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Mike Bunston OBE

Doyen of the tea industry who started his innings in Feb 1959.

  • Managing Director of Wilson Smithett & Co., a leading tea broker.

  • Conducted the last tea auction on the 30th of June 1998.

  • Tea Adviser and Hon. Tea Ambassador of the Sri Lanka Tea Board in UK.

  • Hon. chairman of International Tea Committee 1993 to 2013.

  • One could write pages on Mike's contribution to tea.

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His father was Peter Shortt - tea estate manager at Langharjan Tea Estate in Assam for 22 years.

  • Created the Tea History Collection in Banbury

  • Denys lived in Assam for his first 5 years, then in Fort Portal, Uganda and Thika in Kenya on the Ikumbi tea estate owned by Brooke Bond.

  • He went to Warwick School. Played hockey for England from age 15 to 21.

  • Sponsors the Assam tea planters website

  • Chairman and Founder of DCS Group UK with sales of £270 million & 500 employees

  • Co-Founder of -sales of $13 million and 250 employees

  • DCS was named a Sunday Times Top Track 250 Company for the third year running.

  • Denys has won Entrepreneur of the Year, Exporter of the Year, and The Growing Business Awards and has been ranked in Britain's Top 10 entrepreneurs.

  • Keen helicopter pilot - owns a Robinson R44

  • Collector of Land Rovers & farmer breeding cattle and honey producer


Malcolm Ferris-Lay

  • Managing Director at Williamson & Magor (now Williamson Tea). Williamson & Magor was the world's largest family-owned tea company employing 120,000 staff worldwide and producing over 70 million kilos of tea annually.

  • Managing Director of MFLT Ltd., a niche Company in the promotion of tea all over the world.

  • Founding Partner and Director Lays Teas.

  • Tea Market Man/Junior Partner George White Tea Brokers.

  • Worked in the ‘City' from 1966 to 1998.

  • A world authority on the tea industry. Highly-experienced tea consultant, tasting up to 1,200 teas daily.

  • Over four decades of experience in the tea industry.

  • Clients include and have included Atlantis The Palm Hotel & Resort Dubai, Ritz Carlton Dubai, Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek (Dallas), Hampstead Tea and Wedgwood, The Dorchester, The Lansborough and the Angel Hotel Abergavenny, GCC Summit in Qatar, Hampstead Tea's packing contract for Althrop House and Chatsworth House., Amway, Movenpick, Wedgewood Royal Collection (for Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle), Partridges of Sloane Square & Darvilles of Windsor, Harrods, Harvey Nichols, East India Company and Selfridges.

  • Malcolm along with Ranit made the ‘Tea Walk' in June 2014 and this ticked off the need to lead the ‘Tea Plaque' project.


Ranit Bhuyan

  • Son of a tea planter from Assam, India and entirely educated by James Finlay (a leading tea Co.)

  • Grandson of a tea pioneer who was a member of ‘International Tea Committee' in the 1950's.

  • Traces his ancestry to Maniram Dewan, a native nobleman in Assam who informed Robert Bruce that the Singhpo tribe grew tea. Bruce opened up the doors of Assam tea to the world.

  • Grandson of Dr. S.K. Bhuyan who was awarded a double Doctorate from School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London; and Ranit is thus a history buff.

  • Made the ‘Tea Walk' with Malcolm, which started the ‘cup rolling' on the tea plaque project.

  • Currently a Sales Manager for an international printing company from the Middle East.


James Pogson

  • President of U.K. Tea and Infusions Association Ltd. (UKTIA).

  • Director Northern Tea Merchants ( Trading Since 1926).

  • Director of Northumberland Tea.

  • Director of The Food and Drink Forum.


Alexandra Messervy

Previously a consultant to the world-famous finishing school, Lucie Clayton, Alexandra brings over twenty-five years of experience in etiquette, protocol and event planning and began her career in the Royal Household of Her Majesty The Queen.

Alexandra enhanced her entertaining and social skills development knowledge by working latterly for other members of the Royal Family and on several well-known charitable committees before founding The English Manner in 2001. She sold this business and now leads The Culture Concierge.

During her career, she has regularly consulted with VIP residential households and hospitality clients in the areas of staffing, training, planning and management and is recognised for her attention to detail and exceptionally high standards. Alexandra was invited to become a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 2001 in recognition of her contribution to education. 


Will Battle

Will trained as a tea taster in India, Sri Lanka, Kenya and Malawi. He has 20 years of experience in tea sourcing and blending having worked in the UK and Continental Europe. Will has well-established connections with proven suppliers in almost every tea origin, he has also devised blends for tea drinkers in European, Australasian, American and Asian markets.

The World Tea Encyclopaedia was published by Will Battle and Troubador Press in January 2017, with a second edition in November 2020. It covers every tea-producing country and advises tea lovers on tea cultivation and manufacture, origin, seasonality and local ‘terroir’ and tries to de-bunk tea myths and snobbishness.

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Bernard Bunting

  • Eldest Great Grandson of John Joseph Bunting - known as JJ & "The Tea King". JJ was also referred to as ‘The Prophet of Tea' for his predictions of the future of tea in the 1930s.' JJ' financed the iconic ‘Plantation House' in Mincing Lane, The city of London.

