Bernadine Tay left Concord College in 1999.
Graduating in 2001 with a degree in biomedical science from King’s College, London, tea designer and Quinteassential founder, Bernadine Tay, started her career in marketing.
In 2008 she moved on to pursue her true love in the tea business. Using her scientific knowledge (inspired at Concord!) to create unique blends with exquisite flavours, she has since won 7 Great Taste Awards out of 12 blends and is now also a tea judge.
Bernadine Tay's love of tea started from when she was very small – even before her Concord days sitting around in Red House with her friends!
“I remember when I was small my mother boiling black tea in the evenings at home in Singapore. It became a ritual, marking the time of day and bringing our whole family and friends together.”
Bernadine noticed that the steaming tea wafting from open cups is what made the outside objects: the family; the stories; the tableware, the magic exists!
It was these memories that led her to delve further into the world of tea and – after graduating from King’s College London’s with a Biomedical Science degree - start her own company, the award-winning Quinteassential
Bernadine, who is now based in Chester with her Greek husband, Concords very own 1999 Head Prefect Christos Gosdis - is also a master tea blender and the first tea curator for Wedgwood.
Here, she tells us how she did it.Tell us about your business
Quinteassential teas are all inspired by a place or moment and designed to engage not just taste and smell but all five of the senses.
From the moment you open the packaging to actually drinking the tea we engage with the drinking starting with modern day technology.
The packaging connects the drinker via their smartphone using a QR code on the box that takes you to a piece of specially-tailored music that not only sets the mood (each tune mimics the effect of caffeine on the system – slow, soothing music for tea with lower caffeine levels, upbeat rhythms for higher caffeine levels), but also acts as a tea timer. When the music is done, so is the brew and it’s ready to drink.What inspired you to start Quinteassential?
After a career in marketing and PR for luxury brands, I decided that life was too short and I needed to do something that I am passionate about. Tea is my first love, but I also believe it can teach you lots about other things as it captures history, culture and food too.
For example, my experience meeting people all over the world is that If you know they take their tea, you’re more likely to make a deeper connection with them. My tea drinking days at Concord gave me lots of insights into all sorts of different cultures and I certainly shared lots of tea with many people.What were the first few steps you took?
Armed with only my passion for tea and a resourceful spirit, I attended tea school and quickly taught myself how to source, taste and blend.
Building the business from nothing meant that I needed to understand consumer habits quickly so I did this through grafting at Farmer’s Markets around the United Kingdom.
This gave me wonderful insight into British tastes, and I also met so many people from around the world that it gave me a global perspective as well.
We grew organically from there attracting luxury hotels, restaurants and even fashion designers dedicated to providing a unique experience for their guests.How did you raise awareness?
We grew quickly through word of mouth as we were very lucky to have loyal customers almost instantly, some of whom still support us today. We also won some awards in the early days which give us great exposure and helped us to build a following. I encourage any new brands to enter for awards.
Finding great partners in the hospitality world and some big brands also allowed us to attract attention. I am a firm believer in the laws of attraction; in that you attract like-minded people, even in business. What has been your biggest challenge?
I am not very good at saying ‘no’. My personality is always wanting to help people and be involved in everything. Sometimes I have to force myself to focus so I can focus on the projects I need to do to grow a business rather than perhaps some of the ones I would love to do from a personal perspective. Christos however is always there to keep me on track and helps me to prioritise.How do you tackle challenges?
I am positive person and believe almost anything can be resolved. I use a calculated approach, which means I often take time to mull things over before coming to a decision. I’m rarely impulsive and when faced with a negative experience or a set-back, I carefully consider my next move. This means I can take emotion out of the picture, which helps me think clearly and find the best solution.What helps you stay motivated?
My supportive parents, family and husband. They keep me motivated and help me overcome the many obstacles I have faced. I don’t know where I would be without them.What’s the best thing about running your own business?
You get to make the rules and choose who you work with.Christos has a successful career himself, how do/did you support each other in setting up your business?
Christos: We are partners in every way! Bernadine is the entrepreneur in the family and I am the creative one with the ideas – so I tend to concentrate on the business and finance side of things. But it is Bernadine’s business – it’s her passion. We have been working together on her business for five years now. It’s interesting to work with your partner – how we interact and work together. We have known each other for so long now we know intrinsically how to be in each other’s space and yet not over crowd each other.
Bernadine: Yes…we work harmoniously together!So Bernadine, if you could create a Christos and Bernadine tea what would be in it!
Bernadine: Ohhhhh no one has ever asked that question before. It would definitely be caffeine free because health wise Christ has to have caffeine free. It would have to encompass both of our cultures so perhaps using Greek mountain tea which is grown wild like Christos spirit. Then elements of Asia so perhaps lemony and lime flavours like lemon grass – anything that captures the sun.
Christos: It would have to have flowers in it too as you love flowers
Bernadine: Thank you Chris – yes it would have flowers and it would be a lovely thing for us to make. We could then share it together - experience something that brings our experiences together and captures our personalities and our shared love of food and holidays. We love to eat dessert now and that is all Concord’s fault because dessert is not big in in Singapore – when we used to meet for every meal there was this one dinner ladies who loved Christos and she always kept an extra dessert just for him! I am sure that is why he is not hooked on dessert!Do you have a business philosophy?
Treat everyone as you want to be treated. That is how I live my life and now how I run my business.What advice would you give budding entrepreneurs?
Surround yourself with good people who are smarter and more experienced than you. They will help you lead you to where you need to go.How I did it...My greatest fear is…
Not remembering to be gratefulThe bravest thing I’ve done is…
Invested in my dream with every ounce of energy and every penny I had. I would tell my teenage self…
Don’t take yourself too seriously.I believe…
The world is good place and people often try to do their best, even when it doesn’t seem so.The biggest lesson I’ve learned is…
Trust your instincts. Believe in your inner voice.My top business tool or resource is…
GoogleMy favourite quote…
Life is a journey.
We at Concord would like to thank you for sharing your amazing journey Bernadine and we hope to play a small part in your continuing journey.