Kim Havelaar

Kim Havelaar Founder

Kim Havelaar, founder of Roqberry, a new brand of tea, tells us the inspiration behind the company specifically focused on foodies, tea and food pairings.

What do you currently do?
I am the founder of Roqberry, a premium tea company which won seven Great Taste awards this year. Our focus is on foodies, food and tea pairings, and bringing big flavour to tea. We work with high quality ingredients and hand blend them in the UK. Roqberry offers both unique flavoured blends as well as top quality artisan varieties.

What was the inspiration behind your business?
In one word: Flavour. Tea has so much flavour potential beyond the traditional blends. It also pairs really well alongside food to enhance the overall experience. Having lived in, and travelled to, quite a few countries in the world I take much inspiration from world cuisine.

What defines your way of doing business?
Roqberry’s ethos is ‘blend the rules’. The ‘rules’ refers to the rules of tea; the way to treat and blend it properly, the steps to brewing it to get the best results, and the importance of using quality ingredients. This is blended with the ‘rules’ of flavour, taking inspiration from world cuisine and the amazing flavours sometimes found in even the humblest street food.

It also refers to not being afraid of the unexpected. Our ‘Sushi & Spice’ tea might be quite a leap from the expected. Seaweed and wasabi in a tea? But if it tastes good, then why not? 

What do you admire?
Resilience. Not giving up in the face of adversity. Whether that is in business or in your personal life.

Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
Of course. I can think of quite a few things and it’s all part of learning. With my background being in the corporate world, I didn’t have any contacts in the tea or hospitality industry. This made for a difficult start. With hindsight, I’d start building my network much sooner, right from the very first inkling of the idea.

What advice would you give to someone starting out?
Be honest with yourself about why you are starting the business and make sure it’s something that really drives you. Running your own business is a lot of work and can be very stressful. You need to have a driver that’s authentic and gives you energy when times get tough. If you have this, you’ll enjoy the ride. I also firmly believe you’ll have a bigger appeal to customers.

Secondly, I’d say beyond understanding the external market, make sure you really know your product. Understand what’s needed to ensure its quality, what inherent limitations it has, and what its potential is for innovation.