Tea Tasting continued…

Philip John

At the time I joined J. Thomas, companies scouted for candidates with good family connections and upbringing to hire as Tea Tasters. The old boy net-work was alive and well! 

And they wanted to catch them young! 

A fresh palette at 18 was more valuable in the profession than someone with a Masters in Economics who was much older. But priorities have changed as business is now more complex and decisions have become more knowledge based and data driven. 

The companies were looking for youngsters who were personable, interested in sport and extra carricular life. Business was often done over a game of Golf or Tennis. Much training was given in making them accomplished Elbow Raisers! 

Often an interview would be over lunch with generous orders of Beer to check out if the guy could hold his booze. If he got up and danced on the table he was out!

To the uninitiated bystander this would appear crass and frivolous but it was a practical way to assess whether he could be trusted with sensitive information, negotiate a contract, and remember the details the next day! 

Training went on for 3 to 5 years during which the trainees were given as much exposure as possible.

Yesterday, you read about the Clipboard. This was a practical way to share information and also to teach the younger blokes on how to deal with situations that arise in the course of business. 

The JT tasters were sent to London for about 6 months as part of their training. This was because Mincing Lane was the premier Auction Center of the world and the trainees got to see and taste teas from North (including teas which are now in Bangladesh) and South India, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Malawi, and Indonesia. This was an incredible experience! 

However, London Auctions have changed in shape and size and I expect this arrangement has been discontinued. 

(An ex colleague adds “The London Tea Auctions were discontinued in the late 90s, 1998 to be precise. This was a truly historical event, considering they were the oldest in the world.”)

J. Thomas had an interest in a Firm called Thomas, Cumberlege, and Inskipp, but I will do the London Auctions in more detail when my personal journey takes you there! 

Hope you found this addendum interesting.

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