1 Parliament Street
Our unique business is devoted to many of life's pleasures; handmade cakes, mouth-watering chocolates, beautiful Café Tea Rooms, rare and exclusive coffees and fine teas. It's a business that cares about the communities it trades with and develops staff to reach their potential.
Bettys & Taylors of Harrogate Ltd. is a company with roots in two long-established family businesses: tea and cake. The company, owned by Frederick Belmont's third-generation descendants, bakes its own breads and cakes, makes its own chocolates and pastries, roasts its own coffees, and imports teas from all over the world that it blends and packages on the premises. There are three divisions to the business: five tea rooms, a bakery, and a tea and coffee blending factory.
In 1907, Frederick Belmont, a native of Bern, Switzerland, arrived in England unable to speak a word of English. Belmont, the son of a miller, had trained as a baker and discovered that his passion and talent lay in working as a confectioner and chocolatier. Although he intended to settle on the south coast of England, Bern mistakenly boarded a train for Yorkshire. Finding work and love there, he married his landlady's daughter, Clare, and settled in Harrogate.
In 1919, Belmont opened his own business, a Continental-style tea room, called Bettys Café Tea Room, in Harrogate. The Belmonts' business was an instant success and came "Under Royal and Distinguished Patronage" as the place where Crown Princes and Princesses on the Grand Tour stopped to take their tea. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, Belmont opened three additional Bettys in York, Ilkley, and Northallerton, Yorkshire. He also built a craft bakery in Harrogate, where all of the breads, cakes, pastries, and chocolates for the company's tea rooms were made. The inspiration for the Bettys York came from Belmont's experiences on the maiden voyage of the Queen Mary in 1936. Returning to Harrogate, he commissioned the ship's interior designers to turn a dilapidated furniture store into tea rooms with huge curved windows, wood paneling, and ornate mirrors to resemble one of the state rooms of the luxury ocean liner.
The business grew as a local concern throughout the 1940s and 1950s. Bettys Bar was a favorite haunt of the airmen who were stationed in the Vale of York. Then, in 1962, the company purchased rival company C.E. Taylor & Co. when Charles Taylor died, and Bettys & Taylors of Harrogate began.
C.E. Taylor & Co. was owned by Charles Taylor, who began his career in southwest England in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, buying and blending teas that grocers could promote as their own house blend. Taylor had a flair for creating tea blends that were specially suited to the local water and enjoyed searching for and purchasing new types of teas.
After being fired for making a too risky purchase, Charles and his brother, Llewellyn Taylor, went out on their own as tea and coffee merchants and founded C.E. Taylor & Co. in a small warehouse in Leeds in 1886. The business was successful, especially after the brothers opened several local Kiosk Coffee Houses where they roasted coffee daily and created their own house blends of exotic teas, suited, of course, to the local water.
In 1926, Jim Raleigh, nephew of the Taylors, became the buyer for C.E. Taylor's warehouse, which by then supplied the best retailers and hotels in West Riding with coffees and teas. The company also had its own chain of Imperial Tea Shops and Kiosk Coffee Houses. Grocers from across Yorkshire used to visit C.E. Taylor, bringing with them samples of their local water so that Raleigh could blend tea especially for them. In 1928, "new-fangled" teas from Kenya arrived, and Raleigh began including African tea in his blends. C.E. Taylor, like Bettys, struggled during World War II but continued to serve its clientele throughout the 1940s and 1950s.
Bettys & Taylors: 1962-90
Having acquired C.E. Taylor, the newly formed Bettys and Taylors now had tea rooms, a craft bakery, and a tea and coffee blending business. Almost a decade after the merger, in the 1970s, Bettys & Taylors moved the company's tea and coffee importing business to Harrogate and began marketing what would become its famous Yorkshire Tea, a proprietary blend of black tea, with different versions to suit different waters.
The company's coffee business grew in the 1980s under the direction of coffee buyer Tony Wild, a member of the Belmont family, who had a degree in English and a love of travel. Having worked his way around the London importing houses, where he learned the language and skills of the professional coffee taster, Wild determined to turn a competent regional roaster into "the moral high ground of the British coffee world," according to a 1991 Independent article.
In a nation where 91 percent of the coffee consumed was instant, Wild deliberately set about to find unusual coffees to introduce the British population to the diverse possibilities of the coffee bean. At the time, Wild explained to the Independent, there was only "gold blend, ordinary coffee, and ... Jamaican Blue Mountain."
