Made in Chesterfield: The family-run tea and coffee experts with over 60 years of history

One of Chesterfield’s most well-renowned businesses has been offering the best teas and coffees to customers at home and abroad for over 60 years.

Monday, 28th February 2022, 3:52 pm

Northern Tea Merchants was started in 1959 by David Pogson, who had spent six years working for his father Albert’s business, the Spire Tea Company, based on Cuttholme Road in Chesterfield.

David had saved £500 to start the business by walking or hitchhiking the eight miles to his National Service posting at RAF Norton every day. Not wanting to overlap with Albert’s customers, he bought a van and started tea rounds in Sheffield and Rotherham.

In the years that followed, the business would move back into Chesterfield and grow exponentially. Northern Tea Merchants became one of the first companies in the country to manufacture tea bags, and established their now-famous Chatsworth Road premises in 1978 after outgrowing their previous warehouse in Old Whittington.

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James Pogson.

Current director James Pogson, David’s son, joined the company in 1989. He said he was fortunate to have learned from the experience of his father and grandfather, helping him to achieve success with Northern Tea Merchants.

“Our history is hugely important to us. Our Managing Director, David Pogson, has run and worked in this business for the last 63 years and has trained me in many aspects of the tea and coffee trade.

“My Grandfather, Albert, also ran his own tea business in Chesterfield from 1936 to 1971, and it is from these two mentors that I have been lucky enough to have a head start in this complex trade, and further build on their efforts to make Northern Tea Merchants what it is today.”

NTM is now one of the area’s most prominent companies, selling a unique range of coffees and teas from around the world. They also undertake unique pieces of work for global customers, only recently preparing a 1.8 tonne order of extremely rare coffees for the Royal Court in Qatar.

David and James Pogson

They pride themselves on their relationships with suppliers, and always stock at least one coffee that is completely exclusive at their Chatsworth Road shop.

James said: “As well as larger orders of coffees from top-end estates and co-operatives around the world, we also make a point of buying smaller orders of perhaps 100kg or less, called ‘micro-lots’ in the trade.

“These are from smaller, specialist producers. They are remarkable for their quality and are exclusive to the purchaser.

“I would also say that our staff’s knowledge and passion for their work is reflected in what we produce, and this makes the difference between our teas and coffees and those of the faceless brands on the supermarket shelves.”

Albert launched his own business, The Spire Tea Company, in 1936, selling tea door-to-door in Chesterfield

James said that the company’s roots in Chesterfield are also of great importance, with the town being the ideal place from which to run this kind of business.

“We have always found good and long-serving staff members locally, and this is something that we are proud of.

“With our own vehicles, we cover a 100-150 mile radius from Chesterfield, and our location in the town means that we have access to approximately 50% of the country’s population within this area.”

“The easy availability of engineering services locally to us is also second-to-none, and manufacturing parts, especially for some of our more obscure manufacturing equipment, is easily done.”

Northern Tea Merchants and how they have diversified during pandemic.

While Northern Tea Merchants is proud of its past, it also has a strong focus on the future, with the company committing to working towards carbon neutrality.

James said: “I am a great believer in understanding the ‘true cost’ of food. For years we have relied on our producers to supply our morning cuppa, or our favourite coffee, without giving a moment’s thought as to what work this actually entails.

“From the picking of the tea leaf, cocoa pod or coffee cherry to it actually ending up in our cup is a hugely complicated and lengthy journey, requiring thousands of miles of travel and energy- but at what cost?”

The company is in the process of an environmental audit, after which they will be able to embark on physical projects such as tree-planting, that will offset the carbon dioxide produced by their operations.

James said: “We are also well underway on our journey towards sustainable, recyclable packaging, with all our tea bags and tea temples being packed into 100% biodegradable tea bag paper.

“We have already switched 90% of the bags and pouches for the various products we pack to those made from sustainable materials.

Albert Pogson, David's father and James' grandfather, who worked in the tea industry from 1926.

“We even dispose of our used coffee sacks by sending the vast majority of them up to a fully biodynamic and carbon neutral tea plantation in Scotland, which are then used to protect the soil for organic teas and chamomile flowers.”

David Pogson