Name: Esther Kungu-Cooper.

Age: 36.

What is your business called?

PekoeTea Edinburgh.

What does it produce?

We source the finest single-estate teas and create unique hand-crafted blends at our tea factory in Leith. Our tea blends are created from scratch bringing together the finest natural ingredients and flavours. Our singleestate teas are traded directly where possible.

To whom does it sell?

PekoeTea is positioned to be an affordable luxury. Our customer base is broad but I would say that our main demographic spans young professionals who like food right up to a slightly older generation who traditionally like high quality single estate teas. We sell directly to consumers through our retail store and website, with our website becoming a much larger focus since Covid-19. Wholesale is growing fast in the hotel, restaurant and café sector and now independent retail market. Two of our most high profile clients are the Waldorf Astoria and Mackintosh at the Willow. We have also exported to stockists in Chile and Germany with several other export deals in the pipeline.

What is its turnover?

In 2010, when the shop first opened, the turnover was five figures. Over the past decade it has grown year on year, to 10 times the initial annual value by the start of 2020. The growth really accelerated in 2019 after we started to manufacture our own blends. The last year has been difficult because of the lockdown and turnover is down. As everything starts to reopen and with several large export opportunities, we hope to get back to where we were within the next 12 months and start growing again.

How many employees?

Including myself and my partner, Jon, we have four full time employees.

When was it formed?


Why did you take the plunge?

Jon had already been running the business for a few years and I was looking for a new challenge. By the time I joined, it had grown sufficiently to support the two of us. I wanted to be my own boss so I could have more time for being creative. This hasn’t completely worked out as planned because I spend so much time on the business.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

I joined in 2014 after several years working in luxury retail, while studying fashion and textile design.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

The company was started on a complete shoestring and has managed to grow with minimal investment. The initial funds came from Jon’s mother who is still a main shareholder in the business. We are very much a family business.

What was your biggest break?

In 2018 we were looking to expand into manufacturing our own flavoured teas and blends. We pitched to a syndicate called Apollo Informal Investments and they decided to invest. It wasn’t a huge investment but it was enough to build a flavouring and blending factory in Leith. Being able to flavour and blend our own teas gave us a strong selling point, as most other companies in this country buy in pre-flavoured teas. The whole process also gave us a massive confidence boost that our company and ideas were an attractive proposition.

What was your worst moment?

The most recent has to be the start of the pandemic lockdown last year. We had thousands of pounds of orders cancelled last March before the lockdown was announced and before government support was announced. We thought that might be the end.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

I take care of most of the creative parts of the business. I design all the labels and brochures in house as well as take an overview of the social media themes. We have some very creative staff working for us so I share the responsibility of the photography and imagery with them. I get to use my design skills every day and I really love this. When we set up the blending factory I was able to help with the development of new blends of tea. I use the same creative process as making something visual only this focuses on flavour. I developed all of our range of five whisky teas.

What do you least enjoy?

Bookkeeping and accounts. Because we are a small team, doing some of the accounts is part of the job. It’s a chore but it’s essential.

What are your ambitions for the firm?

We want to be a global company but always true to our Edinburgh roots. We are looking to change our focus as a brand, away from traditional retail to a more digital-based company to adapt to the modern retail environment, especially in light of Covid-19.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

As a rule we try to keep our company politically neutral. However, leaving the single market was the most damaging thing that could have happened for food and drink in Scotland. I know we can’t undo Brexit but something is going to have to change to make it easier to export food and drink to the continent.

What was the most valuable lesson you learned?

Trust your gut instinct. If it doesn’t feel right don’t do it.

How do you relax?

There’s nothing better than taking some time out to have a hand-made Chinese oolong made in the GongFu style. I also love knitting, sewing and drawing.