Suits him to a tea

Suits him to a tea

A man who started as an apprentice tea taster in the 1950s is still going strong in the trade more than 60 years later – thanks to drinking six cups a day.

Derek Miles, 82, grew up around tea leaves after his grandfather Henry started a tea company in Birmingham in 1888.

The young brewer moved to London in the 1950s where he worked as a taster, recommending which tea his brokers should bid for at three auctions a week.

After leaving the capital he set up as a tea inspector on the Avonmouth Docks during the day – blending his own leaves in his front room in the evenings.

He founded his own company, D J Miles & Co in 1968, and still goes to work at the factory in Minehead, Somerset, everyday.

Derek, who employs 30 staff, said: “I have always been surrounded by the tea trade – it’s in my blood as it were. It has always been the case that if you have a problem you put the kettle on and have a cup of tea. I remember the war and it was very much a part of the British character, and do you know what, it’s actually a very good drink.”

One of the biggest changes in Derek’s lifetime has been the move from selling to small shops and tearooms, to supplying supermarkets.

His team have also changed with the times by introducing coffee and hot chocolate to the company repertoire, and moving from loose tea to bags.

Passionate tea drinker Derek said: “You have to adapt to change, that’s life. Tea consumption has gone down quite a bit over the years since I have been trading. Young people like to drink other things like energy drinks and people like instant coffee.”

Derek, who has milk but no sugar in at least six cups a day, added: “I was used to loose leaves but when tea bags came in they took over.  It was a big change but we could see it coming.”

Derek, who lives in Porlock, Somerset, with his wife Mary, continues to blend his own Miles Tea in Minehead, and has a factory and shop in Porlock.

By Izzy Ferris