The Port of Tyne's vital role in keep Britain topped up with tea has been praised by a Government Minister.
Nusrat Ghani, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, visited the port this week - and has revealed its facilities handle almost half of all tea leaves imported into the UK.
She said: “The Port of Tyne is rightly proud to keep the country topped up with tea – handling 40 per cent of all loose leaf imports – as well as boosting the economy as the UK’s second largest car exporter."
She added: “Our ports are vital to our nation, helping deliver food, energy and products to our homes.
“Crucial to this is the port’s employees and it was great to see its apprenticeship programme supporting many young people, especially women, reach their potential.”
Port of Tyne has handled raw imports for Tetley for more than 15 years. At first bringing in 200 pallets of raw tea per year, it now handles 6,500 pallets per year, from Africa, China and India.
Tetley, part of Tata Global Beverages group, brings all its UK raw imports of tea - totalling 27,000 tonnes a year - from 20 different countries, through Port of Tyne.
About 80% of that comes from Africa, mostly from Kenya and Malawi. Tetley also imports from Argentina, Indonesia and Vietnam.
Assam tea from India has a much shorter buying window, meaning it is stored by specialist handlers at the Port to allow Tetley access to a continuous year-round supply for its blends.
Port of Tyne has developed its relationship with Tetley's to become an extension of its operations at its nearby factory in Eaglescliffe, Teesside.
Tea is stored at the port before being sent in batches down to Teesside each day for blending, processing and packaging.
Recent years have seen some of the finished tea heading back to the Port of Tyne for export to Canada.
Tracey Younger, customer service manager at the Port of Tyne, quoted in the facility's newsletter, said: “We have become specialists in handling tea here.
"Raw tea must be treated in a way which is entirely different to other products, ensuring that it is stored correctly and that containers are clean, dry and odourless"
She added: "We’ve also been able to work hand-inhand with Tetley to make suggestions which have led to greater efficiencies and cost savings, and we’re thrilled that Tetley has relocated its export operation to Port of Tyne.
"This relocation of the export operation means that we can continue to be part of their global success. It’s been incredibly satisfying for us to send the first exports to Canada.”
Tetley tailors its tea to the different countries in which it's sold to ensure it meets the tastes of each market.
As well as learning about tea imports and exports on her visit to the Port of Tyne, Ms Ghani also took a trip up the river aboard the facility's pilot boat Collingwood, and was able to see first-hand the offshore renewable cluster of businesses based on the Tyne.
Later on a tour of the Port of Tyne’s 600 acre estate, the Shipping Minister learnt more about the potential of the Port of Tyne Enterprise Zone sites and saw the latest development of a second wood pellet terminal, which is working with Lynemouth Power Ltd to produce 390MW of low-carbon electricity.
Ms Ghani, described as a champion for encouraging diversity and supporting women and young people in maritime, heard more about the Port of Tyne’s commitment to creating apprentice opportunities.
The Port of Tyne adds £700million to the UK economy, supporting 14,000 jobs.
Andrew Moffat, Port of Tyne Chief Executive Officer, said: “Our maritime sector is at the forefront of free trade and will only become increasingly important as we seize the international trade opportunities that arise from our withdrawal from the European Union.
“It was great to be able to discuss issues facing UK ports with Ms Ghani and showcase how the Port of Tyne is contributing to sustaining trading gateways to world-wide markets.”
Member of Parliament for Wealden in East Sussex since 2015 – Ms Ghani was appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Home Office in 2017.
She has also served as the Chair of the Prime Minister’s Apprenticeship Diversity Network and has held numerous Select Committee memberships.