“Magnificent” Does Little To Describe 'Harney & Sons' Fine Teas
I discovered Harney & Sons Fine Teas when I was taking a much needed break in Boulder, Colorado. Luxuriating over an exquisite lunch, I ordered a cup of tea following my meal -- a norm for me. What wasn’t normal, however, was the experience that ensued.
No doubt, I am always thrilled when a restaurant brings over a beautifully crafted, wooden tea box to choose a bag of tea from and that excitement multiplies when that very same restaurant allows me to choose two bags of tea. I love variety. Our waiter was extremely personable as well so he made the moment even more enjoyable.
That said, when I was brought the pot of boiling water and the elegant tea cup, I thought I’d near but died and gone to heaven...or possibly had somehow drifted over to the U.K., unknowingly, in the short period time that I had been sitting. The magical experience was complete, however, when I plunked my first tea bag into my cup, gently poured the clear liquid over it, and took my first sip of tea after allowing the blend to steep for a few minutes.
Suffice-it-to-say, the taste that ensued remains as vibrant in my mind today as it did on my palate that day. Never had I tasted a tea that rivaled my ability to describe it...until that moment. Being a word-smith, that says a lot.
So soothed, inspired and elated by my discovery, I knew that I had to reach out to the company of origin to learn more. And so I spoke with the grandson, Emeric Harney, of the founder, John Harney, and what I learned, I knew I needed to share -- especially as the cold winter months lie ahead. Knowing full well that many tea cups will be brimming over from now till May, why not make it a transformational experience for all of my readers every time?
A family-owned business, Harney & Sons is one of those families worth joining and returning home to whenever the mood strikes to pour yourself a cup of tea. So, without further delay, enjoy getting to know the clan whose warmth, authenticity, and close-knit manner define the very members and the products they share. No doubt, quality begets quality, and Emeric Harney's interview below is, yet, another testament to that truth.
Harney and Sons was founded by your grandfather John Harney in 1983. What is the company's mission statement and do you remain true to it today?
To make "tea" an affordable everyday luxury. We had our first price increase - in ten years - this past Fall.
Describe your grandfather, John Harney, in one word?
Jovial. There was never a moment when he wasn’t a positive spirit.
Did John Harney have a personal mantra in which you grew up hearing over and over?
He has a few. The two that most stand out are “Tea time is every time;” and “Accept ONLY the exceptional.”
Explain the story behind the emergence of Harney and Sons?
My grandfather, John Harney (an Irish American) grew up in Upstate New York and graduated from Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration after serving in the Marines. As his career developed, his path would lead him to meet Stanley Mason, a successful tea broker who would go on to launch a tea company and convince my grandfather (after much prodding) to learn the business. After thirteen years of apprenticeship, my grandfather would eventually buy Stanley’s tea company with a partner. He would later sell his share in that company and launch his own company -- Harney & Sons Fine Teas.
My father, Michael, and my uncle, Paul, would continue the tradition, taking Harney & Sons to the next level, which includes expanding Harney & Sons tea into retail stores like Barnes & Noble (their largest client) and developing teas offered in sachet bags.
How big is the company currently, including reach and employees?
We currently have almost 200 employees in the United States. Harney & Sons distributes to approximately fifty countries -- with Australia, New Zealand, France and Japan leading our tea drinking territories (in that order).
How many employees are Harney family members? Please name.
Five - Michael, Paul, Brigitte, Emeric, Alex.
Where does most of your tea come from?
Fifty percent of Harney & Sons Tea comes from China. The rest, basically, all over the world.
Harney & Sons tea is the best tea available, in my opinion. Can you share a bit about what Harney & Sons does to bring out and maintain that exceptionally vibrant taste from store-to-door and beyond?
Tea is a very “personal experience” underscored by very “personal relationships.” Our many long-standing relationships with our providers helps to secure the best tea cargos from the get-go. In addition, the entire company comes together to decide upon and buy tea. It is a team effort.
The Harney & Sons' empire is growing leaps and bounds and currently includes the core tea company, branded stores, books, tasting rooms, and an array of additional merchandise. What is next for this company?
We recently established a new bottling facility, adding to our 90,000 sq. ft. warehouse and headquarters in Millerton, NY. We are also working on developing new tea products while expanding our store presence in other countries. The newest store location we opened is in Tokyo. We will see how how that side of the business develops.
Name three bestsellers in the Harney tea repertoire.
Hot Cinnamon Spice, Paris, and English Breakfast
What was your biggest tea dud?
We’ve had no duds to speak of.
For those who don't currently drink tea, share some benefits this age-old concoction holds.
Beyond the many health benefits, there is something to be said for taking a moment to prepare a pot or cup of tea for yourself. It’s a soothing and relaxing experience, well-needed in the stress-filled, crazy world we live in. Plus, it’s a wonderful option, remiss of the “sugary sweetness” so many other drinks hold.
Share with us a social cause that Harney & Sons Fine Teas supports.
We’ve been participating in 1% For The Planet since 2006. This participation means that we directly donate one percent of our total sales to the environmental organizations of our choice. We also pay annual membership dues to 1% For The Planet to help this exemplary organization defray its overhead costs.
When all is said and done, how does the Harney Family want to go down in history...in both tea and in life?
In tea, as people who put forth the family tradition of “Enjoying and exploring tea.” In life, as a strong family of many members, which includes our corporate family. We cherish them all.
Is it any wonder Harney & Sons brews such fine tea? Every drop is precious and reflects the incredible, award-winning life and legacy John Harney left behind. What better way to show you care then to give the gift of Harney & Sons tea to all of your loved ones during the cold winter months ahead. Warm their hearts and hearths with a deliciousness that only comes from generations of hardwork and happy personalities, beginning with the founder, himself.
Many thanks to Emeric Harney and Harney & Sons for making this interview possible.
John Harney-Blender BW
John Harney, founder of
Harney & Sons Fine Teas,
in the tasting room at the Millerton, NY, headquarters.
Photo credit: Courtesy of
Harney & Sons Fine Teas
John Harney and Family
L to R: Michael Harney, Emeric Harney, Brigitte Harney (wife of Michael Harney and mother to Emeric & Alexander), John Harney (b. 1930 - d. 2014), Alexander Harney, Paul Harney at Harney & Sons
Millerton, NY shop and tasting room.
Photo Credit: Maureen Cotton