This is the story of how it all began, from Derek Miles.
‘I started working in the Tea Trade in the early 1950's, in the City of London, first for a Dealers and then for a firm of Brokers in Plantation House, Mincing Lane. My background was in tea, as my grandfather Henry Miles started a blending business in Birmingham in 1888 and my father and uncle ran it until 1974 after which I purchased it with a friend Norman Halls, and we incorporated it into D.J.Miles & Co.’ – Derek Miles
"My work in London had been tasting teas, inspecting teas and selling tea on the market. But in 1961 I decided to leave the city and buy a small shop in Minehead, which I ran for about twelve months. During that time I had continued my contacts with the Tea Trade, and on one of my visits to my old firm, my ex-employer suggested I could travel to Avonmouth once or twice a week and inspect the teas which were increasingly being landed there. Perhaps I should explain that in those days every chest of tea was bored and a sampled was extracted which was examined and sniffed by an inspector. He looked for any uneven leaf appearance or taint, as well as forming a contact between the broker and the warehouse.
Of course I readily accepted the offer, it gave me an income and the opportunity to live in a beautiful part of the country; at the same time I could keep my shop, and sell small amounts of tea to the public".
However, a problem arose with the disposal of odd chests of tea which the brokers had difficulty in selling in Avonmouth as there were no small firms to buy them as there were in London. So I purchased a few and made up a blend which I mixed on a piece of hardboard and packed in the front room of my house in Porlock. This was the start of D. J. Miles, it grew rapidly as I sold in the local area and mainly in Bristol in the docks and factories, and later shops. In fact the business grew so fast I sold my shop in a few months and then sadly the tea ceased to be inspected after 1968.
I had to find somewhere to blend and pack the tea as my business continued to grow. From The Anchorage I went to Lock's Cottage just down the road and on eventually to Cape's Yard, home to D.J.Miles & Co for 25 years. The tea blender, holding 1000lbs, stood upstairs directly above a table of packers and packets. The chests of tea were pulled up to the first floor using a block and tackle. I often think back to my time there and remember the volume of tea that went through those small premises.
As I mentioned, Norman Halls joined me in 1974, he was made redundant as manager of a departmental store and, as an old friend, had been selling my tea in the West Midlands. He was also very skilled with machinery, so having purchased a tea bag machine, it was decided to manufacture tea bags in Sutton Coldfield. The old Henry Miles premises were due for demolition so we moved the business within a year or two to Chepstow in Gwent, where it remained until our move to Minehead and the opening of our present premises.
During all this time, thirty-five years, Porlock has remained the head office and we still roast and pack all the coffee and have healthy sales to the public. I hope the young people in the business today will enjoy it as much as I have done in the past.
Miles Tea is just one of numerous food & drink businesses that have grown and thrived in Somerset. There is healthy collaboration and networking for newcomers to tap into and the trained labour pool offers a ready-made workforce for production.
For all details about what West Somerset has to offer please contact Gordon Dwyer on GDwyer@westsomerset.gov.uk - tel: 01984 635219 (please mention Into Somerset when making contact)