t get more confidently different than that!
You’re both very much involved in NOVELTEA as a brand. Is that something that is important to you?
Lukas: We take pride in telling people it’s ok to be different and yourself. We’re standing behind that with the way we chose to brand ourselves within the company – we’re the Germans in British tweeds. We’re always wearing them, business meetings, sampling sessions, festivals and trade shows!
Do you have any plans to develop new flavours?
Vincent: We’re currently working on a third flavour that will launch soon. I can disclose that it’s inspired by the Chinese tea culture, but any more than that and I would have to kill you with my German humour.
Do you think the North East, in particular, has a market for this type of product?
Lukas: It was perfect to launch NOVELTEA with Fenwick in Newcastle. The region really appreciates and supports local businesses, as well as startups.
Vincent: I think the North East is very open minded and enjoys trying out new and unique products.
Favourite way to serve NOVELTEA?
Vincent: When I eventually decide on a flavour, I pour it over a few ice cubes in a nice tumbler. Personally, I garnish The Tale of Earl Grey with a half slice of orange – perfect!
Lukas: It is our signature serve for a very good reason. However, I do love our Earl Grey Rose cocktail creation – The Tale of Earl Grey with Prosecco and a dash of lemon juice. If I feel very fancy, I garnish it with rose petals.
Favourite North East drinking spot?
Lukas: Definitely the Free Trade Inn. Particularly in the summer, it is just beautiful.
Vincent: Agreed. However, the City Tavern is also a fantastic spot.
Favourite alcoholic drink other than your own?
Vincent: Just a really good beer.
Lukas: If I need something stronger than a beer, I’ll go for a G&T with local gins and tonics.
Fancy a try? Check out the great NOVELTEA selection at www.noveltea-drinks.com