  • Grandson of Late Bernard Bunting who was also well-known as a tea broker in the City.

  • Bernard is the son of John Bunting the world-famous sculptor. He knows all about bronze and will play a key role in the plaque.

  • A former soldier, and IT whizz kid, including a stint at being Home Shopping Director for the toy store Hamleys.

  • Managing Director of Perry Uniform in Leeds, who is keen to come on board to support the Plaque project.


Brian Writer

  • Started the ‘journey with Tea' in Jan.1953.

  • Worked with major tea companies from 1953 to 1978. Some of these were R. O. Mennell & Co Ltd., J.W. Clarke & Co (London Auction Buying Brokers), Thomas, Cumberlege & Inskipp (London Auction Selling Brokers), G. Harrison & Co (London Auction Buying Brokers) and Jokai (India) Ltd . Marketing manager UK/Europe/N. America.

  • Went into the tea business in 1978 with the purchase of Reginald Ames Ltd (Sourcing worldwide/Stockholder/blender), founded Writer & Writer Ltd (London Auction Buying Broker) in 1986. Cofounded with Alan Dean, Norfolk Tea & Coffee. Started Windmill Tea Co Ltd, ( Wholesale Tea & Coffee Merchant ) in 1982.

  • Founder supplier to The Republic of Tea in San Francisco - "Minister of Gardens" 1992 until retirement.

  • Board member of the U.K.T.A

  • Founding member of Tea Sourcing Partnership/Ethical Tea Partnership 1992 until retirement in 2014.

  • Sold Reginald Ames Ltd to Drury Tea & Coffee Co Ltd in 2004.

  • Senior most active member of the tea trade - an innings of 62 years!

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Dr Sharon Hall

Dr Sharon Hall is the Chief Executive of the United Kingdom Tea and Infusions Association (UKTIA), a role she took on in May 2018. UKTIA works on behalf of the world’s major tea producing countries, UK tea packers and allied UK companies. UKTIA provides support and information of a technical, scientific and regulatory nature. Since joining UKTIA Dr Hall has represented the UK tea industry at International conferences and at the FAO-Inter Governmental Group on Tea. She is a member of the International Editorial Review Board of the Journal for the Korean Tea Society and she sits on the UK Tea Trade Dinner Committee. She has extensive experience of high-level stakeholder engagement, strategic leadership, communications and issues management, utilised to both protect and enhance the reputation of the sector she is representing.

As well as higher degrees in Plant Science, Dr Hall also has a Masters in Science Communication and she has delivered events and outreach initiatives to engage the public, stakeholders and policymakers in agricultural and horticultural science.

Prior to leading Trade Associations, Dr Hall was Head of Knowledge Transfer and Communications at the UK’s Agricultural Levy Board (AHDB), where she worked directly with farmers and experienced first-hand challenges within the food supply chain. Dr Hall firmly believes that collaborative working within a sector can create opportunities to enhance sustainability and productivity and she is keen to find ways to support the future sustainability of the tea industry.

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Ian Gibbs

  • Ian Gibbs was elected Chairman of the International Tea Committee in May 2016.  Ian joined the management board of the International Tea Committee in 2009 representing Malawi and became Vice Chairman in 2010.

  • Before joining the tea trade he served fourteen years as an Officer in the British Army (with the King's Own Scottish Borderers).  His service was mainly in Europe including tours in West Berlin and as an instructor at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. He also served in Belize, went twice on exercise in Kenya and did a four-month attachment at the Officer training centre in Canberra, Australia. 

  • On leaving the Army in 1990 (just after the fall of the Berlin Wall) he joined tea brokers Wilson Smithett in London with whom he worked until 2005 when he set up his own company - Herries Gibbs Limited.    

  • His tea career mainly involved travelling to Africa but more recently Ian has travelled extensively with tea, including China, Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Georgia, Argentina, North America, Russia and Italy. 

  • Ian graduated at the Open University in the UK in 2017 with a BA (Hons) majoring in French and International Relations. 

  • Ian is Company Secretary of the Tropical Growers Association.

  • Ian is very keen to help and contribute to TLTHA Projects.

  • He lives on the Suffolk Essex border and may be related to John Gibbs, London tea broker in the 1830s and 1840s. 


Aurora Prehn

Aurora spent five years at Rishi Tea & Botanicals is Wisconsin, USA starting out as a tea blender on the factory floor. She then moved on to their warehouse and fulfilment, customer service, sales (wholesale), and marketing departments, all before finishing as an educator and tea taster focusing on East Asian teas.

  • Currently, Aurora is working on her doctorate at Royal Holloway, University of London and Kew Gardens focusing on the biocultural diaspora of tea.

  • MSc Ethnobotany at the University of Kent and the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew in the United Kingdom 2013. Focused on grape diversity and biocultural heritage in the country of Georgia.   

  • BA in Anthropology and Environmental Studies from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin 2013.

  • Aurora has been researching the tea and teaware objects in the Economic Botany Collection at Kew Gardens since December 2019 where she met Denys Shortt and fellow members of the Tea History Association. 

  • Since 2021 Aurora has been working as a consultant for the Missouri Botanical Garden on their Ethnobotany Collections and Data. 

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