International eXcellence Interviews Jameel Lalani
Jameel Lalani is the senior partner of Lalani & Co., the London based artisan, small batch tea company.
– Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like?
I grew up and still live in Pinner, North London. I had a very happy childhood.
– Where did you study?
I went to St Martin’s in Northwood, then Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School, a public school in North London, and then to Magdelen College, Oxford University, to read Biochemistry. I left Oxford after my first year.
– How did you get your business started?
I set up the business by saving all I could whilst working for Boris Johnson during his 2008 campaign to become Mayor of London. After that, it was hard work and a belief in quality above all else.
– What were the biggest challenges?
Starting up the business in a recession was the first challenge. Keeping the business at the highest levels of quality, ethics and sustainability has also taken a lot of hard work. Thankfully our customers truly value these high standards.
– Is your work collaborative or your single vision?
The core business vision is mine. Along the way we’ve collaborated with several food industry colleagues like leading chefs and sommeliers whose perspectives have shaped our approach to the market.
– What made you choose your particular medium and why?
I’ve loved good quality tea from an early age and wanted to enable other discerning customers to enjoy what the world of fine tea has to offer. It’s a passion of mine.
– What aspect of your work gives you the most enjoyment?
I love face to face contact with customers. When someone tastes one of our teas for the first time and I see that ‘Wow’ expression on their face I know that I’m doing the right thing!
– What one luxury can you not do without?
Definitely artisan, small batch tea and then custom made white shirts.
– What are you reading now and what great books would you recommend?
At the moment I don’t have a great deal of time for reading but I would recommend the following two books:
• Pride and Predjudice – Jane Austen’s classic.
• Brave New World – Huxley
• Predictably Irrational – a book on behavioural economics by Dan Ariely.
– What actions do you take to keep a certain quality of life?
I drink green tea every morning and if possible I always walk to meetings as I love walking through London. It’s a great way to see the city but also a great way to keep fit. The occasional concert at the Albert Hall is also essential.
– What are you working on now and what are your plans for the future?
I’m working on quite a few things but two of the most important are:
• Continuing to introduce discerning consumers to the world of small batch artisan teas.
• Encouraging more luxury hotels and restaurants to serve truly fine tea.
– Could you list a few brands, people, works that you consider excellent?
• Barker Shoes – UK made men’s shoes
• Elvis & Kresse – another excellent ethical luxury brand
• John Smedley – UK made fine knitwear