Social and Environmental Responsibility: 1990-2005
By 1990, Taylors was moving 500 tons of coffee, selling its beans in retail shops, Marks & Spencer department stores, and through catering outlets, as well as at Bettys, which had exclusives on three of its coffees. The company made a commitment in the early 1990s to support the quality of life of those involved in its coffee business. It trained all of its buyers in line with the Ethical Trade Institute Codes of Conduct for international labor, entered into long-term relationships with its coffee suppliers, and instituted "buying principles" to pay sustainable prices for all its coffees and uncouple the price of beans from world commodity prices. Taylors covered farmers' direct costs and added a profit margin to enable them to continue to grow their crop and secure their livelihood. "We are determined not to exploit the people we work with in other countries and they know they can rely on us to buy from them every season and to pay premium prices for the best quality," explained Fiona Hunter, the company's sales manager, in a 2001 Marketing article.
Bettys & Taylors also partnered with Oxfam in 1990 to start its Tree for Life campaign after Jonathan Wild, chairman of the company, promised his children that he would find a way to plant one million trees. Between 1990 and 2005, the company planted three million trees in Ethiopia, Kenya, India, Indonesia, Brazil, Guatemala, Ecuador, and other countries. In addition to planting trees, Trees for Life also became involved in addressing broader Third World community needs, building wells, teaching agriculture skills, and educating children about the importance of trees. Turning its attention closer to home, it replanted native woodland and repaired footpaths and dry-stone walls in the Yorkshire Moors and Dales in cooperation with the National Trust. It also worked with the Woodland Trust to plant 10,000 trees.
The late 1990s saw the end of one era in the United Kingdom and the beginning of a new one. In 1998, the last weekly tea auction in London took place, and London's commercial tea dealers began to buy directly from plantations or at auction in Calcutta and Mombasa. London had been the center of the world's tea trade since the weekly auction began around 1835. Taylors of Harrogate paid £24,000, £555 pounds per kilogram, for 44 kilograms of Ceylon Flowery Pekoe tea worth abut £50 pounds, outbidding Twinings at the last historic auction for tea. Another new era began at Bettys & Taylors in 1999 when the company began trading via the Internet and launched a new line of organic green teas. In 2000, it built a new craft bakery.
The emphasis on social responsibility continued to be a distinguishing characteristic at Bettys & Taylors. In 2001, the company was named to the United Kingdoms's first list of Britain's Best Companies to Work For and also won the Queen's Award for Enterprise for Sustainable Development in recognition of its commitment to environmental and social initiatives in the counties where it engaged in business. The company also made a point of treating its employees well, providing them with outstanding benefits and getting to know each one individually.
The company's new Feelgood tea and coffee lines debuted in 2002. These lines ensured fair prices and a sharing of profits with suppliers. Believing that its responsible business practices led to its success, Bettys & Taylors made a point of donating 30,000 pounds to local charities each year and sent staff to primary schools to share their expertise. "When we work with local children we are helping them, but also working with our future customers and staff. When we plant trees around the world we are securing the future of the communities we rely on to produce our tea and coffee," explained the company's sales manager in a 2001 Marketing article.
By 2003, nine million cups of Taylors' Yorkshire Tea were drunk each day. At Bettys, where 12 different teas were on the menu, including two exclusive teas, 400,000 pots of tea were ordered a year. Traditional teas were still the biggest sellers, but specialty teas had grown to account for 25 percent of all sales. Tea still ranked as the most popular warm beverage in Britain; with 165 million cups of tea drunk each day, it accounted for 42 percent of all adult fluid intake. However, most traditional tea rooms were finding it hard to compete with other leisure activities, and only 14 percent of the tea drunk in the United Kingdom was consumed in cafes and restaurants.
By 2004, Bettys & Taylors had six outlets, all in Yorkshire, turnover of £50 million, and 900 employees. China joined Taylors' list of 30 countries to which it exported its tea blends in 2004 when Taylors shipped 30,000 pounds of specialty blends to Shanghai via its Taiwanese distribution partner. The year 2004 was also a record-breaking fundraising year for Bettys & Taylors, whose staff held auctions, raffles, and other events to raise money for seven Yorkshire charities, primarily in the field of healthcare and research. The company also launched its Fairtrade Organic line of coffees whose beans came from a small farmers' cooperative in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, where the company helped to build a new health clinic and a well and to put environmentally friendly stoves into homes.
As Bettys & Taylors of Harrogate looked to the future, it placed a strong emphasis on tradition, from using wood-burning ovens in its bakery to focusing on the people who made up its family of workers. The company, which had been featured as one of the Sunday Times' "100 Best Companies to Work For" every year since the list's inception in 2001, made a point of celebrating "individual craft skills, so the business' success is everyone's success," according to a 2004 Employee Benefits article.
"People say we are mad not to have Bettys teashops on every high street, but we are not mad, we're wise," was the opinion of Jonathan Wild in a 2004 Director article. The company's decision to limit growth was based on its belief that its strong team and hands-on, family culture would not survive geographic expansion. "That culture is central to our success and the starting point for what we have identified as sustainable growth. You ignore that at your peril, however tempting it might be to open in London, Edinburgh or anywhere else."
Principal Competitors: Twinings.