Dragonfly Tea is a British family-run company passionate about authentic tea and rooted in generations of tea craftsmanship. Georgia Ginsberg is now the fifth generation to share this love for tea as the Director of Dragonfly.
In this interview, Georgia shares with us her passion for tea – not only the delicious brew, but also what tea has come to symbolize including connecting personally, pressing pause, and re-engaging mindfully.
With lockdown, social distancing, and now a semblance of getting back to normal, a cup of tea has always been a part of the British response to adversity. How have you as a leader, and Dragonfly as a company, responded to these latest challenges?
The British cup of tea is actually a pretty global cup of tea. The history of tea goes back thousands of years as a vehicle for connection, building relationships and taking time out. That’s been a real marker for this pandemic; keeping up that connection while taking a sort of enforced “time out”.
It has been a challenge. To manage ourselves as individuals, our families, our work. This pandemic has revealed things that for a while we’ve felt very dear, very important, that we connect with as a company. My father, who has practiced Zen Buddhism for over 50 years, really got into green tea, which he felt could have a huge impact on our lives. He called it “Slow Tea”, and this is something that really resonates with us – as a company, a family, and with our customers.
It’s important to find a little quiet, slow down and get perspective sometimes, while everything is changing so quickly around us. As businesses and individuals, in terms of changes like working from home, and changes in demand and what people are looking for. We found that we have something that people really value.
Coming out of the lockdown, we hope that people take learnings from this period and see what their true priorities are – and that tea can be the perfect complement for these.
Let’s talk a bit about innovation. A cup of tea is so traditional. How things have been at Dragonfly tea, and how are you able to innovate while still keeping traditions alive – both as a family company, and from a cultural perspective?
It’s really a balance. A big part of it is understanding what people are needing at the moment.
We think of what we do slightly differently. We don’t just provide tea; we provide a service. An opportunity, a vehicle to connect, to engage, to communicate.
Tea is very specific and offers benefits that are very different to, say, coffee. Coffee culture is a wired, non-stop, 24-hour on-the-go kind of world. Tea offers something very different, something perhaps more balanced.
People are more aware than ever of what they’re drinking, and the relationship between mind and body. We’ve always believed in this. Even with Green Tea, which has some caffeine, the effect is different; it’s a slower release. It’s a more calming effect, what we call “relaxed alertness”. And these ideas are getting more traction.
Having delicious caffeine-free teas reveals what we’ve always believed. That alertness, productivity and staying healthy aren’t mutually exclusive. That great tea can fuel great ideas.
What has been the biggest challenge for you and your business over these last few months, and looking ahead what longer term challenges do you see yourselves needing to deal with?
Most of our challenges have been similar to what many people and businesses are experiencing during this period: adapting to a new world order, it feels like.
On the other hand, we’ve been lucky in that we make something that people feel is a necessary part of their lives. For us, it’s been a challenge keeping up.
We’ve been taking advantage of this opportunity to talk to our customers. This whole situation has brought us much closer to our customers, and that’s very rewarding.
The Coronavirus situation has powerfully revealed what’s always been important to us: the value of pressing pause, and how this has taken on a whole new meaning.
Take time away from the metaphorical storm around you and find a little bit of time for yourself – to re-center and re-group, before re-engaging in a more energized and focused way.
It’s a great analogy of how we see life post-lockdown. Taking these really valuable lessons and applying these going forward. As individuals and as a community.
That’s another positive: we’ve all seen that community is as important as the individual, or at least they are both of great importance. So for us that means trading fairly, ensuring everything we do aligns with our values, and standing by our suppliers. That’s something we’ll be working on more and more and ensuring this is part of what we do beyond the current crisis.
When it comes to the work environment, a lot has changed. Open offices, work from home, remote and distributed workforces. How have changes to the classic office model affected our habits, such as the tea break, and by extension the way we socialise?
It’s interesting how people have reacted to life on Zoom for example. We’ve all been craving that connection, that break to socialise – if anything it’s become more important.
There’s something very human and humanizing about what we’ve all experienced recently. We miss chatting to coworkers, connecting on a personal level. On the positive side, there has been an almost inadvertent humanizing due to all the Zoom calls – be it a child or pet jumping into view, or seeing people’s apartments and where they live. I hope this humanizing continues beyond this specific time period.
We’ve seen that working from home may be technically feasible, but you do need to have that face-to-face meeting. We are social creatures. Empathy, connection and non-verbal communication are ideally built when we’re physically present.
I see a model where people work from home and then come together regularly for face-to-face meetings – along with a cup of tea of course.
One of my great pleasures is attending a meeting where there is an incredible cup of tea, and connecting with people and forming lasting relationships. Connecting over tea – the different notes and flavours – there’s an awareness, something about enjoying the moment.
There’s a saying, “Every cup of tea is a voyage of discovery”. These teas come from the most extraordinary, out-of-the-way places. The tops of mountains, incredible vistas, unbelievably beautiful. In that moment of drinking your tea, you can be transported very far away. Taking a break is so powerful: re-engaging, you’re likely to be more creative, more focused, more open-minded, more energized.
You’ve seen Dragonfly flourish as a company. Can you give some advice for other business leaders, based on your experience?
I don’t feel like I’m in any position to give advice! (laughs)
I’m so lucky to be a part of something that was started by previous generations, by people who saw the need to re-engage with the world in a different way, in a more positive, holistic way.
But if I was advising a good friend, I’d say do something you really love and believe in, do it to the best of your ability, and always keep in mind fairness and good practice.
Finally, what is your favourite cup of tea?
Oh my goodness! Why would you ask a question like that, it’s torture! (laughs). For me, it very much depends on the time of day. I prefer to start the day with a green tea, I love our Pure Green Mountain tea. In the afternoon I move onto something naturally caffeine-free. Rooibos and honeybush are probably my favorite.
I’m also quite addicted to our new bedtime tea called “Night Sky Calm”. It’s becoming one of our more popular teas and reflects a need we all have. Healthy sleeping habits, recharging effectively.
As you can hear, I quite like tea!
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